It’s not often that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gets behind a microphone to talk about his team and the stadium. When he does, it’s good to read what he has to say.
Today Stephen Ross took to the mic to answer questions about his football team, the future of events at Hard Rock Stadium, the NFL Draft which we covered earlier, and a myriad of other topics.
For the first time since becoming the Dolphins primary owner, Ross is not dealing with ridicule or an adverse off-season. Since his arrival he has been dogged by the press about his moves as owner, his comments, retention of coaches, and so much more. Off-seasons have been in disarray from not being able to land a premier or top-level coach to being shunned by prospective general manager candidates. To say nothing of the coaching changes and poor on-field play.
Why bring this up? It needs to be said because those same media members and those same fans are now praising almost every move that Stephen Ross makes. Ross is a shrewd businessman and while he took the business approach to running his football team, he found out that the process is a bit different from other business entities.
Ross is becoming one of the more powerful owners in the NFL and he tends to side more with the fanbases than the league. As noted during the off-season when he was the lone dissenter in the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Citing that teams should have a responsibility to their cities.
Here is what Ross had to say today after the Dolphins first training camp practice courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross
(Were you here at all this morning?) – “No.”
(Were you sorry to miss it, the first day?) – “Yes. I’ve been here before – been there, done that as they say. We had a meeting with the city so I had to take care of that as opposed to … I would have otherwise been here.”
(What are your thoughts about getting started?) – “I think everybody is excited to get started. While we had a good season last year, I think everybody is excited for this year. Ticket sales have kind of reflected that. I think just the whole attitude. You can feel it in the town. I’m ready for football.”
(Expectations?) – “Every year you want to go all the way. That’s where you start. I don’t have any real predictions because if I do, I get killed by you guys anyway (laughter).”
(Do you feel like you have things in place here?) – “Yes. I really think – as I said last year and I think you can see it – I think we have a team that really is working well together. By the team, I mean the front office, both on the business side and the football side. I’m really kind of thrilled the way things are … I think we have the right people and that’s key. I believe in them and they work together well. That’s as important.”
(Were you surprised it took as long as it has to get this core organization working the way you want it to?) – “Yes, I mean sure, I would have liked it to have been that way a lot sooner; but I can only look at it today. You guys are writing about the future and today, not about the past.”
(How different does it feel than a year ago when Adam Gase was a rookie head coach and everything was new?) – “I told you last time that I really believe in Adam. I spend a lot of time … I told you it was my decision last time. I wasn’t enlisting consultants. We didn’t have any consultants in the room when we hired him. It was something that I went with my gut. I did a lot of homework. I’m thrilled. I think maybe you guys were a lot more skeptical. You had to see it yourself. The proof in the pudding is in the eating. I think today and when you talk to people, when you read the papers, everybody is talking about what a great, young coach Miami has.”
(What do you think of the soccer? Is that coming about as you planned, as you dreamed?) – “Yes. I don’t know how much you guys know about it but we started this five years ago. This is our fifth year bringing European soccer to the United States for this two-week period. It’s grown and grown and grown. Yesterday we had 92,000 people at our game in Los Angeles. We had over 70,000 in Washington and we had 45,000 here (at Hard Rock Stadium) last night. It’ll be sold out for El Clasico. We’ve also had last weekend 82,000 in New York, 67,000 in Houston and 67,000 in San Francisco. It really shows you 1) the popularity of soccer. It is growing in this country, there’s no question about it. But it also shows you that people really want to see the great stars, the great performers and the great teams. I think that’s why you see these type of crowds.”
(Any word on Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo playing in El Clasico on Saturday?) – “I’d like to say I’m optimistic. We’ve reached out. We’ve done everything that we can. He has some complex issues, as you all know, back in Spain. He hasn’t said absolutely not. I have a plane waiting. (laughter) But I really don’t know. I can’t … I’m more, probably, pessimistic than I am optimistic; but he hasn’t said finally no. We’ll probably know relatively soon.”
(Now that you’ve made the playoffs, did you find yourself this offseason thinking about the Super Bowl a little bit more and did it seem a little more tangible or touchable?) – “I think you take one step at a time. I’ve been in business for a long time. You’ve got to take one day at a time and one season at a time and growing it. I also don’t want to put anybody in a situation where they have expectations that everybody doesn’t want to see … They have expectations; we all have great expectations. But you’ve got to be realistic. We’re a young, growing team.”
