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Willingness of Dolphins coaches to call out players is paying dividends

Things were different three weeks ago when the Dolphins were struggling and coaches were calling out players both privately and publicly.

The team had a 1-4 record and Vance Joseph was saying Mario Williams needed "to play harder."

The team was 1-4 and Joseph was not thrilled about Byron Maxwell's production.

The team was 1-4 and Adam Gase dumped three offensive linemen in one day, after the loss to Tennessee -- because he didn't like their effort, didn't like their attitude in the locker room, didn't want them in the team's future.

And that came weeks after Gase put running back Jay Ajayi on blast. The coach left Ajayi off the travel squad for the regular-season opener and let everyone understand he wasn't happy with the second-year player.

And you know what all that calling out and criticism and drama got the Dolphins?


Truth may have hurt initially. But it has also helped.

Williams has been playing better since he was called out. Maxwell has been more productive. Ajayi has rocketed up the NFL rushing leader list with back-to-back 200-yard-plus games.

Players have responded to very public, potentially embarrassing challenges in a very positive manner. 

"We don't hide much on defense," Joseph said. Monday. "If they're not playing well, everyone's going to know it. Coaches going to know it. Players going to know it. If you ask me the question, I'll tell you. If you don't ask me, I won't tell you.

"Our players trust us enough to know that if we say it publicly, it's already been said in private. They trust us. It's just the honest way of doing business here."

So is it gratifying to this coaching staff when they do that when other coaching staff refuse to criticize players in public?

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Joseph said. "With Mario, he's definitely come back the last two weeks and played harder. If he played harder, he was going to play better. We all knew that. Maxwell's played better also.

"I guess it's gratifying to know they're hearing you. If you ask them to play better, they know they have to play better. That's happened in those two cases."

Obviously not every player reacts the same to criticism. On the Dolphins, some guys are more sensitive than others. It would be interesting to know if Miami offensive coaches pick and chose which players they criticize publicly and which they do not. We know Joseph does not.

My sense is Joseph doesn't pull punches for anyone. 

And so far this season, Ajayi, Williams and Maxwell are shining examples of players coming back from very public criticism with a vengeance. That says good things about these players.

Says good things about this coaching staff.