Going into the final game of the 2017 season, the Buffalo Bills were in the playoff hunt when they traveled down to Miami.
The Dolphins had a chance to beat our division rivals and send them home crying. A chance to knock them out of the playoffs. A chance to return the favor, since the Bills’ defeat of Miami a few weeks prior had ended our season. A chance to prove how incredibly over-rated Tyrod Taylor is. A chance to end the season on a high note and send 70,000 fans home happy. Did I mention how sweet it is to beat a division rival and end their season?
All of that was lost on Adam Gase.
Early on in the game, he made it clear that he had no will to win. Worse than that, he didn’t even try to hide it.
Jay Cutler started the game for a few plays, but then Gase brought in his friend David Fales, an unsuccessful practice squadder who Gase dragged along with him from his unsuccessful days in Chicago. Gase made it crystal clear that he didn’t care about winning. Rather, he wanted to give his young pal a nice heartwarming gift: playing time in an NFL game.
But Gase wasn’t done. The Dolphins went for it on fourth down three different times in that game. These were not 4th-and-inches gimmes. They were risky situations that were obvious punt scenarios. Gase threw caution to the wind, and ended up failing twice. During our live chat, I called these “Madden decisions” because Gase was treating this professional football game the way a teenager plays a Madden video game. 4th and 7 inside your own territory? Who cares, let’s go for it.
I know the school of thought that says, “It’s Week 17 and we have nothing to lose.” I get it. But pride is always something to play for. Beating a team you hate is something to play for. The Bills sure as hell were playing to win, so shouldn’t we have tried as well?
These were NOT two different 4-12 teams just going through the motions. One of the head coaches was going all out to make the playoffs, and the other coach, unfortunately, was helping him.
Several plays summed up this sad day.
First, the Bills lined up a fat white defensive tackle on offense. The entire world knew they were going to hand off to Kyle Williams. And yet the Dolphins did nothing to prevent it. Gase didn’t take a time out and he didn’t adjust the defense. I’m not saying that Gase let Williams score, but he certainly did nothing to prevent the score. Gase allowed the Dolphins to be humiliated. He forced us to watch Williams’s touchdown celebration. All on OUR home turf.
Another fiasco was seeing Jarvis Landry and Kenyan Drake both get ejected on the same play. The players are mostly responsible for their own actions, of course, but their lack of discipline falls on the head coach as well. Clearly, Gase did not emphasize the importance of beating this division rival. Instead, he was fine with players doing whatever they wanted.
Gase set the tone himself early on. Putting David Fales in the game practically conceded the contest. His players realized that, and the effort and discipline simply were not there.
It’s just human nature: No one is going to bust their ass for a coach who is throwing a game away and treating it like a scrimmage. No one.
The third play that summed up this day was our final offensive play of the season. We had just recovered an onside kick and—believe it or not—we still had a chance to win. We were in Buffalo territory with plenty of time on the clock. David Fales threw one of the worst passes in NFL history. There was no Dolphins within 30 yards of the ball, but there were plenty of Bills. An easy interception. I watched the replay a dozen times and still have no idea where the kid was throwing the ball.
As bad as Jay Cutler played during the year, he would not have blown a game with such a horrendous pass like Fales did.
And finally, Gase kept calling pass plays aimed at brand new tight end AJ Derby. Here’s another journeyman bum, playing for this third team within a year. He barely had enough time to learn our playbook, yet Gase thought it was a good idea to keep targeting him. Miss after miss went Derby’s way, while the other Dolphin tight ends (Fasano and Gray, both of whom deserved some playing time during this finale) rode the bench.
Most coaches use the standard cliché of “I use the players who give us the best chance to win.” How on earth does David Fales passing to AJ Derby give us a chance to win? Against anyone!
This loss and the lack of urgency has Adam Gase’s mark all over it. After the game, Stephen Ross never asked Gase why he handed a free win to the Bills. There was no backlash. Gase faced no discipline.
To me, it just goes to show you that Gase does not have a winning mentality. Nothing about him displays a win-at-all-cost mindset. He uses games, not practice, to experiment with his inferior players and his own stupid play calling.
Compare that to a proven winner like Bill Belichick. Even when New England has home field advantage wrapped up…even when his team was 15-0 heading into the finale…he plays to win. His best players play. He does not experiment. He doesn’t reward practice squadders.
Other teams play to win. Adam Gase makes the Dolphins play just so the world sees how smart Gase is.