Deeper look into hiring process shows Gase’s approach toward QBs is key

Adam Gase maximized the limited skills of Tim Tebow. He matched wits with Peyton Manning and got Jay Cutler to quit taking so many unnecessary risks.

And that approach toward coaching quarterbacks with disparate talents went a long way toward landing him the head coaching job of the Miami Dolphins.

In Jenny Vrentas’ revealing piece for Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback, she explains what goes on behind closed doors when NFL teams are hiring head coaches. Since the Dolphins have had five  in the past 11 seasons excluding interim coaches, they’ve had ample opportunity to perfect that process, although many would argue that the fact they’ve gone through so many proves there’s work to be done.

Adam Gase, on his advice for candidates seeking a head coaching job: 'Be yourself. That’s the most important thing I have learned.' (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Adam Gase, on his advice for candidates seeking a head coaching job: ‘Be yourself. That’s the most important thing I have learned.’ (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Vrentas explains that teams typically block out three hours to interview candidates, but those talks typically run long. Miami’s interview with Gase was the interview equivalent of the 1971 Christmas Day playoff against Kansas City: Dolphins executives talked with him for a remarkable eight hours.

Since Gase made his mark as a quarterback guru, it’s natural the Dolphins asked him about how he would help Ryan Tannehill fulfill his potential.

Vrentas writes that Gase “won over the Dolphins by explaining his philosophy that coaching a quarterback can’t be a one-size-fits all, backed by his experience blending different offensive systems and styles to best suit the spectrum of QBs he’s coached: Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and now Ryan Tannehill.”

Gase, like the other Miami candidates, was subjected to a three-hour evaluation with an industrial psychologist to test his leadership capabilities. This aspect of the hiring process may have been more critical for Gase than the other coaches because he’s only 37 and the Dolphins wanted to be assured “he had the maturity level,” owner Stephen Ross said.

Clearly, the Dolphins believe he does, because they made him the youngest head coach in the league.

Vrentas writes that the process can be so detailed around the league that candidates have talked themselves out of jobs because owners don’t like the coach’s third option for a coordinator. Candidates typically compile a “leave-behind packet” trumpeting their qualifications that is so time consuming they compile them in the off-season.

It’s safe to assume Gase impressed the Dolphins in this department. Ross called him “exceptionally intelligent,” telling reporters, “You guys could do all your homework. You’ll be talking to people and there’s one thing that’s a common theme: He’s one of the hardest-working, smartest guys in this business. Those are great things.”

And, in fact, Bill Dryer, who helped coach Gase in high school in Michigan, said, “I don’t think anybody will question his work ethic. The guys is off the charts in preparation.”

Confidence also helps. Gase interviewed with nine teams over the past two years and said his approach evolved.

“Be yourself. That’s the most important thing I have learned, especially this time around,” Gase told Vrentas. “Last time, mostly, I was a little nervous going into the process. And if you are nervous, you can’t truly be yourself. This time I felt a lot more comfortable. I could articulate exactly how I felt about so many situations. My passion and my energy came out. I really feel like, this year, teams saw who I really am. So what I would say to guys out there, just go in there and be yourself every minute you are in the room with them.”

Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations, said the organization made more than 237 phone calls while researching candidates and spent more than 42 hours in interviews alone.

Gase will be the first to say plenty of work lies ahead.

The Dolphins know plenty of work went into bringing him to Miami in the first place.

“I know that was a long process for them, very thorough, one of the longer processes that I went through with a group,” Gase said. “It seems like I’ve gone through quite a few the last few years and this one was very thorough.

Dan Campbell on track to coach alongside Adam Gase’s father-in-law

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt found qualities he liked in Adam Gase right from the start. It's why Vitt said Gase could marry his daughter. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt found qualities he liked in Adam Gase right from the start. It’s why Vitt said Gase could marry his daughter. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Now that Dan Campbell is leaving the Dolphins to become assistant head coach of the Saints, you might think that closes the book on any possible connections between Campbell and new coach Adam Gase.

Sort of, but not quite.

The Saints haven’t officially named Campbell assistant head coach, perhaps because they’re trying to sort out how that affects the current assistant head coach, Joe Vitt.

That would be Joe Vitt, father-in-law to — yes! — Adam Gase.

Adam Gase. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Adam Gase. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Nola.com speculated that the Saints could make Campbell assistant head coach of the offense and Vitt for the defense.

Since Gase already has hired a defensive coordinator (Vance Joseph) and a linebacker coach (Matt Burke), it wouldn’t seem likely that Vitt is Miami-bound.

To say Vitt and Gase hit it off the first time they met is an understatement. During Super Bowl week two years ago, Gase, then Broncos offensive coordinator, told the story of how Vitt gave Gase his blessing to marry his daughter, Jennifer.

