There are a lot of fingers being pointed at different targets from fans and media. Someone is to blame for the 0-4 start but who? Is it one person who is responsible for the continued failure of this franchise or is it a group effort of people that shouldn’t actually be in charge of this franchise? Additionally, if we are quick to place blame then who is the person or persons responsible for fixing it?
Over the next few days I will take a look at those who bare the weight of the blame for this franchises failures. Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, Bill Parcells, and today, Stephen Ross…the man who ultimately is tasked with fixing it. It’s not an easy solution although some will and have argued that the basic cause of this misery is simply bad decision making. While I will not try and paint a company line picture, it bares mentioning that I don’t see fault in some areas as other do. Your job is to comment and fuel the debate in our comments section.
The blame game: Stephen Ross Stephen Ross took over the Miami Dolphins from former owner Wayne Huizenga. He inherited Bill Parcells and his enormous guaranteed salary. Ross’ only option in his first year was to retain the football czar and thus his staff as well. The Dolphins were coming off a 11-5 season and a playoff birth it was smart business. The problems for Ross began when Parcells began to waffle on his desire to stay in Miami. Eventually, Ross convinced Parcells to stay and while Parcells would stick around, he eventually assigned himself to the team as an adviser rather than full and final say. That was turned over to Jeff Ireland.
Ross allowed Ireland to continue in his role following the final departure of Parcells. It was a smart move. Ireland is a young executive who really had not time to show what he could or could not do in the role of GM as he served more as a Parcells’ puppet for the two years prior. Ross was smart in this move. He had Ireland calling the team shots and Mike Dee overseeing the football side of the operation. He was able to be an owner.
Ross has several black eyes on his Miami Dolphins resume. The most obvious one being the Jim Harbaugh flirtation last year and the way he handled Tony Sparano. The reality is the Dolphins never publicly stated they were interested in Harbaugh and to this day there is no proof that they actually flew to California specifically to meet with him or for that matter that they did meet with him. The Dolphins maintain that the trip was for other business. Still it was enough to really upset the status quo in Miami.
Ross however gets a very bad rap over his non-football moves and this is where I think the blame really should stops. In fact, I don’t blame Ross for this mess aside from the way he straddled the coaching issue last year. What he should have done was either fired Sparano and then flirted with other coaches or retained him from day one. Still, Ross’ biggest slap comes from the fans and media when they start talking about all the “bling” around the stadium.
Ross made headlines when he took on a slew of celebrity owners. From Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to the Williams’ sisters, Fergie, and Gloria Estephan. It was viewed by many as a waste. Then there was the “orange carpet” roll out for the celebrity visitors on game day, Club Liv on the club level of the stadium, and the profound monetary impact on what he was doing around the stadium to make the experience outside the stadium more impacted.
To me, this is unjust and unwarranted blame. First, the feel of game day outside the stadium is festive as well it should be. The fact is this, no one would be talking about any of this negatively if the product on the field was winning. In fact, it would be viewed in a completely different light. Ross has spent a lot of his own money to build the non-football entertainment of the franchise. He has stayed out of the football operations side something that fans hoped he would do when he took over. To put it plainly, you can’t have it both ways. Ross is doing a great job of making the venue an experience despite the play on the field.
Those who say that Ross should stop spending money on non-football areas and spend it on the team are simply uninformed. He does both. He allows what other owners allow, his football guys to make the football decisions.
In Ross’ short term with Miami he has had a holdover in Bill Parcells, stayed the course with Jeff Ireland after Parcells left two weeks prior to the start of last season, and has watched his team fall from first to worst in three years. Aside from his off-season actions of a year ago (the Harbaugh issue), Ross really holds little blame for what the team has put on the field. For two years he opened his wallet and allowed Ireland to spend at will, this year, reports state that he pulled the strings a little tighter and made it known that he didn’t want money to be spent without frugal ideology first. He did not, despite public opinion tell the team not to spend money…according to a person I spoke with from the NFL.
Ross’ first football decision will come during the course of this season. Either during or at the end of the regular season. He will be forced to make his own statement on the team. Will he fire Tony Sparano? Will he fire Jeff Ireland? Will he fire both? What coaching change will he make and who will he ultimately task with turning the team around? So far, he has peddled on the past that was left to him from Wayne Huizenga. Ultimately, he is the singular person to change it.
Stephen Ross will rely on his close personal friend former KC Chiefs GM Carl Peterson. While Peterson will not likely take on an official role with the team there is no denying the trust that Ross has in his opinion. With Peterson not have a viable stake or a job to protect with the Dolphins, it’s likely to be a solid thought out process of determining the future road the team takes.
Ross should, in my opinion, continue to make the game day events incredible for the fans who attend. He should continue to promote the celebrity side of the game. The fact is whether you want to believe it or not, Ross is an owner that fans would traditionally want to preside over their team. He opens his wallet to the GM to buy players and he stays out of the decision making on that side of the business.
This year, Ross will have to make a football decision and a business decision. This is the year that Ross has to stand up and take responsibility for what is out on that field, coaching or otherwise. From here moving forward, the final blame will solely belong to the decisions that Ross makes or doesn’t make. From here moving forward, this is Ross’ team and his decisions to either retain his current staff or replace them will define him as the Dolphins owner moving forward and not someone who inherited someone else’s mistakes…again, the Jim Harbaugh issue aside.