Last we saw Matt Burke, he was thrashing the hell out of an innocent mobile device.
In the moments after DeAndre Hopkins raced 49 yards to the end zone for one of the Texans’ five touchdown catches in Week 8, Fox broadcast cameras caught Burke, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, slamming his Microsoft tablet to the turf in rage.
A week later, a calmer Burke met with reporters, and sheepishly laughed when asked about the temper tantrum.
“I was frustrated,” Burke said. “Very frustrated. Again, to me too, we were just cutting guys loose. [Deshaun Watson] had five touchdown passes and four were to uncovered players. It’s not like contested catches, something got schemed up. We were not even covering guys and dropping guys loose.
“That just kept building. It was a level of frustration. I didn’t realize it was going to get captured. I slammed one last year, I don’t think anyone caught it. It kind of build up and that was an outlet. Unfortunately, it was the closest thing I had in my hands. Took it out on an inanimate object.”
That light back and forth with reporters Thursday was one of few moments of levity for Burke in the last couple of weeks. His defense has collapsed as of late, allowing an unseemly 74 points and 884 yards in the last two games.
Miami’s meltdown spoiled Burke’s mini-bye. He spent last weekend holed up in Dolphins headquarters searching for what has gone wrong.
The short answer: Explosive plays.
The Dolphins have allowed far too many of them, thanks to blown assignments, miscommunication and defenders trying to do too much.
And it’s been so damaging that Adam Gase felt compelled to get more involved on the defensive side of the football, which he has largely kept away from in his three years as coach.
“All of our conversations have been about what are the solutions?” Gase said. “Anybody can walk in and say, ‘This is messed up, this is wrong,’ or ‘that’s great.’ I need to go in there and say, ‘Hey, here’s where I think we can do something different or better.’ That’s what I’m looking for from him too. ‘Here’s how we’re going to get this fixed. Here’s how we’re going to address this.’ That’s what we do. Complaining about the problems, that doesn’t do anything. We need the solutions.”
Burke said the Dolphins have had “systemic” issues, with breakdowns on all three levels of defense. And they have prompted him to consider making lineup changes, although considering the team’s lack of depth, it’s unclear if they have many good options.
“We’re all to blame,” Burke said, before adding, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the scheme. We’re not designing defenses to cut guys loose on the back end. We’re not designing defenses to give up 50-yard runs and not fit things right. Obviously, that’s not what we’re trying to do. I don’t think that we’re getting hard-core schemed where they’re finding weaknesses in our defense, in terms of schematic issues.”
Then Burke said the most revealing sentence of his 15-minute news conference:
“At some point, they have to learn some shit and play some stuff.”
He later quipped:
“We can’t live like this.”
And he’s right, particularly if he wants to continue running the Dolphins’ defense beyond 2018.
Burke was delicate in doing so, but he seemed to agree with Gase’s insistence that the big issue is players failing to execute their responsibility, and not bad calls or designs.
So while unhappy, Gase has been largely supportive of the job Burke has done, calling him “a smart guy who’s been around for a long time.”
Gases added: “He’s had some really good games. He’s had some games where I know he wants some, whether it be calls or execution, I think we all do. That’s part of the learning process. It’s the guys that keep learning and figure out a way to get things fixed when it’s not going to wrong way that you want to be around. Those are the guys that you trust. That’s what he works to do every week.”