Adam and Jennifer had met at a golf tournament in Ohio three months before Adam met Vitt at the 2008 Senior Bowl.

Gase was having dinner with Saints coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, Buffalo assistant Matt Sheldon and Vitt when the first three coaches left.

“I’m kind of like, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” Gase recalled at that Super Bowl. “So he gives me permission to marry Jen.”

That’s impressive for any guy, but what makes this especially noteworthy: “I didn’t even ask him,” Gase said.

“So I’m leaving the Senior Bowl, and I call Jen and say, ‘Hey, your dad gave me permission to marry you,’ and she goes, ‘What … you asked him?’ I told her no. I don’t know if it was too many vinos or what.”

Small detail, but Gase finally got around to proposing to Jennifer three months later.

“I was like, ‘I don’t have a choice now,’ ” Gase said.

Today, Adam and Jennifer have three children: daughter McKenzie and sons A.J. and Wyatt.

Adam made sure to thank Jennifer during his introductory news conference in Davie on Saturday, although she wasn’t there to hear it — she had to step outside momentarily because their youngest son was fidgety.

Poll: Do you like the Dolphins’ decision to hire Adam Gase?

On Saturday, the Miami Dolphins announced the hiring of former Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase as head coach.

Dolphins new head coach Adam Gase is introduced at Dolphins training camp facility in Davie on Jan. 9, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Adam Gase (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

This will be the first NFL head coaching job for Gase, 37, becoming the youngest head coach in Dolphins history. Gase will have control over the team’s roster and will call the plays on offense.

Whether this means an improvement for Ryan Tannehill is a mystery at this point, but this much is certain: Getting the QB to play better is a top task.

But the most pertinent question: What do you think of the Adam Gase hire? Vote in our poll below!

What they’re saying about new Dolphins coach Adam Gase

Adam Gase. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Adam Gase. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Peyton Manning, via dolphins.com

“I’m very happy for Adam. Adam had a great impact on me during our three years together here in Denver as my quarterbacks coach and then as offensive coordinator. He’s an extremely hard worker, a grinder. He’s extremely bright on all things football, an excellent communicator and always eager to learn more. He asks a lot of questions and writes everything down. I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic and his eagerness to learn more. He’ll be an excellent head coach, without a doubt. He is ready for this for sure.”

Broncos President John Elway, via denverbroncos.com

“Adam is a bright, young, energetic football coach who has worked very hard for this opportunity. I anticipate that Adam will be very successful as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.”

Steve Mariucci, NFL Network analyst, via miamidolphins.com

Mariucci was Lions head coach and was impressed when Gase asked for a coaching job:

“What I got out of that meeting (was) it’s unusual for a young guy to go to a head coach behind closed doors and say, ‘Hey, I want a job. Hire me, please. I’ll do whatever.’ So I created a job for him in coaching. I took him away from scouting and put him on the coaching staff as a quality control coach to get his feet wet and work hard and do whatever we asked him to do. I felt that he was very ambitious. I felt that he was very bright and he wanted to work. He was a very young, ambitious, bright kid.

“He retained knowledge and applies what he’s learned and has kind of formulated his own offense and his own way of teaching. I think the players will respond to him. He’s been around some really good quarterbacks, obviously. So I think that Ryan Tannehill will be very, very happy with him and his offense.”

Jay Cutler (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Jay Cutler (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

QB Jay Cutler, via chicagobears.com

“I couldn’t be happier for Adam and his family. He has worked extremely hard his entire career and is very deserving of this opportunity. I wish he could stay with us in Chicago, but everyone has a journey and this is the next part of his.

“His work with quarterbacks is well documented and I know firsthand how good he is. He will now continue to have success in this league as a head coach. I thank him for all his hard work and look forward to following this next step in his career.”

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Gase establishes record for Dolphins

Adam Gase becomes the youngest head coach in Dolphins history (excluding interim coaches).

Coach                  Age              Yrs         W-L

Adam Gase         37                  –                 –

Don Shula            40                26             257-133-2

Cam Cameron      46                  1             1-15

Tony Sparano       47                  4             29-32

Dave Wannstedt   48                  5             42-31

Joe Philbin            51                  4             24-28

George Wilson      52                  4             15-39-2

Jimmy Johnson     53                  4             36-28

Nick Saban           54                   2            15-17

Dolphins have interviews lined up with Mike Shanahan, Teryl Austin, Adam Gase

Shanahan
Shanahan

The Dolphins have interviews lined up with several of the league’s top coordinators this week — and a former Super Bowl winner.

But they’re beginning on Monday by interviewing former Atlanta coach Mike Smith, according to the Miami Herald.

