Stephen Ross’ Silence Wins No Fans
By Brian Miller
Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross looks on from the sideline before kickoff against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
He hasn’t spoken a word to the media. Not since he turned away from the New York Jets debacle telling an advisor he could no longer watch. Not since he exited the locker room on that final Sunday and was corralled in the hall. He visited the team VIA helicopter and then escaped without a public word. It’s his right but it is also the wrong one to exercise at this time.
Stephen Ross has been an enigmatic figure in Miami since his arrival in 2009 as the full owner of the team. He has paraded celebrities in an effort to drum up fan interest and excitement. It didn’t work. He has bought the remaining tickets of the non-sellout games to show his support for the Miami community. It still hasn’t had the swing he anticipated but instead only stirred more debate. Now he sits on his first major move since he was hired. The future of not only his franchise but his fan base rests on that decision.
Or at least ticket sales.
Stephen Ross wants a winner more than anyone else. Yet wanting something so badly often means you make mistakes. For Ross he is trying to learn from his previous mistakes. His silence on the matter of his GM, HC, and anything else Miami Dolphins related is a result of the bad press and twisted words that have been debated, swirled, and misquoted. Yesterday either by an ultimatum or Joe Philbin’s decision, Mike Sherman was fired. Ross made no statement about that. Very few owners do when it’s a coordinator who gets the axe.
The issue here is nothing else has been done. Nothing. Jeff Ireland still publicly and possibly sits in limbo as does Kevin Coyle the defensive coordinator. Joe Philbin appears to be safe by all accounts as coaches don’t’ fire close friends if their jobs are still on the line. The fan base however is left with a sour taste in their mouth and a feeling very similar to the final game of the season. “Is that it? That’s the best you got for us?”.
Fans are tired, they are worn out and their patience is coming to an end. They have been mired in the garbage on the field for 15 years while watching New England walk through the division every season with not so much of a challenge by their team. They watched a celebratory 8-8 New York Jets team beat them out of the playoffs and then celebrate the contract extension for their HC. At home in their own stadium.
On NFL.com Miami fans watch the locker room speeches of other NFL head coaches and their loud pumping up pep talk. Emotional outbursts of exuberance to their teams to get them pumped and ready for the next victory on their schedule. Miami fans watch their head coach recite a queue card held in his hand.
Ross doesn’t need to axe Jeff Ireland, Kevin Coyle, or even Joe Philbin. It’s his team and his decision. But he should say something. To someone. The not knowing what is going to happen on the outside is understandable. It’s a business and as such you keep things close to the hip and out of the media spotlight. The issue here is that in another two to three months the phones will start ringing in the homes of Miami Dolphins fans. “Hi this is the Miami Dolphins season ticket sales office. Will you be renewing your tickets this year?”
Where does this build excitement? Ross should simply say that his coach is safe and that the decisions of the staff are his to make. Ross should say that he is still mulling his options and that he is working with then NFL to get a release of the David Wells investigation to better understand how that might play into any decisions he will make. Ross should be saying that Jeff Ireland is safe if that is the case. Stephen Ross is quiet. While that may not be a bad thing, Miami fans are done with the silent wall that has surrounded the team for more than a decade.
It’s difficult when fans see Jim Irsay playing on Twitter. Or John Elway. Or any other owner. Winning owners don’t have to do or say anything. Their fans are content with the field product. Losing franchises don’t have that luxury. To keep fans interested they either win, make changes, or communicate. Miami, right now is doing none of those.
Ross doesn’t need to make a bold statement. He doesn’t need to make changes. He only needs to say something. He needs to let his fan base know that he too is not happy with the way the season ended either. He needs to talk to his fan base and assure them that he is trying not to make the same mistakes he did early in his ownership. It may not placate the fans but it will at least give them some reassurance that the team is not simply floundering in a low tide.
That onus is not anyones to bare but Stephen Ross’. Doesn’t have to be poetic, just has to be something.