Bates Making His Case
by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
Three weeks ago, a gust of fresh air blew into the Dolphin organization.
Well, not exactly. Jim Bates has been (and, technically, still is) the team's defensive coordinator, this being his fifth season with the Dolphins. We just haven't heard nor seen much of him.
We're hearing from him now.
Interim head coaches usually endure the remainder of the predecessor's term and then quietly fade away.
Not this guy.
Bates has made it clear to everyone, including the press, that he has his own way of doing things and that the "status quo" was not going to be part of his agenda.
Aside from his football smarts, Bates brings high energy and much needed discipline to the table. He is passionate about his football and demands the same from his players and coaches.
As such, Bates has implemented a much tighter practice and game day regimen, replacing the more lackadaisical ones that Dave Wannstedt ran.
At the heart of this regimen is a lack of tolerance for mistakes, something Wannstedt could never seem to purge from his brand of ball.
Wannstedt: Drop a pass? Pat on the back, he'll do better the next time.
Bates: Drop a pass? Run sprints.
Wannstedt: Commit a penalty? Talk to the player, he'll do better…eventually.
Bates: Commit a penalty? Run sprints. Keep making mistakes? Get cut.
Wannstedt: Late for a meeting? That's OK, stuff happens. I'm flexible.
Bates: Late for a meeting? Get embarrassed in front of your peers and pay a fine.
Accountability for mistakes? Fancy that.
Are we sure that Don Shula isn't back at the helm?
Seriously, Bates is approaching his situation aggressively. He wants to do more than just be a caretaker; he wants to win out.
Everything else, he figures, will take care of itself. That is, his desire to be hired as the team's head coach, sans the "interim".
Of course nothing speaks louder than results. On that point, the man is now 1-1 and should be 2-0, save for an ill-advised A.J. Feeley pass against the Seahawks.
Yes, I know: Seattle and San Francisco aren't very good teams.
Neither was Arizona, Cincinnati, or (at the time) Buffalo. Yet the Dolphins managed to lose to all of them.
Without a doubt, there is something about Bates that is resonating with the team.
He is well-spoken, confident, thoughtful, and focused…almost Joe Gibbs-like in the way he carries himself.
He has credibility, backed by over 20 years of professional coaching experience, most of it in a defensive coordinator or head-coaching role. Players gush about his motivational skills and his football acumen, his ability to lead men.
Almost everywhere Jim Bates has gone, positive results have followed. In Miami his guidance of the Dolphin D has been very good, finishing in the Top 10 year after year.
And even though his resume on the offensive side of the ball is paper thin, he has already demonstrated good decision-making with key personnel and philosophical changes that are yielding results.
This is all very nice to see. However, Dolfans are expecting Wayne Huizenga to roll out a wagonload of money and hire, say, a big name out of college to come in as the team's so-called savior.
Problem is, would such a man be nothing more than a hyped up name?
When Butch Davis left the University of Miami to take the helm of the Browns, he seemed like a sure thing.
He resigned this week after a pretty disappointing run.
When the Redskins brought in Steve Spurrier, it was hailed as a coup that would transform the team into winners.
He flopped as a pro coach and is now back in the college ranks, where he should have stayed all along.
Is hiring one of the Patriot assistants, Charlie Weis or Romeo Crennel, the way to go?
Maybe. Then again, Bates worked for Belichick too and incorporates much of what he learned into the way he coaches.
What about a highly regarded offensive mind like Philadelphia's Brad Childress?
Certainly, Childress brings a lot to the table. Does he bring more than Bates and a guy like Marc Trestman combined? Don't know.
For sure, drawing any hard conclusions at this point would be premature. After all, we are only two games into the Bates regime.
Rest assured that the person who replaces Eddie Jones as team president will move quickly to assess the talent on hand. Items 1 and 2 on this list will be General Manager Rick Spielman and Bates.
Spielman's goose is already cooked. His record as the team's chief personnel man, which predates his formally being named GM, is dismal. Finding a good personnel man who can make sound decisions will be Job #1.
Bottom line: No team, no coach, can win without the horses. Case in point: the Dallas Cowboys.
Think Bill Parcells has suddenly gone dumb?
More to the point, the Dolphins simply do not have enough difference makers.
Job #2 will be to find the right coaching staff to mold the talent into World Champions.
Though he won't say it publicly, Bates would like to have that opportunity and is doing everything he can to prove to Dolphin management and you, the fan, that he is the right man for the job.
He has been given seven games to make his case.
So far, so good.