Stephen Ross Better Check Himself Before He Wrecks Himself

Yesterday, the Miami Dolphins signed Chad Ochocinco to a one-year contract that will count for $925,000 against the Dolphins cap if he makes the team. Because it’s not exactly the highest risk and the team’s other receivers are Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Clyde Gates and Legedu Naanee, the deal would seem to make sense. But, Ochocinco is 34 years old, coming off a season where he had 15 catches for 276 yards in one of the most prolific offenses in league history, and makes no contributions to special teams. It’s hard to believe that he is the optimal use of a roster spot at this point in his career.

Photo credit: miami.cbslocal.com

Despite what Jeff Darlington says, the move was likely orchestrated by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, a real estate magnate who delusionally believes that his business acumen qualifies him to be an NFL GM. (As you’ll see later, Ross has a history of strongarming decisions while having sources tell writers close to the team that this is untrue.) Here are some “highlights” of his ownership:

  • Trying to cultivate a “Hollywood” atmosphere, Ross has sold minority ownership stakes to Fergie, Serena and Venus Williams, Marc Anthony, and Gloria Estefan. This philosophy can explain the Dolphins’ participation on HBO’s Hard Knocks and the Ochocinco signing that makes the team more compelling but not necessarily better.
  • General Manager Jeff Ireland asked then-draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother is a prostitute.
  • Ross tried desperately to court then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh to be head coach of the Dolphins. The only problem: current Miami coach Tony Sparano was still under contract. When Harbaugh went to the 49ers, the Dolphins gave Sparano a two-year extension. Because any time you can lock up the coach you just tried and failed to replace, you gotta do it.
  • After the extension in which Sparano was promised more responsibility, Ross took a more hands-on approach to the football operations, telling Sparano that he wants to see a more aggressive offense: “Our players are training in [warm] weather. Let’s take advantage of it.  Let’s go with a hurry-up offense. Let’s wear them down. You know? We’ve never done that. You know? This isn’t the north, where you just want to take it four yards and a cloud of dust.” The run-and-gun approach could conceivably make sense for the Dolphins in the long run but not when your quarterbacks are Chad Henne and Matt Moore.
  • Dan Le Batard writes about the Dolphins’ ticket sales woes: “They had to buy 10,000 seats to a game last year, giving them away to military personnel to avoid a TV blackout. They gave two free tickets to every season-ticket holder on occasion last year — and many of the fans didn’t want them, as evidenced by all the patches of empty seats on Sunday. From 1995 to 2005, Dolphins season-ticket sales were always around 60,000, but one source says the team is presently laboring to be at half that number. Sales are worse at the moment than the 46,131 season tickets the Dolphins sold after a 1-15 season, and that’s with the Dolphins selling a season-ticket package of 10 games in one section for $250 — $25 per game, the cheapest rate in the league.” Whatever Ross has been doing really seems to be working.
  • Sources told Pro Football Talk before the draft that Ross was “Pushing for Ryan Tannehill.” After denials (or, lies, depending on your interpretation) that he was “pushing for anybody”, the Dolphins drafted Tannehill eighth overall.

The general theme of Ross’s 3+ year tenure as Dolphins majority owner is that he has no idea what he’s doing but insists on asserting his will regardless. This isn’t how to cultivate a winning football organization; to succeed in the NFL, career personnel evaluators like Ted Thompson and Kevin Colbert must have the autonomy to have the final say. That their football operations are run by consummate specialists is why the Packers and Steelers are perennial contenders while Daniel Snyder’s Redskins and Mike Brown’s Bengals are perpetual basement dwellers.

If the Dolphins are ever going to change course, Stephen Ross must develop the humility to hire a legitimate football professional and get the fuck out of the way. Unfortunately for Miami fans, it doesn’t look like it will get better before it continues to get worse.

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One Response to Stephen Ross Better Check Himself Before He Wrecks Himself

  1. I agree about the rest of the moves, but I think Ochocinco is actually a solid pickup. For less than $1M they get a receiver who still has great talent. I’d say he could reasonably have a 50 rec, 600 yard and 6 TD season. He was in a VERY complex offense with New England last year and wasn’t able to adjust to the many different routes and expectations for the receivers there. It will be much more simple in Miami.

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