On The Clock....Mr. Ross

Stephen Ross is officially on the clock.  The Miami Dolphins have been nothing short of a huge disappointment this season, and someone has to take the fall for it.  Miami went into this season with huge optimism.  After the huge signing of Karlos Dansby, and trading for the missing piece on offense, a legit number 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, this was the year the Miami Dolphins were supposed to take a leap forward, not take two leaps back. 

Miami was 1-7 at home this year, which ties them for the worst record they have ever had at home.  Miami is also not going to the playoffs for the second year in a row, after winning their division just 2 seasons ago.  This organization is heading in the wrong direction, and this offseason Mr. Ross will be faced with his first real decision as the owner of the Miami Dolphins.

So what is Stephen Ross to do?  He has shown he is an owner that will stay out of the way when it comes to making decisions on personnell.  He did have Bill Parcells in place when he took over the franchise, and any owner in his right mind would have let Parcells run the show, after all, they did make huge strides in their first season under the guidance of The Big Tuna. 

That division title was 2 seasons and many, many disappointing loses and decisions ago.  It’s tough to tell how many decisions were made by Parcells and how many were made by his protege Jeff Ireland.  It’s also tough to tell if the coaching staff Parcells left behind is a staff that Ireland wants in place.  For all we know, Ireland may not really care for Sparano, so to say BOTH of them have to go at the end of the season isn’t really fair. 

This is why Mr. Ross has some really tough decisions to make once the season is over.  We fans have no idea what decisions were made by whom, and Mr. Ross is the one who has to find that out and make the proper decision for this organization moving forward.  This is going to be his first real decision as an NFL owner as far as the product on the field goes. 

I have my own opinions on what he should do.  First I think he should keep Jeff Ireland.  It’s hard for me to believe it was Jeff Ireland that was conducting the war room decisions on draft day, I think it was Parcells.  I think Parcells took Long over Matt Ryan, even though Long is one of the best LT’s in the game, Ryan would have made Miami a perennial contender in the AFC East.  He decided to go with Henne instead, and I think once he realized he made a huge mistake going into this season, he took the money and ran.  What we saw from Ireland once Parcells left was him making the decisions to get rid of players he didn’t want.  Miami suffered because of it, especially on special teams, but they will be better team in the long run because of it.  I don’t think Ireland has a ‘profile’ he wants his players to fit, I think he just wants players who can get the job done.  Having said that, the QB has to go. 

Henne has been horrible this season.  Blame it on what you want.  It’s either the coaches, he can’t audible, he’s trained to take the less risky throw…….whatever.  The dude isn’t a playmaker and he never will be.  He plays scared, he doesn’t lead the team, and he isn’t a winner.  People talk about the ‘it’ factor, Henne doesn’t know the definition of what the ‘it’ factor is.  Many are blaming it on the coaches not developing him, I blame it on him not developing himself.  Make a play!!!!  I’m so sure Sparano will rip Henne if he took a couple chances and they worked, or if he called an audible and it was successful.  What’s Sparano going to do, call a timeout once he hears Henne call an audible?  I doubt it.  Henne doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to lead a team in the NFL, and the sooner the Miami Dolphins cut ties with him, the better.

The second decision Ross has to make is to keep Mike Nolan no matter what it costs.  He has done a tremendous job fixing the defense this year.  They are young, and have yet to unlock their full potential.  Mike Nolan will be able to keep improving this unit and potentially make it the best in the NFL.  Keeping him on board for a couple more years will be the best decision Ross can make this offseason. 

The third decision Ross has to make is to get rid of Dan Henning.  Henning can say what he wants about his offense not executing, it still falls on him.  He is responsible for finding a way to put points on the board, and he has done a horrible job this season making that happen.  He’s been there for 3 years, do you think he hasn’t had a say in the offensive personnel he has?  I doubt it, especially since he was hand picked by his good friend Bill Parcells.  He probably pushed for Henne, now he’s throwing him under the bus and taking the high road.  He’s already said he didn’t come back to the NFL out of necessity, he did it as a favor to Parcells.  Now that Parcells is gone, it’s time to get rid of him, he doesn’t have it anymore. 

