Maybe you heard about Jarvis Landry predicting the Miami Dolphins will sweep their two regular-season games with the Patriots this year.
That’s some high-quality offseason chatter, eliciting snickers in New England and high-fives in South Florida.
What interests me more, however, is Adam Gase’s cool perspective on the rivalry. He’s the head coach, and with the July 27 opening of Dolphins training camp drawing near, that means he’s on the clock to get the messaging just right for his initial address to the team.
See if you agree that this interview Gase did a few days ago with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk sounds like a dry run.
Asked about being stuck in the same division with the Patriots, who have won 14 of the last 16 AFC East titles, Gase said “I think this is good for us because we get to go against the best twice a year and you know exactly where you stand in the NFL.
“Last year they beat us twice and they beat us pretty handily both times. We really put ourselves in a hole and they let us know that we have a long way to go.”
No need for a coach to shout or throw something against the wall when he says something like that. It’s straight to the point, and it’s a shot to the gut for any Miami player who wants to believe that making the playoffs last year made all the difference for this franchise.
Can’t imagine that Don Shula’s approach was much different in the summer of 1971.
The Dolphins at that moment were coming off a 10-4 record in his first year as their coach. Not only was that the first playoff season in franchise history, it was the first winning record, too.
The problem was what to do with the Baltimore Colts. Shula knew them better than anyone. He was the Colts’ coach for seven seasons and one Super Bowl appearance before jumping to Miami and the old AFL. He understood what had been built there, and built to last.
When the two leagues merged, the Colts and the Dolphins were thrown together in the AFC East and right away Baltimore was dominant, winning the division in 1970 and the Super Bowl, too, with the championship game played at the Orange Bowl, of all places.
So along came 1971 and another chance for Shula’s Dolphins to go against the best twice in one year and find out exactly where they stood in the NFL.
Wouldn’t you know it? Miami got three shots at Baltimore that year instead of two. A split in the regular season, sure, but the Dolphins also won the AFC East and beat the Colts 21-0 in the AFC title game. At the Orange Bowl, of all places.
Now I’m not suggesting that Gase is about to flip the New England series and wind up in the Super Bowl in his second season as Dolphins coach. It is the proper approach, though, to embrace the highest level of conflict as the ultimate benefit to his team’s development.
Look at Bill Belichick himself. His first season in New England was a 5-11 clunker. There was no monstrous Super Bowl machine of a team in the AFC East at that time, but having to play Dan Marino and a Dolphins team coached by Jimmy Johnson twice in a season couldn’t have been anyone’s dream.
Still, in 2001, Belichick’s second season there, the Patriots found their quarterback in Tom Brady and quickly measured up. They split with the Dolphins. They won the AFC East. They won the first Super Bowl in franchise history. The first of five.
Gase, 39, can’t be aiming at anything so grand as his second season approaches. He just needs to make his team truly worrisome to the Patriots. If that happens, everything else may follow, and a quirk in the schedule allows enough time for that to happen at least.
Miami and New England don’t play until Nov. 26, their latest meeting on the regular-season schedule since 2012. Just two weeks later, it’s on again, with the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium for a Dec. 11 Monday night game.
Going against the best twice in one year? How about twice in the space of 15 days, with the Denver Broncos in between?
If Gase didn’t think he was up to that kind of challenge, he would have taken a head coaching job offer with another team, in another division, where the money would have been just as good.
He doesn’t like that message, however, and he won’t give in to it now.
Training camp is coming, and Gase means to train the Dolphins to be twice as tough on themselves as the Patriots have ever been on Miami.