Any time there is an investigation into practices not becoming of an NFL franchise, there are penalties. Rumors circulate the media world on this Sunday with reports that the Miami Dolphins could lose a draft pick as a result of the “bully-gate” scandal. There are reports that the Dolphins could lose Pro-Bowl center Mike Pouncey anywhere from one to four games as a result of his being named in the investigation. John Jerry could face similar punishment as will Richie Incognito. The latter will be gone from the Dolphins soon as free agents.
When the New England Patriots were hit with “Spy-Gate” the team took their hit and moved on. Belichick was fined upwards of $500,000.00 for his involvement and the team lost a first round draft pick. It could have been a lot worse. Some say it should have been. In New Orleans, the Saints lost draft picks. Players were suspended and the head coach, GM, and former DC all spent either the entire season out of football or half of it as was the case for their GM. It could have been worse.
Don’t think for a moment that an issue likely to bring legal action against a team and possibly the league will not be met with some form of stern punishment. The difference between Miami and the other two teams is leadership. Miami has none. Sorry Mr. Ross but it’s true.
When Belichick went to New York to meet with Commissioner Goodell he was already a strong NFL Super Bowl winning coach with a hard reputation in the league. Patriot owner Bob Kraft one of the most respected owners in the NFL with strong ties to the NFL executive offices. The Saints? The same. Super Bowl winners with an owner who had a strong connection with his city and a strong relationship with the NFL.
Ross has none of that.
Stephen Ross is still raw and his indecisions hurt his credibility. Not just with the fans but with the media and within the NFL. This is a guy who couldn’t convince the NFL to host the 50th Super Bowl in the city that it had been held in the most. He couldn’t convince his populace to pony up $200 million to go with his 200 to renovate the stadium. He has no strong ties to the Commissioner and perhaps the closest connection he has is Dawn Aponte who was inline for an NFL executive interview. Word is she backed out.
Some teams have strong GM’s that can go to the NFL and lobby for the team. Jeff Ireland would have had more sway than Dennis Hickey. One he was here for it and two he was a veteran in his job. Hickey may turn out to be the best GM in the history of the NFL but today he is a rookie with no sway within the organization and no sway with the NFL.
In the cases of Payton and Belichick, two strong well respected coaches, their involvement in their cases ended up being a one on one situation where they told their side of the story. With Joe Philbin some still question whether or not he should have known what was going on under his own roof. At least the two former coaches had knowledge and that knowledge they defended and took the punishment. Philbin may or may not have ever met Roger Goodell let alone have the confidence and record to appeal a penalty.
It’s a sad truth. Miami is unfortunately a weak organization right now. Stephen Ross may very well turn this around but his methods have been met with the same snickers that Jim Haslam has met with in Cleveland. For Ross the problem is trust. He puts his full faith into someone because he knows no different and that prevents him from making tough choices. In fact he makes no choices at all. A mutual parting between Jeff Ireland and the team looks all warm and fuzzy but had Ross stepped up and fired him, he would have looked stronger and more decisive.
That is why the Dolphins have no champion in this case. The NFL will make it’s decisions on penalties, if any at all, (have to imagine something will be handed down) and the Dolphins will have to eat it. Sadly it’s the first time in history of the franchise that they have been this weak in it’s leadership. Joe Robbie, Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Wayne Huizenga and even Bill Parcells to some degree have all been pillars of strength for this franchise since it’s inception. Ross appeared to be headed in that direction.
Amazingly from those in the business I know, Ross entered the NFL as being a strong player. He was looked at as an up and coming owner who showed strength during the lockout negotiations and earned respect among his fellow owners. Sadly that has deteriorated. To what extend I do not know but it’s been highly speculated that Ross and Bob Kraft do not get along and Kraft is one of the top influential owners in the NFL.
The Dolphins have one thing in all of this that is in their favor. The entire issue was kept internally. Meaning it didn’t involve another team and it didn’t involve unfair play, deliberate attempts to physically hurt another team, but it will change the atmosphere in the locker room and any forced change is met to some degree with penalty. These Dolphins have little way to fight that penalty.