The final decision Ross has to make is whether or not to replace Tony Sparano as head coach.  I think he has to go.  I like the man as a person, but I just don’t think he has what it takes to be the lead man yet.  Timeouts are always mismanaged, he doesn’t make good decisions when challenging plays, and he has failed to ‘coach’ the team to come from behind and win.  Henne gets a lot of the blame, but the QB and the head coach are sewn at the hip in this league, and if one fails, they both fail. 

So who should Mr. Ross hire as the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins?  Or does he let Jeff Ireland make that decision?  We have all heard about Bill Cowher having the Miami Dolphins on his ‘wish list.’  We know Jon Gruden is another possibility.  Even Mike Nolan has been rumored to be a hot candidate.  Jeff Fisher?  Him too.  But there is one name that is flying under the radar for the Miami Dolphins, despite his name being linked to other jobs in the NFL.  That name is Jim Harbaugh. 

Harbaugh is linked to many jobs that will be open this offseason.  The Carolina Panthers have been the most talked about team, mainly because they also have the number 1 pick in the draft, and current Stanford QB Andrew Luck is a lock for the number 1 pick if he chooses to leave school early, but he’s not going to Carolina.  The San Francisco job has also been linked to Harbaugh should he choose to leave Stanford, but I believe Miami has more pieces in place than San Francisco, and can therefore win sooner. 

Harbaugh hasn’t been linked to the Miami job yet, but he should be.  He and Stephen Ross have 1 major factor in common that no one is considering, they are both ‘Michigan’ men.  Harbaugh has also proven he can develop a quarterback in a pro-style offense.  Andrew Luck wasn’t this good when he went to Stanford was he?  Miami has so many pieces in place that a good, serviceable, QB can lead this team to the playoffs.  Whether they take a QB in the draft, or sign a free agent, I think Harbaugh would do a better job getting the most out of that position.  He would be able to prepare the QB to get the job done and win games, something I really don’t think Sparano can do. 

Now, before you point out that I said ‘Michigan Men’ seem to have a special bond and remind me that Henne is also in that ‘Michigan Man’ group, let me remind you that in my opinion I don’t think he can be a successful QB in the NFL.  Ross may think different, and maybe Harbaugh can be the one that helps Henne prove myself and many others wrong.  But will Ross be willing to take that chance?  He already has to pay Parcells next year, firing Sparano will add another dead salary to the pot next year, and that may be more than Ross wants to take on right now.  Not to mention how much money it would cost to get Harbaugh to leave Stanford. 

It will be interesting to see how everything plays out with the decisions Ross makes this offseason.  One thing is for sure, some people have to go.  Henning is the most obvious to be gone next year.  After that, it could get sticky.  Does Ross keep Ireland, and trust him to bring in a new head coach?  Does Ireland keep Sparano and bring in a new QB?  Does Ireland get rid of Sparano and bring in someone to get the most out of Henne?  Do both Sparano and Henne go?  Or does Ross get rid of everyone but Mike Nolan and start new?  No matter what happens, I can’t wait to see what does!

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  • Mike

    Nolan must stay – Henning out – Sparano 50/50.

    I think we have added a lot of young talent for the 1st time in a while. If Sparano has made a lot of those decisions I would leave him for another year. OL decisions really bother me though. We had a strong running game and messed it up. If we kept it in tact things may have been different this year. Draft The Center Pouncey in the 1st Rd if he grades out as a 1st round pick.

    The QB situation is strange. Young QB’s need time and a running game. It is funny how Henne and Sanchez have almost identical numbers the past 2 years with Sanchez having an extra year of starting under his belt. Sanchez is viewed as the future when everyone wants Henne out. I don’t love either QB but would be careful to give up on Henne just yet. See stats below. Fix the O-line and give him more time. On another note, here are the QB ratings by year in order for Eli Manning…..76,77,74,86,93,85……interesting…..1st three years look very similar to Henne and Sanchez…..I would sit tight on Henne and draft a mid round QB prospect if there is one.

    2010 Stats
    27 Henne 62.2 15 18 77.1 231
    28 Sanchez 54.8 17 13 75.3 219

    2009 Stats
    22 Henne 60.8 12 14 75.2 206
    28 Sanchez 53.8 12 20 63 163

  • MassanuttenRef

    BEL … I really liked your analysis of the situation. I have one comment and one question. Ross may not have experience as a football man, but he was very successful in real estate. He knows the payoff of taking risk and knows the importance of having a product that people want. He also is a football fan. Sparano’s low risk offense that dinks & dunks then kicks field goals is not a product that draws fans — and, makes money for Ross. I think this goes against Sparano — especially, when he claims Henne had his lowest minus game against Detroit — who cares about minuses when Henne took only minimal risks and still threw two interceptions. So, my question … how much is Sparano owed next year under his contract? How much will Ross have to eat?