(Earlier this week, the CTE study was released out of Boston University. What are your thoughts on that study?) – “We do everything as a team and as a league to really make sure we’re looking at all the different issues. We’re all concerned about it. There’s a tremendous amount of research that’s going into it and things to make it better. As close as I am, I know if I had a son, I’d have him playing football today. Yes, these are things of concern; but I know so much attention, time and money and everybody’s efforts is looking to really make sure the sport is safer. They’ve done many, many rule changes over the last number of years to do that. I think we’ll just keep doing that until we really find a solution.”
(Do you worry about the long-term health of the game?) – “I think if you look at … I think the way people look at football today, I think it’s as popular as it has probably ever been, and I think it’ll continue to be that way. I think the things that we do are forward thinking. We’re not just sitting back as a league – certainly we not as a team – and saying, ‘Hey, everything is great,’ and not realize that there are issues, and you’ve got to make them better. I think that’s what we’re all – in this business – and I think every owner in the league feels the same way.”
(You have a number of the 1972 guys that are dealing with cognitive issues. Where you surprised to read about the Jim Kiick’s and all that?) – “I was very saddened to know about that. You’ve read that it’s not just Miami Dolphins; it’s across the league (that) there have been players. At the same time, many great players that are still around that have suffered nothing and you see them have full, healthy lives. But you hate to see any one person really suffer.”
(What did it mean to you for RISE to win the ESPN Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award?) – “I really believed in RISE. I think we put together an organization and seeing the impact that we’re having and the fact that somebody else recognizes that, I think is important. I think it’s great for the country. I think it’s great for sports in general. This isn’t a Miami Dolphins issue, it’s not an NFL issue, it’s a country’s issue. I think seeing everybody coming together and dealing with that and trying to make the world a better place, you have to feel good about something like that.”
(Are you seeing your program spread though throughout the league? Are other owners taking on that responsibility of mentoring, doing internships?) – “That’s different than RISE, but yes. I think people recognized what we were doing. I had dinner the other night with (Commissioner) Roger (Goodell) and he said, ‘It’s great what you guys have done.’ I think everybody in the league should be doing things like that for players and recognizing what they put into it and making sure that part of your responsibility is when the game is over, that they can really use that same passion that they have for something else and lead a really successful life, because we all know that a football player’s life is very short in comparison to your life span.”
(You already made a vast investment on the stadium the last couple of years. What kind of facility will fans see when they drive up this year and is there anything else in the works in that area?) – “Yes. With this year … in other words you haven’t been out there yet this year? I mean you’re going to see a lot of landscaping that’s been put in there. We’ve re-done all the clubs, the suites and that’s all brand new. There are a lot of punch-list items so if I went there today, could I tell you it was finished? No. But it looks damn good. It will be ready for our home opener – the exhibition – it will be complete. Next year.”
Senior Vice President of Communications & Community Affairs Jason Jenkins:
“The press box will be done as well.”
“You guys will like that. (laughter)”
(That’s the big one) – “What do you care about anybody else? You guys are taken care of. (laughter) But next year we’ll be putting in bridges and tunnels so that fans will have a better experience of arriving and departing from the stadium, where the fans will walk underneath the ring road, so that the cars can get out of there a lot faster. And also walking in, the safety issues of going over Dan Marino Boulevard, where we’ll have bridges to take the fans over there. I think that will have a big impact. The whole thing is to make the experience at the game that much better. I think our stadium is unique and I think fans really appreciate it.”
(Regarding WR Jarvis Landry, what do you think of the way that he’s handled himself this offseason and where do things stand between him and the organization?) – “I think that he’s a great player. There’s no question about it. I think he’s handled himself well. He didn’t hold out. It’s not a question if we don’t sign him now, we lose him. We can franchise him and go from there. So there is a lot of opportunity for him to stay here. I hope he stays here because he’s a great player.”
(Are you optimistic that you guys will get a deal done with WR Jarvis Landry before the season?) – “I don’t know if before the season, but like I said, it’s not really mandatory that we do it before the season.”
(There’s a lot of perception that QB Colin Kaepernick is being black-balled from the NFL and owners are somewhat involved in this situation. What is your viewpoint on … You stood kind of supporting your players when they made a social stance. Do you feel like Colin Kaepernick is being punished for making a social stance?) – “I would sure hope not. I know that a lot has been written about it, but you know owners or coaches – even more specifically – they’ll do anything it takes to win. And if they think he can help them win, I’m sure … I would hope they would sign him.”
