Teams always feel the need to justify getting rid of a player, especially when they’re unloading them one after another like the Dolphins have been, and few explanations are more popular than the old “didn’t fit our culture” line.
These are cost-cutting moves—and they’re necessary. An intelligent fan base understands that.
The problem for the organization is that it’s hard to cut Ndamukong Suh, for example, and admit that he was a reckless signing in the first place.
It’s tough for the Dolphins to come out and say they badly misjudged what Lawrence Timmons had left in the tank when they handed him a two-year contract that was almost fully guaranteed.
It’s much, much easier to say those players were sent packing because they weren’t what Miami wants in its locker room. They didn’t fit the culture.
Jarvis Landry, a former second-round pick who did nothing but improve his stock and bail out his quarterbacks over four seasons, was dealt for a fourth- and seventh-round pick. That alone doesn’t look good on paper. They can soften it a little by claiming personality friction.
What culture is this, exactly? The culture was supposedly really good in 2016 when the Dolphins went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Landry and Suh were both part of that team. The roster didn’t change a ton going into last year.
With the exception of his inexplicable desertion of the team before the season opener, Timmons embodied everything the Dolphins wanted in their locker room. Coaches and teammates praised how hard he worked in preseason practices, some of them sounding surprised that a 10-year veteran would still go that hard.
He was serious, he was smart and he worked. Those things were true of Timmons every minute before he went AWOL and every minute afterward.
“He works every day at practice—everything he has,” coach Adam Gase said near the end of the season. “He’s been a model citizen since he’s returned. For a veteran player, I haven’t been around too many guys that don’t miss snaps in practice. He is going game-speed every day. He’s been very impressive to watch. I understand why his career has been what it’s been over time.”
It sure doesn’t sound like culture was the issue with Timmons.
When he did break the code by ditching the team, by the way, the Dolphins’ upholding of their culture was dictated by how badly they needed him back. He was suspended one week, then thrust immediately back into the starting lineup.
The truth about him is that he was old, slow and wasn’t a smart signing at $12 million over two years (almost all of it was guaranteed until the AWOL situation presented the Dolphins with a way out). But that’s not something any team is eager to say.
Suh wasn’t a fiscally responsible addition, either, and that’s not something vice president Mike Tannenbaum is likely to acknowledge publicly, particularly since he was around when the Dolphins signed him.
But that’s the start and end of the conversation about why he’s gone. The coaches couldn’t stop gushing about how dominant he was, and teammates credited him for growing as a leader. Members of the organization and local media voted him team MVP just three months ago.
When Gase was asked about Suh’s alleged improvising, he stated flatly that Suh had the license to do so because he’s so good that whatever decision he makes almost always works out. He’s so elite that they wanted him to call his own shots. That’s what they said.
Suh was only a cultural misfit if the Dolphins are rewriting their history books.
“I just think back to the spring when he came back before OTAs, of how he took the young guys and helped those guys develop and get better every day,” Gase said in December. “He had an overall goal to help those guys be factors in the season because he knew for him to be as effective as he needed to be, he has to have multiple guys that are playing well with him. He took a lot of pride in making sure those guys were up to speed.
“Every game it’s double-team and triple-team, and he still finds ways to make plays. He still finds ways to create pressure on the quarterback, especially in critical situations… He did everything he could this year to try to help us.”
Good riddance, right?
Regarding Landry, no one questioned his grit. His quarterbacks always talked about the great security he provided as a low-risk, high-reward target who had a knack for turning up when they needed an emergency option on a pass play gone haywire. Gase talked that way, too, especially in his first season as a head coach.
Landry leaves the Dolphins holding the top three spots in their record books for catches in a single season, including a league-high 112 in 2017. He averaged more than 1,000 yards per year. He led the team with nine touchdowns when the offense managed just 28 for the entire season.
But he doesn’t always run the right route. He doesn’t keep his locker tidy. He’s not great at keeping his composure.
Remember when he blew up at Gase on the sideline during the late-season loss to Kansas City? It was right after Gase called a bubble screen for Jakeem Grant on 3rd-and-24 late in the game.
Landry yelled at the coach, and he yelled back. Both of them dismissed it as a non-issue afterward. Gase implied that he thinks those kinds of confrontations are healthy and chided the media for trying to turn nothing into something.
“That (stuff) happens all the time and it’s overblown big-time,” Gase said. “(Stuff) like that happens, and unless the TV cameras catch it, nobody notices… Whether it’s players or coaches, both sides are trying not to cross a line to attack somebody, but yeah, there’s going to be some discussion and argument.
“You move on. To me, it’s never a big deal.”
Really it’s just that the Dolphins don’t think Landry’s as good as he thinks he is, evidenced by how far apart they were in contract talks, but that’s a risky thing to say. That explanation won’t age well if Landry puts together a Hall of Fame career.
It’s much safer, much easier, to pin it on something nebulous like culture.
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