For the first time since just after the season ended, Coach Adam Gase answered questions from the media Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando and weighed in on all sorts of important topics.
Let's see what we learned:
• First, a general thought about Gase. He has clearly put the disappointment of last season's 6-10 record behind him. He spoke on Tuesday with passion and energy and a real sense of conviction that many of the problems from a year ago have been addressed in a positive way. "I think we've added more than we've lost," he said. He admitted last year was "a learning experience for all of us" and that some of challenges and decisions he was facing just "wasn't in the (coaching) handbook." He is clearly ready and excited to move on.
• The most prevalent theme to come out of these 60 minutes of questions and answers was a deep down belief by Gase that the locker room has been strengthened with the addition of some "alpha dogs" and that strong, inspiring leadership will not be an issue with this team. It's clear that a change in culture was needed. You don't finish with that kind of record and stand pat. You've got to make tough decisions. You've got to make bold moves. The Gase quote that best summed that up: "Sometimes you have to add guys to show the other guys the right way."
• Gase was talking about players like wide receiver Danny Amendola, like offensive tackle Josh Sitton, like center Daniel Kilgore and like running back Frank Gore. These are players who have spent their careers in leadership roles, players who have shown an ability to help unite a locker room and whose words often have a profound effect on others. "We tried to get guys with winning experience, guys who do things the right way," Gase said. "But we also wanted guys who can play."
• He also wanted players who can have a real effect on younger, less experienced players in their position group, someone like Sitton and the impact he can have on left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Gore and the expertise he can share with Kenyan Drake and certainly Amendola and the intangibles he can bring to a talented group of wide receivers. "We're closer to what we're looking for," Gase said. "We still have pieces to add."
• But the most important piece remains quarterback Ryan Tannehill who, according to Gase, is expected to take part in the entire offseason program beginning with OTAs after missing last season with a knee injury. Everything looks a little bit better, each day offers a little more promise, because, as Gase put it, "we're getting our starting quarterback back." It is clear this is the major source of Gase's optimism, the reason he confidently says this will be a better team in 2018.
• As for the offense in general, Gase suggested that he's going to spread the ball around more, creating different looks, incorporating new sets, shifting responsibilities from play to play. There is too much talent, too much diversity, to rely on one player to catch most of the passes. This has always been what Gase wanted and what his offense was ideally suited for. Now he'll get the chance to demonstrate that. "There are a lot of guys we need to get the ball to," he said.
• Like Albert Wilson, the young wide receiver from the Chiefs, who Gase says "can take a throw behind the line of scrimmage and create a 70-yard touchdown." Now that would be impressive.
• Like Gore who was coached by Gase 10 years ago in San Francisco and who, in many ways, still looks like that same player today. "Age is irrelevant with him," Gase said of Gore. "He's just a different dude." And someone who can beat you all sorts of ways.
• Like DeVante Parker whose story, according to Gase, is no longer about potential but more about simply staying healthy. That's where the focus will remain. That's what this offseason is so much about.
• Like Amendola and Kenny Stills and Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant and the list goes on and on. Keep a defense guessing. Don't become predictable. Spread it around. "I've always been a big fan of that," Gase says.
• Yes, there is still plenty of time to continue to adjust this roster. Free agency remains an option. So are trades. The draft is quickly approaching. There are holes to be filled at tight end and linebacker, a placekicker to find, another defensive tackle, maybe even a young quarterback to groom behind Tannehill. Everything is being considered. Nothing is being ignored. Gase was asked a lot Tuesday about drafting a quarterback. "I'd like to," he said, "but I want him to be the right guy for us." Stay tuned on that one.
• I really believe the presence of new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will help Gase become a better head coach. There is a trust factor here since they have worked together before. But it's more than that. Loggains knows how Gase thinks, understands what he needs and when he needs it. He will lighten his workload, especially on game day, and will bring some fresh ideas to this offense that you just know Gase will embrace.
• With the addition of Sitton and Kilgore and the decision to bring back tackle Ja'Wuan James, Gase feels good about this offensive line. He understands it won't be easy replacing someone like center Mike Pouncey, and quickly adds "Kilgore will put his own spin on that position." He likes the depth and, with Sitton, Jesse Davis and Ted Larson as the top three guards, he no longer sees that as an area of concern. Wouldn't that be nice moving forward?