DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins coach and play caller Adam Gase concedes it can be impossible to ignore second-guessing fans, especially the one to whom he’s married.
Gase says his wife, Jennifer, sometimes questions his decisions, such as a particular third-and-1 pass he ordered as offensive co-ordinator of the Denver Broncos.
"We threw an incompletion," he recalls. "We had been rolling pretty good, and had to kick a field goal. My wife told me after the game, ‘You couldn’t help yourself, could you? You couldn’t just run it."’
Few jobs invite more Monday morning quarterbacking than Sunday play calling, but Gase loves it anyway. He’s widely regarded as a rising star after leading the Dolphins to a playoff berth last year in his first season as a head coach, and is excited about the potential of this year’s offence led by newcomer Jay Cutler.
Coach-quarterback chemistry is an important part of selecting plays, Gase says, and he meshed with Cutler in 2015 when both were with the Chicago Bears.
"When you call 15 games for a guy, you feel like you have a good feel," Gase says. "We had some success together. Jay understands my personality and the way I call plays, and he’s not afraid to tell me, ‘Hey, that’s not a good one here.’
"He’s running the show, and you want to do everything you can to help him. There’s a lot going on, and you’re trying to eliminate any stress for him."
When the Dolphins play their hurricane-delayed opener Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers, there’s sure to be some stress for Cutler, Gase and company.
The quarterback is rusty after taking the summer off before being coaxed out of his brief retirement when Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury that will sideline him all season. Cutler will be working behind an iffy offensive line that might be the team’s biggest weakness.
But Cutler had the best year of his career with Gase calling plays. Ditto Tannehill last season. Peyton Manning threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes in Gase’s first year as an offensive co-ordinator with Denver.
"Look at Adam’s track record," Cutler says. "Everywhere he has been around quarterbacks, they’ve been successful."
Gase enjoys talking trash with his quarterback — even Manning — when there’s disagreement about whether a play will work, and the game delivers the verdict. But Gase tries to avoid forcing plays on his signal caller.
"It’s fun when you and the quarterback are feeling it together, and you’re calling the plays he was thinking of," Gase says. "But it’s hard to get that. And the last thing you want to do is call plays the guy doesn’t like.
"That’s the hardest thing: adapting to who you’re working with. On paper you think, ‘These things are good,’ but sometimes they might not see it the same way."
Quarterbacks applaud Gase’s play calling in part because he likes to throw it, as his wife can attest. But he also oversaw last year’s breakout by running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 1,272 yards, including more than 200 in consecutive games.
With Ajayi and a deep receiving corps, Gase should have appealing choices this year between the run and pass.
"I think your average fan thinks he’s a pass-happy co-ordinator," receiver Kenny Stills says. "But he does whatever he has to do to make sure we win. Last year when we were struggling in the pass game, we went to the running game, and then when people tried to stop that stuff, we went over the top. He’s a little bit unpredictable."
Supporting that idea: In Gase’s first year calling plays, Denver ranked second in the NFL in pass attempts. Last year, Miami ranked next to last.
Gase says he managed to curb his enthusiasm for the pass when the Bears were ravaged by injuries.
"I try to be aggressive, but I learned a whole different way to go about it in 2015 in Chicago," he says. "Our thing was, ‘Let’s make sure we protect the ball.’ We were trying to shorten the game. It was really great experience for me."
Gase is willing to admit mistakes, most recently saying a sack in Miami’s final exhibition game was his fault because he put the offence in a bad situation.
"My job as a play caller is no different than a player trying to execute," he says. "When I make a mistake, I look at it as I need to acknowledge that I screwed up. I think guys appreciate that you’re trying to do everything you can to be perfect, and when you make a mistake you’re not afraid to admit it."
That might slow the second guessers, although they’re not easily deterred. Along with Gase’s wife, the coach occasionally receives feedback from their 5-year-old son, A.J., who wonders why the coach doesn’t call more quarterback keepers.
"I just keep trying to explain to him," Gase says, "the health of the quarterback may be a factor."