There was (and is) a lot of talk about culture change surrounding the Miami Dolphins this offseason. There was talk about how players were not "buying in" and how necessary it was that they do so. Many players are now gone, replaced by players who are projected to be true veteran leaders, players who are prime examples of what it takes to achieve greatness.
Already, that decision is paying dividends, particularly in the case of wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Frank Gore, two free agent signees who were brought in to fill the leadership void and teach the young players how to do be a professional in the NFL.
"I spoke to Frank the past couple of days." rookie running back Kalen Ballage said last week. "We were kind of just talking a little bit back and forth. Obviously he’s 33-34 years old so he has a wife and kids and family and stuff like that, so he has his own stuff to worry about. I’m looking forward to meeting him ... I reached out to him on Instagram after I got drafted. I didn’t think he would see the message or anything; but he messaged me back right away. That was welcoming for sure.”
That is precisely the kind of result the Miami Dolphins were looking for when they signed these older players. Head coach Adam Gase has been preaching since late last season how important it is that everyone be on the same page, that they take it upon themselves to go above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of team success.
As a former member of the New England Patriots, no one knows that better than Danny Amendola, who spent the past five seasons with the most team-oriented franchise in the NFL.
“I think when you’ve got a guy that’s been in a lot of big games, has won a lot of games, made plays in big games and the professionalism you just see it. The way he walks around, there’s just something about him that guys kind of gravitate to." said head coach Adam Gase. "They kind of want to watch how he does things. The way that he’ll grab guys … The younger guys follow him. It’s interesting to watch just Drew (Morgan) and Isaiah (Ford) just following him around mimicking a lot of the things he does. I think between him and Kenny (Stills) – both of those guys have been around for a minute – and watch those guys lead that group and have an effect on the other guys in the locker room in a positive way, that’s a big thing for us.”
As Gase says, this is a very big thing for the Dolphins. Back in April, I wrote a story detailing exactly what players felt made someone qualified to be a leader, and every single one of the players interviewed stated the same time: dedication and leading by example.
That, so far, has been Gore and Amendola in a heartbeat, and already it's having an effect in the locker room. Culture change is happening.
Another veteran that was brought in during free agency is former Bears and Packers guard Josh Sitton, who will turn 32 in June. Besides being one of the top pass-protecting guards in football, Sitton also brings that veteran presence to the locker room, and already he's made a tangible impact, just like the other veterans.
"He’s not a vocal leader." said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "He’s a lead-by-example guy and there’s certain things, like the way he finishes in drills and stuff. We’re early in the process, two weeks in, but you start to see some of these younger guys watch him. He doesn’t talk a lot but they start to mimic what he does and how he finishes.
"Those are the type of leaders (we want), like Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. What they’ve really brought … They’re not vocal guys. You don’t hear them a lot, but all of a sudden you see Drew Morgan trying to copy something Danny did or DeVante (Parker) watching something Albert did or what Danny did. I think he’s a lead-by-example guy that’s really intelligent and really good at those two things we mentioned.”
Will this lead to wins for the Miami Dolphins in 2018? It's impossible to say until something happens on the football field that can be observed and evaluated. But as of now, there's no reason to believe things won't work out given the way things are projected.
As long as the team continues to follow the example of their new leaders and works on studying what the coaching staff expects of them, the team could be set to make a jump. Over and over we've heard how Gase has had to dumb things down for his players, who apparently weren't putting in the extra necessary work.
If things go the way Gase hopes they will, there won't be anymore holding back.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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