DAVIE — The final preseason practice of the Miami Dolphins season is complete and coach Adam Gase can breathe a sigh of relief as he takes a quiet moment to explain the trust he has in quarterback Jay Cutler.
Gase is generally pleased with the arm strength and the mobility and the playbook knowledge Cutler has exhibited in the three weeks since his quarterback left the comfort of retirement.
But as Gase runs a hand through his hair, something he sometimes does when faced with a critical decision, the Dolphins coach on this day, inside an emptied indoor practice facility, is pleased to expand upon the Cutler he knows.
“He gets along,” Gase says, downplaying Cutler’s reputation as aloof or non-communicative. “Like, guys in the locker room, that I know, they enjoy being around him. He’s got a good sense of humor and he’s not afraid to kind of get into it with guys in a good way. And I think his personality is a lot better than what most people know. Because if you’re not around somebody, you go off of what you hear.”
Cutler hasn’t been in South Florida long, but Dolphins players seem publicly and privately to respect his intelligence, arm talent, and interest in wasting no time breaking down what he can offer and what he needs from them.
“When you go to meetings with a guy and he’s not afraid to speak up and he’s a guy that will make sure they understand how he’s seeing it from his perspective,” Gase said, “that’s really the most important thing for a quarterback because those other guys are like, ‘OK, I understand this is why I need to be in a certain spot.’ And I think Jay does that.”
The Dolphins organization is trusting that the Cutler Gase has vouched for is the Cutler who will present himself throughout the 2017 season.
Cutler and Gase worked together in Chicago two years ago, where Cutler flourished as Gase called the plays.
But they actually first met in 2006, when Gase was a quality control coach for the Detroit Lions.
“He was coming out of Vandy,” Gase recalled. “I picked him up at the airport… We just kept bumping into each other as far as guys in the league and people that we’ve been around. We just keep crossing over a lot. We just kept in touch.”
One of Gase’s strengths is communication.
He is an open and direct communicator with anyone around him, notably, of course, his players.
While Gase and former quarterback pupils Peyton Manning and Ryan Tannehill had a habit of sending each other lengthy text message threads with exchanges of ideas on plays and concepts that may work, Gase and Cutler have a different preferred method of communication.
“He Facetimes,” Gase said. “That was something new for me when I went to Chicago. To try to call a guy and nobody would answer. Then you’d Facetime a guy and he would answer. And it’s, I don’t know, something I’ve noticed that was one of the things that (Kenny) Stills told me last year. Some guys would rather you Facetime.”
Yes, one of the ways Gase keeps in contact with his players at all times of the year, is video chat.
“It’s like Facetiming with your kids,” Gase said. “I remember I Facetimed Jarvis (Landry) one time and he was playing video games and I’m like, ‘Why am I Facetiming with you right now?’”
Cutler sees the experience as valuable.
“We FaceTime late into the night if something pops up or if I’m not sure about something, he’s always right there and he’ll explain it,” Cutler said.
On the day Cutler was introduced, he explained how his relationship with Gase was a critical factor in his decision to play again.
“Adam talks a lot,” Cutler said, eliciting laughter. “He talks a lot in the headset too. I don’t know. He’s always so supportive, though. I think that’s – as a quarterback – that’s what you know the most. He’s got your back. He’s going to support you through thick and thin and you’re always going to be in good spots.”
One reason Cutler left television broadcasting before he ever really began was a comfort level with who Gase is and how he operates. Cutler not only knew the plays, but he and Gase are often on the same play-calling wavelength.
“It’s really just getting on the same page thought-wise,” Gase said of the game-planning task which begins in earnest next Monday. “So when we get in the game, Jay has a good feel for how I’m going to call it. And what I like. And I try to find out during the week to what he doesn’t like. So I don’t call something to where now he’s like, ‘Great, I’ve got this play.’… Every quarterback is going to have something they like different. They’ve got a default, like, ‘Call this, man. This will get it going.’”
It remains to be seen to what extent Cutler can get the Dolphins offense going.
If practice and the preseason are any indication, it could be a thrilling, roller-coaster ride.
If Cutler is going to go out this season, he’s going to go out guns blazing.
Cutler openly discusses how he’s going to “just kind of throw it out there” to receiver DeVante Parker and allow him to compete for a play.
Cutler openly discusses how he’ll always battle that internal conflict of, “when to push the envelope and when just to take the sack and say, ‘Hey, they won. They won that play. Let’s just save it for another down.’”
Cutler is a gunslinger with a howitzer arm and the swagger of a millionaire gambling with house money.
But as Gase tries to explain on this day, sometimes when things appear to be heading in the direction of terribly wrong, just when it seems the train is about to crash, Cutler will steer it all to safety.
“Go look up any third down play where he started scrambling,” Gase says of their time in Chicago. “That’s probably a bad play call. What he does is, if there is a break down in a play, he does a good job of kind of finding the lane, starts moving around, and then guys do a good job of playing off of him. It’s a little bit of special knack he has. He is Houdini. He gets out of some stuff that you don’t expect guys to get out of. It will look bad sometimes to where he’ll look trapped in, but he’ll find a hole to get through. He’ll pull you out of some bad stuff.”
Hard to say how this show is going to turn out.
But Gase has his magician, and it’s one he trusts.