(There was a Wall Street Journal report in May that said you had bid for the Marlins at some point. Just to address that, was that true and is there any price point in which you’d have interest?) – “I have my hands full with the Dolphins, the stadium and I wish them well.”
(Have any of the current people trying to buy the Marlins approached you looking for you to invest?) – “I’ve had phone calls, but I’m not interested.”
(As you know, the NFL has gone from exhibitions to sending regular season games overseas, including high-level games like the Dolphins and the Jets. I’m wondering if you see a time when European Leagues will reciprocate and send regular season matches here. And if so, are you interested in such a thing?) – “Well certainly … I mean the rules there prohibit that at this point. You can’t play games outside of your country and then there’s the Champions League, and they also cannot play outside of Europe, wherever the games are designated. Certainly we’d be interested in having that. To bring big games here that are more meaningful would be great. But I think having the great teams that are coming here playing each other and seeing the great stars there, I think, are what the fans really want to see in other words. But I think you never know what’s going to happen there because there’s a lot of pressure for media dollars and everything else. So how the teams in Europe look at it, it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point they play games outside their country; but right now they’re prohibited from that.”
(Is there anything new to report on potential tennis at Hard Rock Stadium?) – “Stay tuned.”
(It’s in the works then?) – “It’s a thought. (laughter)”
(The NFL has made hosting a Super Bowl … one of the requirements that it wants to impose is that the team plays overseas in London. Is that unfair to teams in cities that want to host Super Bowls – as opposed to cold weather cities that aren’t even getting involved in stuff like that – to give up a home game?) – “I think it’s great for really promoting the brand by going international. A lot of teams are reluctant to do that. We did that when we were building the stadium to give us more time to build it the first year. We’re going this year because that’s part of getting the Super Bowl. I think what should happen is that as long as we’re promoting international football, they should have a schedule where every team would have to give up a home game so that it’s not unfair to the smaller cities are putting pressure on to having to do that just to host the Super Bowl.”
(It seems silly for David Beckham to go through all of these hoops to try to find a stadium when your location and venue, albeit large, seems to be more appealing than anything they could built at that location. Have you ever talked to his group or to the MLS commissioner about hosting an MLS team at your venue?) – “There have been conversations but nothing really serious. I think what the fans want to see is the great teams that we’re bringing here. I think it would be an awful lot of competition to bring a team here knowing that we are bringing all of these great games to Miami. You’re still fighting for the sports dollar. You’re competing for that. I think there are crowds of building a stadium for 20,000 seats when you see how we can fill up a stadium with the stars coming in. I think Miami is a great event city. That’s what it’s known as. It’s not the great sports city we’d like to think we are. Coming in to compete with us, I wouldn’t want to be doing that.”
(Have they approached you at all? The David Beckham group, have they talked to you at all?) – “I think that they realize our stadium is too big.”
(As far as the Miami Marlins situation goes, do you feel like the sell of that team and buying a pro franchise has gone awry, has gone wrong?) – “I think that (the Marlins ownership) is holding out right now for dollars that are unrealistic, that’s what I would guess. And they have their issues certainly; but that’s their problem. I’ve got to worry about mine.”
(Has there been any talks in the NFL about extra security measures between the Dolphins and the NFL and the Saints when you guys go to London?) – “There will be severe security precautions there. Everybody’s aware of that. Certainly with what’s happening in London and everybody’s aware, so I’m sure that’s all will being taken care of. The league is very serious about that, as we are at our stadiums here.”
(Amongst Pro Bowl, the NFL Draft, the Scouting Combine, which has obviously been an Indianapolis staple for years. Do any of those appeal to you to the point where you’ve mentioned it to the commissioner and you’re prepared to aggressively pursue any of those three?) – “I think people are satisfied with the Combine. People get caught in their ways. It’s working in Indianapolis. I haven’t heard any conversation of moving the Combine. We had the Pro Bowl here. I think it’s been in Orlando and it’s scheduled to go to Orlando again. The real question is should we continue with the Pro Bowl? That’s really the bigger question.”
(The NFL Draft, is there any interest in hosting the NFL Draft?) – “I don’t know where you would host it, that’s the issue. It was really cool what they did last year in Philadelphia. It’s a nice time of the year here, the end of April is as nice as it gets; but you still can’t be sure that it’s not going to rain. That’s the issue here. But if there was really kind of a neat place, if anybody has any ideas, we would certainly support it.”
(No questions about the coach, is he going to last, or the team not making the playoffs. This is like the first time you’ve gone into a season where everything seems to be hitting on all cylinders.) – “Let’s not jinx ourselves.”