When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field tomorrow they will play against Adam Gase’s Miami Dolphins team. Gase has had a long winding road to becoming a head coach and right now it looks like his 1-4 team is struggling to find its identity.
Gase broke into the NFL as a coach in 2005 with the Detroit Lions who were coached at the time by Steve Mariucci. This puts him under the expansive Bill Walsh coaching tree, who’s most prominent branch was spawned by Mike Holmgren. Holmgren himself has 14 current or previous NFL Head Coaches that can be traced directly back to him (see diagram). Mariucci was fired mid-season in 2005 and his replacement was Dick Jauron, another coach that can be traced back to Walsh through Holmgren.
Gase stayed in Detroit through the 2007 season, where the Head Coach became Rod Marinelli. Marinelli, got his start in Tampa Bay and eventually coached worked with a young secondary coach named Mike Tomlin during his time in Tampa Bay. But Marinelli did not have success in Detroit. Gase was an offensive assistant and the Quarterback’s Coach for Marinelli’s squads who went 10-38. One of the worst records for any Head Coach that has coached 3 seasons in the NFL.
In 2008 Gase moved on to San Francisco where he had a season-long tenure as an offensive assistant for the 49er’s under another coach connected to Bill Walsh, Mike Nolan. Nolan was fired mid-season similarly to Mariucci and was replaced by Mike Singletary as Head Coach. Gase finished out 2008 in San Francisco then was hired by Josh McDaniels to be the Wide Receivers Coach in Denver.
McDaniels lasted two seasons in Denver before being fired and eventually rehired by the New England Patriots where he’s the Offensive Coordinator to this day. Gase, in contrast, stuck it out in Denver where ANOTHER Bill Walsh associated coach, John Fox was hired. In 2013, Gase was promoted to Denver Broncos’ Offensive Coordinator and helped coach a dominate team that went 13-3 in the regular season. In 2014, Gase’s 2nd season working with all-time great, Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Broncos made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
John Fox was eventually fired in Denver despite his success and was hired by the Chicago Bears in 2015 and Gase followed suit, keeping his position as Offensive Coordinator. Gase was then hired as the Dolphins’ Head Coach for the 2016 season, where he’s gone 1-4 thus far. The Dolphins spent $114 million to lure all-pro Ndamukong Suh from the Detroit Lions in hopes of strengthening their run defense. But the Dolphins, as a squad, have the feel of a team that is still searching for its identity. Some wonder if that’s a representation of Gase’s leadership. Others say the Dolphins’ record reflects their team’s overall talent level.
Either way the Steelers need to come out ready to play. The Steelers benefit from their coaching stability. Not just Head Coach Mike Tomlin, but the position coaches too. The familiarity between the Steelers players and what their coaches expect of them is an advantage that should show itself come kickoff.
Below is the sprawling Bill Walsh Coaching tree. This diagram hasn’t been updated to include Adam Gase. Gase would be a descendent of Steve Mariucci.