Early on during the 2016 season, Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase saw it fit to limit the snaps taken by All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake in an effort to keep him fresh for the postseason.
While the idea is sound, it ultimately backfired, as the Dolphins missed Wake's dynamic pass-rushing ability on the field, and the Dolphins started their season 1-4. While other factors were involved, the lack of Wake on the field on a regular basis certainly didn't help matters.
But Gase soon realized how imperative it was to have Wake on the field, and the star pass rusher was given back his starting job. As a result, Wake turned in his fourth career double digit sack season, and Gase recently admitted it was a mistake to limit Wake at all.
"I made a mistake." he said. "I should have been playing him more early. We were trying to think long term. We trying to think let’s get him the most important snaps during games. When we were getting down, it really put us in a bad spot because we didn’t want to stick him out there and all they were doing was pounding the football.
"We wanted him in there when teams were passing it, we just kept getting behind, and that was putting us at a disadvantage. That’s when we decided we have to make sure he’s out there more. That’s why we made that switch. We thought we were being smart and it backfired on us. We should have just went with … What we should have done was just let him play.”
Wake's fellow All-Pro defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh also chimed in on the topic.
“I think at the end of the day what they wanted to do was ease Cam back in to his progression of playing at a high level,” Suh said. “At the end of the day I think they did a great job handling that. It’s proven in the pudding of what Cam produced. Obviously we could have done it earlier it could have been probably better but that’s in the past. And I think the future is where we’re at.”
As the future approaches, it's telling that Gase was willing to admit he'd made a mistake. Honesty has been the theme for this offseason as coaches and players have been incredibly candid with the media, and it's had the added benefit of creating an atmosphere of accountability in the locker room, one that Gase himself is pushing.
“I think coach is very accountability -oriented, for himself and his players and everybody in this building,” Suh said. “And that’s something that’s great because he doesn’t put himself on a pedestal to say, ‘everything I say is perfect.’ And we’ve had some great conversations this offseason even when I wasn’t here of that nature about how he can get better and we can get better as a team. He’s a great head coach and he’s only going to get better because he has that mentality.”
Offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod - who played with Gase during his time in Chicago, stated that Gase is all about fixing problems and mistakes, so if something is going wrong, don't expect it to stick around for very long. That adaptability and accountability was a big reason for Miami's success last season, and the past season's experiences means the same mistakes won't be made again.
Which means, the Dolphins could avoid a slow start in 2017, and put themselves in an excellent position to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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