Tony Sparano is not being fired this week. He won’t be fired next week or the week after. In all likelihood he will not be fired until, at the earliest mid-season and more likely the end of the season. Which is how it should play out. When this season is over, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross needs to take back his team and begin steering it in the direction that it’s tradition and history dictate.
The future of this team is in the hands of what Ross does next.
Ross isn’t speaking to the media which is smart on his part considering the last time he did the local media chewed him up over the Sparano/Harbaugh flap. Even when local reporters chase him down a stadium tunnel, Ross is wise to ignore the outside and not read the papers…or blogs. For Ross however the issue he should most be concerned with is trust. There is none. Not between him and his players, his coaches, his management team, or anyone on the football side of this business.
So look for Carl Peterson to enter the picture at years end.
It’s very easy to point a finger at Stephen Ross for the tumultuous aura emanating from the Davie training facility. After all, the owner is the man who has the final say and ultimate control over the organization. In the end, the owner is tasked with putting fans in the seats and fielding a team that will make them cheer. For Ross however, that time is coming now. His ability to stand behind the scenes and direct is almost coming to an end.
A little history recap will show how Ross became the owner. Wayne Huizenga put the team up for sale, Ross and partners bought the team and in the first year was the primary owner. Year two Ross bought out the majority shares from Huizenga and took over full control. He inherited Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano. He inherited Parcells’ ridiculous guaranteed contract and thus his decisions on the football side.
In reality, that was fine. Ross wasn’t a football man, he was a business man and Parcells had the authority and the pedigree to put faith into. Ross did just that. He opened his check book and stayed out of the way allowing Parcells to run the show while he concentrated on the entertainment portion of the game. The business side of things. In theory, this should have been a perfect outcome.
The failure came from Parcells. Had Parcells revamped this team and turned it around Ross would have been shown as a genius turning the stadium experience into a raucous venue complete with celebrity carpet walks, blazing mall entertainment with live music, in other words…a complete festive experience for the fans. Instead, Parcells failed to deliver what he was brought here to do and Ross, who again had stayed out of the team picture, suddenly looked like he was too busy worried about his minority owners than creating a competitive team.
Ross has only known Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland. He trusted Parcells and Parcells walked. He trusts Ireland but is likely realizing that Ireland’s plan is not working for the team. The truth is, and this was expressed yesterday in one of the local Miami papers, Ross has no one he really can trust anymore. That needs to be fixed. Which is why it’s likely Ross will turn to Peterson who is a lifelong friend. I fully expect to see Peterson in more of a Bill Parcells role than a GM role. Ross doesn’t need Peterson to be GM, he needs eyes and ears and direction from someone he can count on.
The mistakes that Ross has made are really exaggerated by the failure of the team on the field. Something I believe is more pinned on the “trifecta”. In reality, his search for a new HC last year, specifically Jim Harbaugh was never stated outside of the team but instead was more created by the media…and in no small part, this writer. What I am saying is the Dolphins never publicly went after Harbaugh, it was all rumored and insinuated. The fact that it blew up the way it did only magnified the fact that Ross was likely putting his trust into people that he shouldn’t have fully given it to.
It was reported locally yesterday that Ross informed Ireland the he was not to spend a lot in free agency this year. There is no secret that the Dolphins are losing money and losing it quickly. As I stated earlier, Ross put a lot of money around the stadium and into the team over the last two years and the rewards on the field have not transpired. The issue here is that Ross now has yet another black strike on his resume as team owner in the eyes of the media and the fans. Now suddenly he doesn’t wan to spend money, has set his coach and GM up to fail, and simply is clueless into what to do with this team.
It’s all nonsense.. The reality is that Ross had to make a business decision and that decision, given what fans thought as well, was that this team needed a lot more work to succeed. The lockout hurt as well. It hurt season ticket sales which were already down from the poor performance of the team, the uncertainty of free agency also played a role in the situation. The fact is, Ross could have spent a lot of money on big name free agents and the Miami Dolphins very well could still be in the same boat given the lack of time to prepare them to play.
In reality, Jeff Ireland is the one that should be scrutinized here. Considering what he bought with the money that was given to him and how he spent it.
Stephen Ross is not a dumb man, but he is not a football guy either. He is a fan first and foremost. He is running a business and trying to make the team break even which is really the best he can hope for right now but he has big decisions to make over the next few months and those decisions will be the backbone to the future of this team. Will he keep Ireland? Will he look for a big name head coach who will also be the next GM? Will he bring in Carl Peterson to be his football czar? If he does, when does he do it?
Ross won’t read this. He shouldn’t read this. He should stay away from the negativity all together and concentrate on fixing the problems. If he does however, I have a suggestion on where to proceed…short of hiring me to guide him of course. Hire Carl Peterson to be your eyes and ears. Allow him the season to watch how Ireland works and how Sparano works. Let him evaluate the team for Ross. This will allow him to give Ross an insiders view on the team mechanics. Remember, Peterson has a positive history with Ireland so it wouldn’t be an awkward position.
With Peterson working behind the scenes, Ross will have a solid evaluation from a trusted partner and can make a complete and sound decision at years end or later in the season if need be. With Peterson, Ross will know if he needs to upgrade the HC to an HC/GM, such as a Bill Cowher type or go with a guy like Jeff Fisher who will work under the umbrella of Jeff Ireland or another GM.
In truth, the Dolphins can afford to hire an HC/GM if Peterson is involved because it gives Ross the connection to the team he didn’t have with Parcells. Parcells wasn’t his guy and despite the attempt to make that work, it was doomed from the day Huizenga sold the team. Evaluations for next season start now for Stephen Ross. It starts with evaluating Ireland, Sparano, and every other aspect of the football side of this team. What does he need to do to make it a winner? The first step in my opinion is getting that trusted adviser in place.
We all may not like Carl Peterson, but he very well may be the one thing that get this team turned around. If for no other reason it gives the owner someone he can talk to without having to worry about that persons personal agenda.