Once again we find ourselves revisiting the alleged "culture change" that took place during the 2018 retooling of the Miami Dolphins roster. Gone are the likes of Mike Pouncey, Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry, the latter of whom could not help but take shots at his former team for reasons unknown.
Given the statements made by Landry in that interview, one can only assume that he is extremely bitter and borderline ungrateful for what his time in Miami has done for his career, earning him a massive paycheck.
That type of mentality also has no place on a team where simply that - the team - is meant to become the main focus. Once again, we recap what has happened since 2017, where Adam Gase came out in late October after their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens and essentially called out his whole team for being lazy.
“I don’t think it’s a retain information thing." Gase said. "It’s we’re not putting the work in. That’s what it comes down to. If you can’t remember it, you shouldn’t be in the NFL. At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it. They’re not going to just learn it all in meetings. We’ve got to find guys that will actually put forth effort to actually remember this stuff and really, it starts with our best players.”
Nearly a year later, that quote still speaks volumes towards what Gase wants from the players on his team. He doesn't just want talented players, he wants driven players who will put in the extra work to become great, players who eat, sleep and breathe football...players who realize that the culture needed to be changed.
That's what the Dolphins have done, and it was back in early May that I wrote a story explaining how the addition of veterans Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Josh Sitton were already paying dividends. Players were watching and mimicking the actions of these seasoned veterans, emulating their preparation and coming to the realization that individual success does not equate to team success.
If you want to win, stop drinking your own Kool-Aid and do what's best for the team, even if that means you have to take yourself out of the spotlight. The likes of Ajayi and Landry, clearly had issues with that concept, and now they are gone, and showing just how bitter they are to the rest of the league through scathing remarks about their former coach and teammates.
Real team players, eh?
Now, there's no more room to be lazy, no examples to be followed except for the ones who are putting in a massive amount of work to be the best that they can be. First-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick - a rookie who is receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff for the work he's putting in - is the one who said: "There's no extraordinary without extra."
That is the culture change.
Being great requires a lot of work, extra work, work that you do without necessarily being supervised by your coaches and being instructed to do it. Players have to want it, players have to volunteer to do that extra study, and only now does it seem like they're starting to understand that. Take, for instance, the recent statement made by wide receiver Jakeem Grant:
"I feel like in previous years, I didn’t have it all down." he said last week. "Now that my head is all the way in the playbook, I feel a lot smoother and I feel a lot of confidence going into OTAs and into mini-camp. It feels great because now I don’t have to think about what I have on this play or what I have on this or that. Knowing what you have, that builds confidence. This is going into my third year. I’ve got to make the most of it."
Think about that. It's Grant's third year, and only now is his head "all in the way in the playbook," one has to ask where it was the previous two years. Was he distracted? Was he being encouraged to just go off of instinct by other players in the locker room who may or may not be here anymore? It's all speculation as we can never know for sure, but it speaks volumes that these new players get brought in, and all of a sudden the interest in being prepared skyrockets.
Rookie tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe have been criticized by members of the media for not having much of an impact during organized team activities and mandatory mini-camp, with people going as far as to say that Gesicki in particular looks "lost" on the football field.
So that means he should be labeled as a bust already, correct? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. But, what we can look at is this: what is he doing to try and find his way? Is he following in the footsteps of the players who have since departed, or is he embracing the culture change and going out of his way to try and figure out what he's doing wrong?
The answer, thankfully, is the latter, as Gesicki and Smythe went ahead and borrowed an unused white board to make an attempt at boosting their learning speed.
"(Tight Ends) Coach (Shane) Day is unbelievable when it comes to his teaching strategies and how he wants us to learn and all of that kind of stuff. That was something that he suggested. I grabbed the white board and me and Durham (Smythe) got in the hotel room – me and him are roommates – and he’s getting there, calling out a play, calling it out quick and you draw it up.
"We’re just trying to simulate the huddle and simulate knowing everything on the fly and not just your job, but knowing everybody’s job because I know for me, personally, I’ve got to know the Y, the F, the H, the X, the Z. I’ve got to be able to go anywhere and everywhere. There’s a lot to know. There’s a lot to learn, but I think that’s a very helpful strategy that me and him have been doing.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Miami Dolphins culture change in action.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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