The Miami Dolphins may or may not have a new head coach come free agency. The Miami Dolphins may or may not have a new general manager come free agency. What they will have is an owner who some believe will put his finger into the football side of the Miami Dolphins. Yes, Stephen Ross may very well take control of this teams off-season.
As of today the debate of Tony Sparano’s future still rages on message boards and in the media. Sparano is simply preparing his team to play the Eagles. Then the Bills, Patriots, and finally the Jets. He doesn’t allow the outside stuff to control him. By his own admission he doesn’t read the papers and his answers to reporters questions are usually as vague as he wants to them to be. This however is not about Tony Sparano. It’s about the man who will decide his future.
With four weeks left in the season, Stephen Ross did not get what he stated he wanted at the seasons start. A diverse exciting offense that scores points. Wait, actually he is, now. Not at the beginning however. This is the team that Ross envisioned he would have all season long. A QB who can make something happen, play calling that utilizes weapons, a defense that holds opponents to the ground with a foot across their throat. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. It may be enough to save jobs but is it enough to curtail his vision?
To understand the vision of Stephen Ross you have to understand Stephen Ross and that is a difficult thing to do. Forget, as I have stated before, what the media will tell you, there are only a handful of people who know Ross’ wishes, concerns, demands, and intentions. That handful of people do not talk to the media. At all. So here I sit getting ready to tell you what Ross may or may not do in the off-season. Guess what, I don’t know either. Call it an educated guess based on what I have researched, looked into, culled from contacts, and connected dots to dots. When those ran out, I looked around the internet and pieced together bits of information that other presented.
What we know or think we know.
Rumors still circulate the Stephen Ross put the clamps down on the Kyle Orton trade and not Jeff Ireland. The talk goes something to the effect that Ross did not view Orton to be worth the money he was demanding and told Ireland, “I’m not paying that…look somewhere else.” Truth? Who knows but if true it was a well calculated move. We also know that Ross is desperately trying to clean up his image after the, cough…cough…Jim Harbaugh incident.
Denied or not, we know that Ross wooed the ex-Stanford coach with no “luck”. Now he is faced with his biggest decision thus far as the owner of the team, stick with the guy who was here when he arrived and hope to ride this new exciting team into 2012 or replace him with a bigger name and pedigree. With either decision comes another decision. Put his stamp on the team further by going after what he covets the most. Winning.
The misnomer with Ross is that he only cares about celebrities and the pomp and circumstance. His spending habits on stadium renovations and additions as well as he minority co-owners who grace magazine covers and pop charts has done more harm to his image than good. His attention to making the gameday experience outside of the stadium has fallen flat and failed because of the gameday experience inside. Make no mistake however, if this team was winning, he would be applauded for his efforts both inside and out.
Ross wants to make money and he knows that putting fans back in the seats will do that. He knows that he needs to have the proper men on the field and the proper men calling the shots off of it. That leads us to the free agent market. Last off-season, Ross was rumored to have put the spending breaks on Jeff Ireland. As it has been stated over and over, Ross set his coach up to fail. However that is not accurate. Ross understood what the off-season held in store as a result of the lockout, Sparano was simply in the wrong position. Spending freely would net the team very few immediate gains and therefore fewer wins. Ross new that so he informed Ireland to spend smart, not to spend nothing at all.
This year, Ross will have to decide if opening up the checkbook is what is needed and in reality he has no choice but to do exactly that. If he retains Sparano, he needs to give him the tools to succeed. If he hires a new head coach, he needs to assure that person that he will have every bit of the salary cap at his disposal so as not to fail. Either way, Ross has painted himself into the corner of spending not saving.
His stadium is empty and the fans are upset. Some change is needed and that change may come in the form of spending. Another trend that may stop is in the draft. Traditionally, the Dolphins work to move down the draft slotting, but it is understood that Ross wants a top notch QB to lead his franchise, or at the very least to compete with whomever the starting QB will be next season. It will not be a surprise if we hear rumors that Ross has informed his management and coaches to do whatever is necessary to trade up and land a QB for the future.
Ross understands that fans want this and fans need this. Suddenly, it becomes an issue that needs to be addressed. Fans want something to believe in and that starts with the QB. Matt Moore is playing very well but one half a season does not instill consumer confidence and let’s face it…we are the consumers. Tony Sparano will not sell tickets. Matt Moore will not sell tickets. Bill Cowher will only sell so much. Andrew Luck could fill the stadium on Sundays. Matt Barkley could get the fans talking about inspired Sundays’ rather than ‘hopes and fears’. While neither QB is a sure fire franchise QB, the fact is that they provide fans with the knowledge that the franchise is making the bold move to fix that problem.
Ross knows that fans want a franchise QB and the fact that the Dolphins have yet to risk a first round draft pick on a QB since 1983 hasn’t gone unnoticed. Ross knows this. He knows that a QB will put people back into the stadium and will get them talking. So it’s very likely that he puts his fist down and tells his draft management team to do what it takes to move and get one of those guys.
It would cost the franchise a lot to move up but it could cost the team more if they don’t. I believe, that is something that Stephen Ross is willing to gamble on.