Remember that otherwise unremarkable game between the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos in Week 13 of the 2017 season? The Dolphins won that one, 35-9, and folks forget the game because it came amid a disappointing season that started with a season-long injury to the starting quarterback and ended with an embarrassing fight in which the team’s best player got ejected as his final act in a Miami uniform.
But that long-ago game is meaningful now.
Because Adam Gase is the new head coach of the New York Jets.
Gase will be introduced as the Jets coach after contract details are ironed out and the deal is signed, something that could be done by Thursday morning, per a league source.
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And that will mean the man fired as the Dolphins coach Dec. 31 will become coach for a division rival and perhaps their biggest natural rival (New Yorkers perpetually ruin traffic in Miami this time of year and we don’t like it) in the NFL.
That means Gase twice a season.
That means revenge mode at all times.
Don’t believe me? In that Denver victory, the Dolphins led 33-9 with 10:27 to play. The game was over. It was a Dolphins win right then and there.
And after the score that put Miami up by 22 points, Gase ordered an onside kick anyway.
Understand that the opposing coach that day was Vance Joseph. And Joseph has been Gase’s defensive coordinator and friend. And Joseph was fighting for his job at the time so anything that made his team look bad hurt his cause.
But Gase ordered that onside kick anyway.
It was successful. The Dolphins got the ball back.
And, no, they didn’t score again as a result. A safety came later. But the point is Gase did that to get revenge on someone within the Denver organization that he felt animosity toward years after leaving Denver and he didn’t care that it might hurt a friend in the process.
I was initially told John Elway was Gase’s target that day. Gase denied this and after telling some story about wanting his players to play until the end of the game, he later admitted privately the move was directed at someone in that organization although not at Elway.
And now the Miami Dolphins are that team. And Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner who fired Gase last week, is that new person in his sights.
Maybe that doesn’t worry you. Maybe you welcome the Jets hiring the coach who authored a modest 23-25 record in his three seasons with the Dolphins.
Bring it on, you say.
Yeah, this is not good news for the Dolphins, I say.
Because Gase is many things: He’s smart. Arrogant. Thoughtful. Knowledgeable.
And he’s a crazy man.
“Oh, I’m certifiable,” he said to me one time only half-kiddingly, “I just haven’t been diagnosed.”
And that’s going to cause him to work to not just beat the Dolphins when they play, but embarrass them if possible. Gase will want to hurt the Dolphins.
Assignment 1 for him in New York is to make Sam Darnold great.
Assignment 2 is to win.
Assignment 3 is to beat the Dolphins no matter what. Because in Gase’s mind, they made a tragic mistake in firing him and he’s going to make them pay.
This grudge has, in fact, begun already.
As we speak Gase is raiding the Dolphins’ coaching staff. Because he believes it’s his coaching staff, anyway.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will soon be gone. So will others.
And the Dolphins might protest and try to get some sort of compensation for losing coaches signed to contracts, but that probably won’t get them anywhere because everyone knows the Dolphins are still one of only two teams looking for their own coach.
And there are no guarantees that new Miami coach will retain Gase’s coaches.
Also, there are ways around hiring away coaches — such as offering promotions of assistant coach titles. So Gase will eventually make sure the Dolphins lose the coaches he wants.
This promises to be very entertaining.
But it’s also quite serious. Because now you should turn your attention directly to Ross and ask this question:
How are you going to answer?
What do you have?
You fired a coach on a Monday morning and by Monday evening he had two interviews lined up and another one was offered to him a day later.
And a week or so later he’s hired.
And your Dolphins are still without a coach.
So what’s your answer for this, Stephen Ross?
There can only be one answer: The Dolphins need to upgrade.
I didn’t say hire a solid coach or a good coach. I said upgrade.
I didn’t say experiment. I didn’t say play coy. I didn’t say wait for the situation to sort itself out.
I said get better than what they had. Improve.
And that can only mean one obvious move: Hire Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan.
Harbaugh is more proven than Gase as a head coach. He’s taken a team to the Super Bowl. His NFL record is 44-19 with two NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.
And, yes, he’s also a little eccentric. He also rubs people the wrong way sometimes. Yeah, he’s also unstable at times, which is the reason things ended poorly in San Francisco after four seasons.
But he’s a proven head coach. That’s all I care about.
Even in that final, difficult year at San Francisco — which was painful to watch from afar — Harbaugh’s team finished 8-8. It’s not like he had an assistant doing coke in his office.
So … better.
Harbaugh is the coach at Michigan tonight. And Ross must love this because he loves Michigan, probably more than he loves the Dolphins. Everyone knows this.
And, yes, Ross has said as recently as two weeks ago he would not be hiring Harbaugh away from Michigan to bring him to the Dolphins.
But things have changed now. A couple of Michigan coaches just defected from the staff this week … to Ohio State.
The Wolverines are nowhere in the same conversation with Clemson and Alabama.
It’s time to get Harbaugh back in the NFL, Mr. Ross.
And what about that unsaid but understood idea Ross floated as a Dolphins strategy going forward? You know, tanking next year?
Yeah, well, tanking with JIm Harbaugh is palatable if it’s done to get him a quarterback in the 2020 draft when there will be multiple good ones available.
Tanking with Brian Flores, Kris Richard, Eric Bieniemy, Dennis Allen or Darren Rizzi?
Painful — especially with Adam Gase trying onside kicks when the Jets are up big on the Dolphins.