Now before you start clapping your hands and thinking that I’m going to be bashing Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross here take a deep breath and relax. The reality is Stephen Ross wasn’t prepared to have to answer questions about the future of his coaching staff.
Two weeks ago the Miami Dolphins pulled off an improbable defeat of the New England Patriots. Fan support was through the roof and Miami was catching that playoff fever. The GM who had been chastised most of his career suddenly was having positive light shined in face as though the clouds parted and the golden finger of the sun itself anointed him the Dolphins savior. Talent was evident and even new practice squad additions like Sam Brenner and Michael Thomas were play makers.
Ross was at an all time high. Gone were the memories of Harbaugh-gate, no more orange carpet nightmares, Club Live? Who cares. The Dolphins were winning, the Dolphins were in. They controlled their own destiny and everything was exactly as it was suppose to be. Two games left against inferior opponents. What could go wrong?
Imagine yourself in his shoes. Atop the cloud of enthusiasm one week with benevolent NFL owner Bob Kraft in the owners box down the hall steaming in the Florida heat and a Patriots loss. Tom Brady complaining and swearing in his post game presser. Hey a tick or there and Miami could actually win the division. The loss to Buffalo was a bad game and Ross did exactly what any other owner would do, he chalked it up to a bad game in bad weather. His team no longer in control of their destiny surely would find a way to storm back at home riding a 3-1 December record against a team they beat in December 20-9.
The wheels fell off and now a day removed from one of the worst defeats in the franchise history if not by score by stake the Dolphins owner suddenly finds himself not vindicated but marred and cursed once again.
The media is asking the tough question and fans want action. They want heads to roll and they want it now. I see Ross standing on the floor of the Greek Coliseum like Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, trying to hush the coliseum crowd wanting a thumbs up or down. That is where Ross is today. Agonizing on what will be a team defining decision.
Across the NFL landscape today six teams have cut ties with their coaches. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Washington, and of course Houston a few weeks ago. Joe Philbin has no idea what is coming his way if anything. Nor does Jeff Ireland, Kevin Coyle, or Mike Sherman. Changes are coming.
Fans want the quick and easy answer but again, Ross wasn’t ready to consider the fact he may have to fire his staff. Will firing them mean another rebuild or a simple makeover? Who and where does he turn for an answer? Consider that the teams that have fired their coaches have all retained their GM’s except in Tampa.
If Ross does in fact fire Ireland the replacement GM may not want to keep a coach and his staff who have been uninspiring. So even if Ireland goes and Philbin stays for now there is no safety net attached to the coach. Conversely doing nothing means you accept mediocrity and you will be hard pressed to sell tickets to a fan base who is irate. Time won’t simply heal those minds and come season ticket sale season, they will not return. On the other hand, firing everyone starts you over from scratch. Do you give the job to a HC/GM like a Jon Gruden? Do you go the route of Bill Polian and let him hire his own HC?
No matter what we think or what we want the truth is Ross has been digesting this for less than 24 hours and rightfully so. He had a playoff team who not only collapsed but simply didn’t show up. He goes from a postseason birth and real progress to a one game difference over the last five years. Meaning no progress for his investment.
The cries for action will continue to reverberate in the forums and websites and the media and it will make its way into the halls of the Dolphins training facility and the corridors of Ross’ New York office building. Those cries will not likely be met with course action but instead a tactful approach that processes the events of the entire season with emphasis on the final two weeks. A decision will be made but likely not until Ross has time to absorb the colossal collapse of his team. And then figures out why…and that I am afraid is the smartest approach this owner can take.