Dol­phins’ player cuts not about team cul­ture

Don’t lis­ten to what Dol­phins say; watch what they’re do­ing.

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - Jlieser@pb­ @Ja­sonLieser

Ja­son Lieser: It’s about money, and Mi­ami can’t ad­mit some signings were reck­less moves.

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. Stop.

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


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 fourth- and seventh-round picks. 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 game­speed 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 thir­dand-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.

Ja­son Lieser

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