Dec 14, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh walks back to the locker room following a 17-7 Seattle Seahawks victory at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
In 2010 owner Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland hopped a plane to San Francisco. The trip was reported to be simply football business but it was quickly learned that the real purpose behind the trip was to lure then Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh to Miami as a replacement for Tony Sparano. The problem? Sparano had yet to be fired from his job as head coach.
The fallout from the trip was devastating on Ross’ image and it thrust the Dolphins into internal turmoil. Ross would retain Sparano for one more season and give him a lofty raise for the season. The trio would appear at a press conference to show solidarity but it was easy to see the thick air hanging over their heads. The flight to San Francisco broke the relationship of Ireland and Sparano and the team spiraled downward.
Sparano, it was reported, refused to speak to either Ireland or Ross after the games in 2011 and the Dolphins locker room became divided. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Harbaugh took an NFL head coaching job with the 49’ers eventually leaving for the same position at his alma mater, and Ross’, the University of Michigan. By the time the flight arrived back in Miami the damage was done and the Dolphins were unable to recover in 2011 and Tony Sparano was fired during the season.
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