The Miami Dolphins are less talented now than they were a year ago. So far in the 2018 offseason, the team parted ways with Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, and Mike Pouncey, among others.
But coach Adam Gase says the Dolphins are better for it.
Adam Gase says he got the right guys this offseason. Says they have “alpha dogs” who won’t tolerate “some of the bullshit” that went on in the locker room last season.— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) March 27, 2018
A “culture change” has been the plan all along. It was the reason the Dolphins moved on from Suh, according to the Miami Herald, and the reason Jay Ajayi was sent to the Philadelphia Eagles in October.
Is changing the culture a bad idea?
It certainly can be.
The Los Angeles Rams have scooped up loads of talent this offseason — including Suh — who were castoffs from other teams for reasons beyond just their football abilities. The Rams also traded for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and are reportedly interested in receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
There’s risk for the Rams, but having talented players with big personalities is a better problem to have to deal with than having a team that lacks talent but stays in line.
The Dolphins seem to be betting on the idea that it’s easier to win and maximize talent when players are ready to buy in. And that’s a nice thought, but it’s not easy to win games when the other team is just — well — better.
Was locker room culture the problem for the Dolphins?
Miami was 6-10 during the 2017 season with the No. 28 scoring offense and No. 29 scoring defense. Gase and general manager Chris Grier may be on the hunt for players who are ready to buy in, but the problems with the Dolphins clearly ran deeper.
In 2016, the Dolphins went 10-6 and earned a spot in the postseason with a healthy Ryan Tannehill in Gase’s first season. Many of the team’s most significant contributors in that season were part of the group purged from the roster in the last month.
The culture in the Dolphins’ locker room and the personality of its most talented players wasn’t a problem when the team was winning. But when things went south in 2017, it became an issue. For a team that now wants “alpha dogs,” it also didn’t help the Dolphins signed Jay Cutler — a quarterback with a notoriously indifferent personality — to start when Tannehill got injured.
With Tannehill set to return in 2018 and some veteran leadership added to the mix like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola, perhaps the Dolphins will be ready to bounce back. But the culture change might not be over yet.
Gase inherited Tannehill when he took over as head coach, but the Dolphins could be close to moving on from the quarterback. He’ll turn 30 in July, is coming off major knee surgery, and still hasn’t proven he’s a player worth building around. Miami could easily be a team interested in drafting a new passer to build around.
That decision could go a long way toward determining what the Dolphins culture looks like for years to come. But the roster isn’t better now than it was during the rough 2017 season so it’s hard to imagine Miami is close to being a contender any time soon.