MIAMI — Adam Gase’s introductory news conference as Miami Dolphins coach wrapped up an hour before the NFL playoffs began Saturday, and the goal going forward was clear.
The Dolphins want more post-season games in January, and fewer coaching searches.
Gase was hired Saturday as Miami’s ninth coach since 2004, and he’ll try to end the team’s seven-year playoff drought. And once he gets the Dolphins to the post-season, owner Stephen Ross expects them to win.
"You can make the playoffs; that to me is not winning," Ross said. "I want to go a lot further than that, as do the fans."
The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000, which is a big reason for their coaching carousel, and those long-suffering fans must wonder if Gase can end the merry go-round.
He was the offensive co-ordinator for the high-scoring Broncos in 2013-14, but also for the last-place Bears this season. He has no head coaching experience, and at 37 he becomes the league’s youngest coach.
"I’ve been in this profession since I was 18," he said. "That’s more than half my life. The last three years it’s an accelerated growth. Age is only a number. You get older really quick. Every week is a growing experience."
Gase was the NFL’s hottest coaching candidate among assistants. He also interviewed with the Eagles, Browns and Giants, but the Dolphins rushed to seal a deal and became the first team to fill their coaching vacancy.
What qualities did Gase believe set him apart from other candidates?
"I think my passion, my attitude, the way I go about interacting with players, the relationships I develop with players," he said.
The Dolphins agreed. They interviewed seven candidates, including former NFL head coaches Mike Shanahan, Mike Smith and Doug Marrone, and completed their search in six days.
"Like in business, if you find the right guy, why give a chance for someone else to grab him?" Ross said. "We had done our homework beforehand. It’s amazing the respect Adam has in the coaching and player community. That really says an awful lot. He’s one of the hardest-working, smartest guys in this business."
To show their confidence in the new coach, the Dolphins gave Gase final say over the 53-man roster. Executive vice-president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum endorsed the move, saying it will show players that Gase is accountable.
Gase said he also plans to call plays, at least initially.
He has just begun work on hiring assistants. The Dolphins didn’t rule out the possibility Dan Campbell, their interim coach for the final 12 games this season, will be part of Gase’s staff.
"I’d love to see Dan stay in the organization," Ross said.
Gase is a protege of former Dolphins coach Nick Saban and has won favourable reviews for his work with a range of quarterback talent — from Peyton Manning to Jay Cutler to Tim Tebow. Manning said Gase is bright, eager and a hard worker.
"He’ll be an excellent head coach without a doubt," Manning said in a statement released by the Dolphins. "He is ready for this for sure."
Said Cutler: "I wish he could stay with us in Chicago. … He will now continue to have success in this league."
In Miami, Gase will try to help Ryan Tannehill, who is 29-35 in four years as a starter and regressed in 2015, when the Dolphins finished 6-10.
Gase’s news conference was briefly disrupted when his young son began crying and was led out of the room. The coach himself was poised as he fielded questions, his voice wavering only when he spoke fondly of his experience with the Bears, who endured a wave of injuries this season.
Tannenbaum, who led the job search, had success while with the Jets hiring first-time NFL head coaches Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan. That approach hasn’t worked in Miami, where none of Gase’s eight most recent predecessors had previous NFL head coaching experience.
Miami’s nine coaches since 2004 are the most in the NFL, according to STATS. But Tannenbaum said his research uncovered no evidence coaches are more successful the second time around.
During Gase’s single season with the Bears, they won only six games and ranked 17th in offensive points. But he helped Cutler reduce his turnovers and post a career-high passer rating of 92.3.
Gase spent six seasons on the staff in Denver, where he helped Tebow win a playoff game.
In his first season as offensive co-ordinator in 2013, Manning and the Broncos scored an NFL-record 606 points and reached the Super Bowl. The following year they scored 482 points, the league’s second-highest total.
A native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, Gase worked on the staff of Michigan State coach Nick Saban while a student there. He followed Saban to LSU and was a graduate assistant and recruiting assistant before beginning his NFL career in 2003.
To an outsider, Gase’s climb up the coaching ladder may appear swift, but he said it didn’t seem that way to him.
"There was a point where I was looking to sell insurance," he said. "Thankfully I had three great friends that talked me out of it."