    • Bruce Lamb

      He’s owed about 2.5-2.7 million next year, add that will the 4 million Parcells is to get and you’re looking at almost 7 million for those two. A headline coach would be at least 4 million, so for him to make the coaching change and bring in a top notch coach, he would be paying out 11-12 million next year, and that’s with him keeping Ireland. If he changes things up, it will be VERY expensive.

      • MassanuttenRef

        I don’t think it would be that expensive. Parcells is already gone — so, that $4 million is already a loss. In my opinion, $2.5 million to get rid of Tony may be worth it. I am very frustrated with his dink & dunk with field goals style of play — be so cautious in play calling as to not make any mistakes. I don’t think he knows any different. Also, the OL was terrible this year. This is on Tony because OL is his forte’. I think Ross should keep Ireland, make Nolan the HC, and go after a good OC — maybe Kubiak of Houston. Nolan has earned a shot at HC with Miami. The “D” has been great. Remember all the doubts about choosing Misi and counting on Wake to replace Jason/Joey? Nolan made that work!

  • dolfannpa

    I’d say keep both Sparano and Henne. Getting rid of Henne gets you nothing. He has one year left on his contract and still hasn’t played two full seasons. As for Sparano I just don’t think Ross will pay the dead salary and will give him another year with a new OC (Childress perhaps?).

    I would definitely see about taking a top QB prospect in the 1st. Hopefully Mallet or Locker fall to where the Fins are drafting (perhaps the Lions loss will reap some benefits). You can address OL, TE and RB in the later rounds. I would also like to see them bring in a veteran QB (Not McNabb though) that could push Henne for the starting position.

  • Andrew Watson

    Very interesting article…Want to hear something funny?? Well, I made the Harbaugh suggestion almost 4 years ago towards te end of our 1-15 season. I have absolutely no doubt that my insight is the missing factor inside the miami dolphins scouting/personnel department. I even offered my services and submitted pre draft souting packets and sat down for an impromptu interview. Im sure they just think Im some crazy fan with a pipe dream. Here is a copy of the email that I sent then owner Wayne Huizenga on December 3rd, 2007

    From the heart, Mr. Huizenga
    From: Andrew Watson To: Wayne Huizenga


    Mr. Huizenga,

    I know that you have had some difficult moments with the Miami community and the savage win-starved fan base, and I am no different in my longing for the Miami Dolphins to reclaim glory to the franchise. It is disgusting what has happened this year (injuries and excuses are pathetic). In my 32 years, I have never witnessed such a horrible Dolphins team! It makes me appreciate that Don Shula only had 1 losing season…EVER!! In over 25 years!

    Wayne, I don’t beleive your a heathen like some of the rediculous fans out there.

    Frankly, I think you were honorable in your support of Don Shula and it was apparent, even to me, a HUGE Don Shula fan, that the team needed a new spark.
    Jimmy Johnson was incredible in his business plan (per se) in replenishing an entire roster, minus the QB, and drafting some real gems. ie, Zach and J.T.

    Tricky Nick, was a fake and didnt show much honor.

    Cam Cameron is the type of guy that has character and a dynamic (Coordinator) presence. He does not, however have the track record of a winner as a Head Coach.

    We need to find a young, hungry and proven winner…in the John Gruden mold (when he was hired by the Raiders)…the perfect guy is right down the street from me, Mr. Jim Harbaugh of Stanford!
    Jim Harbaugh will win football games, I dont care of its in the sandlot or on Sundays! This guy can rally the troops. We need that! A young guy that can relate to the energy of the players and have the ability to inspire. I see no inspiration in this current team.

    We need someone who can draft and who can recognize the right sort of talents in the free agent market..not overpriced, over-peaked athletes!

    To re-make the Dolphins we must:

    1. Hire Jim Harbaugh
    2. Hire a proven GM that doesnt outhink himself. Much like it hurt the NY Jets when they passed on Danny in 1983
    3. Hire me as a beggining level-office slave- staff member in the scouting/personnel dept.