Former Bears and Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase is on the verge of his first playoff game as a Head Coach. Gase and his Miami Dolphins will play at the Steelers on Sunday.
When the Denver Broncos fired John Fox after the 2014 season, it seemed like a coup for the Bears to hire the veteran coach after they let Marc Trestman go after two seasons. Fox had led both the Broncos and Carolina Panthers to Superbowl Appearances in 13 seasons as a Head Coach.
The Broncos were 46-18 under Fox and he had a 119-89 overall record. He was lauded for taking the Broncos to the playoffs with an 8-8 record with Tim Tebow at Quarterback in his first season. The Broncos would defeat the Steelers 29-23 in overtimenin the Wildcard round on a Tebow to Demaryius Thomas 80 yard touchdown pass.
Fox inherited former Chargers Coach Mike McCoy as his Offensive Coordinator. Denver traded for Peyton Manning for the 2012 season and instantly became one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.
Manning led Denver to the AFC's best record at 13-3. Denver was upset in their first playoff game 35-28 in Overtime by Baltimore. The Ravens tied the game with 31 seconds left in regulation on a 70 yard touchdown pass.
McCoy left after the 2012 season to take over as the Head Coach in San Diego. Fox's new Offensive Coordinator was Gase. Gase took over at just 35 years old, two years younger than Manning. Manning, Gase and the Broncos offense set numerous passing records that season. These included most points by a team with 606 and most passing touchdowns and yards by Manning.
The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl following the 2013 season where they were crushed by Seattle 43-8. The Seahawks held Denver's record setting offense to 306 yards. They also held the Broncos scoreless for the first 45 minutes. Denver didn't score until the final play of the third quarter on a Manning to Thomas 14 yard touchdown pass.
Gase would stay with Fox through the 2014 season. The Broncos finished 12-4 and earned the AFC's second seed. They lost early for the second time in three seasons when they fell to the Colts 24-13 in Denver in the Divisional Round. Broncos President John Elway let Fox go at the end of season. His reasoning was that the team was...
"Disappointed we didn't have more fire" (against the Colts)....(We were) disappointed this year (2014) as we were last year (2013) and the fact that we didn't play better at the end of the year,"
Gase was one of many candidates for the Bears Head Coaching position in January 2015. He also interviewed in San Francisco. The question was was he ready at 36 years old to become a Head Coach. Many successful NFL Coaches were ready at a young age.
Former Colts and Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula became a Head Coach at 33, Former Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry at 36 and Current Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin at 35. Tomlin won a Superbowl in his second season at 36.
It's clear that would not have happened with the Bears based on the roster they had that resulted in the firing of Trestman and former Bears General Manager Phil Emery. Tomlin took over a team that was defending Super Bowl Champion in his first year.
If Gase had been hired he also would have paired with 37 year old then newly hired General Manager Ryan Pace.
Hiring an established successful coach was not a surprise by Pace. Should he and the Bears staff been able to predict Gase's almost prodigy like qualities as a Head Coach?
Many were speculating about Gase's abilities. Was he that good of an Offensive Coordinator or was he riding Peyton Manning's coattails.
Manning's success went downhill after Gase left with Fox to Chicago, largely because of injuries.
In his one season as the Bears Offensive Coordinator the Bears improved in most offensive categories over 2014 and they declined this season under Dowell Loggans.
Gase can also adapt to his personnel. After emphasizing the passing game with Denver, Gase has placed a greater emphasis on the run in Chicago and Miami.
The Bears ranked sixth in the league in attempts and 11th in rushing yards in 2015. They fell to 25th and 17th this season as they put a greater emphasis on the pass.
Miami finished 18th in attempts, ninth in yards and eighth in rushing yards per attempt this season. It's not clear if he's an offensive genius, guru, protege or however you want to put it, but he has made his teams better offensively at every step. He has been in a new position or with a new team in three of the last four seasons. At each step his team improves.
The Dolphins finished 32nd in attempts and 29th in rushing yards in 2015, while finishing ninth in yards per attempt. Their defense was also significantly improved under Coordinator Vance Joseph.
It's impossible to know how the Bears would have done with Gase as coach, but he has proven to be an innovative offensive mind, while Fox likes to be more conservative.
The Dolphins were 6-10 last season. After a 1-4 start to 2016, the Dolphins won nine of their last 11 to earn their first playoff appearance since 2008.