Smith went 66-46 in seven seasons with Atlanta. He was 1-4 in the playoffs.

(Dolphins officially name Chris Grier GM)

(Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon and others weigh future with Dolphins)

Smith is just the beginning. According to league sources and various media reports from ESPN, NFL Network and Fox Sports:

– Miami will interview Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Tuesday and finish the week by meeting with interim coach Dan Campbell on Friday.

– Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase is expected to interview with the Dolphins on Thursday.

– The Dolphins have interest in Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but can’t interview him until at least next week because his team is currently in the playoffs.

– Dolphins head exec Mike Tannenbaum confirmed that former Denver and Washington coach Mike Shanahan will interview with the Dolphins on Tuesday.

ESPN reported that it’ll actually be Miami’s second interview with Shanahan — Tannenbaum reportedly had an under-the-radar meeting the Dolphins on Dec. 22.

Tannenbaum said they spoke but it didn’t take place in Davie and it wasn’t an official interview.

– The Dolphins have requested interviews with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, as well as assistant head coach Anthony Lynn.

It’s unclear if McDaniels or Patricia would be willing to leave New England for a division rival.

Lynn was running backs coach for the Jets from 2009 to 2014 and reportedly will meet with the Dolphins on Wednesday. Tannenbaum was the Jets general manager from 2006 to 2012.

– Jacksonville assistant head coach Doug Marrone, who was previously head coach of the Bills, is also scheduled to interview with the Dolphins at some point this week.

New Dolphins GM Chris Grier will be part of the coaching search and Tannenbaum said the new coach will “100 percent” have input on the roster.

“I don’t know how else you can do it,” Tannenbaum said.

Shanahan, 63, hasn’t coached since leaving Washington in 2013. He won two Super Bowl titles with Denver.

He went just 24-40 in four season with the Redskins, winning the NFC East title at 10-6 in 2012.

There was also speculation that Shanahan wasn’t on board with the team’s decision to trade up for quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012, instead preferring to stay put and draft Ryan Tannehill, who went to Miami with the No. 8 pick.

Owner Stephen Ross said Sunday that the Dolphins would love a coach with head coaching experience but that they’re hard to find.

Shanahan would give the Dolphins plenty of experience.

Marrone, 51, was head coach of the Bills in 2013 and 2014. He was 15-17 with Buffalo and surprisingly opted out of his deal when Terry Pegula took over as Bills owner.

Marrone spent four games as a quarterback for the Dolphins during the 1987 strike.

Gase, 37, was hired this season in Chicago. Before that he spent two seasons as Denver offensive coordinator under former coach John Fox.

He went with Fox to Chicago.

The Bears were only 22nd of 32 teams in scoring this year at 21 points per game.

But the Broncos were first in the NFL with a record 37.9 points per game in 2013, Gase’s first year as an offensive coordinator.

They were second in the league in scoring at 30.4 points per game in 2014.

Gase is interviewing with the Eagles on Tuesday and the Browns on Wednesday, so the Dolphins will hope he makes it to Miami before accepting another job.

NFL Network reported that Austin will interview this week with the Dolphins and Browns and likely the Eagles.

Austin
Austin

Austin, 50, has been defensive coordinator of the Lions for two seasons.

The Lions had the league’s third-best scoring defense in 2014 at 17.6 points per game and were led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who just finished his first season in Miami.

The Lions scoring defense this season was 25th of 32 teams at 25.3 points per game.

Austin would also fulfill the Rooney Rule which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a coaching vacancy.

Campbell seems like a long shot after he went 5-7 as interim coach. But owner Stephen Ross Sunday said he loves Campbell, who will be able to make his case on Friday.

“What Coach Campbell did will never be understood,” Tannenbaum said. “What he accomplished, changing coordinators where he did. Here’s a man that coached four players and the next day he’s the head coach of an NFL team. That’s really remarkable. We fell short. I was part of falling short.”

Tannenbaum said he’s spoken to a number of people about the coaching search, including his mentor Bill Parcells, who is not a candidate.

Tannenbaum said the Dolphins have done extensive research and are open to either a previous head coach or an up-and-coming coordinator.

“We’ve done a lot of research on what makes a successful NFL head coach and tried to reverse-engineer the last 20 years literally of every hire, from their degree to really almost sort of every valuable and I can tell you that there’s a lot of different permutations, a lot of different answers,” Tannenbaum said. “So we want to get the best coach and we’re not going to narrow it to any sort of background, being a first-time coach or not.

“I know there’s one theory out there, like some of the recent Super Bowl winners, Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, all did it on their second hire. But we just want to get the best head coach regardless of their background.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Sunday that he hopes a hire is made “sooner than later” because of numerous other vacancies across the league.