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The first sign that Adam Gase was different came in his junior year of high school in Marshall, Michigan. He may have been an average tight end, but there was something that set him apart, an ability to see the game in a way nobody else his age could.
“As a junior in high school, he prepared flow charts, spreadsheets and broke down all the tendencies of our opponents on his own,” said Gase’s high school coach Rich Hulkow in a New York Times story a few years ago. “He was always in my office looking at film.”
At 15 years old? With no real chance of making it as a player? Little wonder the Marshall High School basketball coach got word of this whiz kid and asked him to scout an upcoming opponent.
“He turned in an immaculate, exhaustive report with details on the opponent that were incredible,” said basketball coach Dan Coddens in that New York Times story. “I was shocked that a teenager could do that.”
Guess you could say Adam Gase has been surprising people most of his life. This is a story of a highly intelligent, highly motivated young man who didn’t have the 40 times, the bulging muscles or any of the measurables to make it in the sport he loved. But he had the desire to coach and to teach and to break down tapes for hours upon hours. He knew it when he was 15 years old.
So, as the story goes, Gase decides to attend Michigan State and Coddens used to play basketball there so he recommended this studious young man to then Spartans football coach Nick Saban as a great candidate for a student assistant. And so that’s how it began. From student assistant to graduate assistant to an assistant coach to an offensive coordinator to head coach of the Miami Dolphins. It has been a whirlwind trip for Adam Gase.
“You never know how your journey is going to turn out,” Gase said Saturday, his first day on the job. “You just keep battling.”
No, the Miami Dolphins did not go the conventional route in their search for the 12th head coach in franchise history. They didn’t go for a former player or a former head coach or someone who has a track record of winning big games deep into December.
They went with their gut feeling, with their instincts and with the profound belief that what they found in Adam Gase is something very special and unique: a concoction of smarts, passion, organization and commitment who relates well to players and who has left a trail of unwavering admirers at every stop in his journey.
“Last time I didn’t go with my instincts,” said Dolphins owner Steven Ross. “This time I did.”
Ross knows there will be second-guessing. There always is. He knows there are those who will point to a lack of head coaching experience, to the fact that Gase never played on the college or professional level or that he is so young for a position of such importance. None of that swayed Ross from his conviction.
“I think if you look at the individual, you look at his track record, you look at the ingredients he has as a person and the drive and the passion he has, I think you’ll say: ‘Hey, let’s take a chance. Let’s go for it.”
And go for it they did. There are no guarantees in this business and there is no crystal ball that will allow us to project what Adam Gase will do with this enormous opportunity. But when you look closely at the person, when you evaluate the path he has travelled, when you listen to the words of those who know him, it becomes abundantly clear that this wasn’t some ill-conceived leap of faith.
This was a group of decision-makers who did their homework, who carefully evaluated all the viable candidates and who came to the decision that Adam Gase was the right person at the right time.
“He has everything you’re looking for,” said Mike Tannenbaum, executive vice president of football operations.
And now the real work begins. Hiring a staff. Meeting with players. Building a bond with quarterback
It will take time. It will test Gase like he probably has never been tested before. His time-management. His people skills. His ability to unite. There is no easy way to come into a situation like this. There are no shortcuts.
This is the challenge facing Adam Gase. Move fast, but act wisely. Form opinions, but not conclusions. Ask questions and then carefully dissect the answers. His plate is overflowing so much so that you can hardly see the plate.
But this is the opportunity Adam Gase coveted. This is the moment he has lived for. That 15-year-old boy wowing his high school head coach with spreadsheets and game plans now has a chance to create his own legacy.
In the X’s and O’s world of Adam Gase, it can’t get much better than this.