Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stephen Ross is Trying, Not Succeeding (Yet)

Updated: 9/18/12

Stephen Ross
Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross

It’s no secret that Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross is widely criticized by many Dol-Fans. Even Miami’s local puppet personality Pepe Billete has come out and spoken against Ross, asking Miami Heat Owner Micky Arison to take over the Dolphins. That’s only one voice among plenty of others that don’t like the job Ross has done.

Ross shelled out $1 billion to purchase the Dolphins franchise along with the stadium back in 2009 (this just in: the stadium is still called Sun Life Stadium, for now). He entered the league with no experience as an owner of a professional sports team, only touting a background in real estate. Owning a team was always a dream of his but he didn’t know what living out that dream entailed.  

Then reality hit. Mr. Ross now had to make decisions over a storied franchise that has a rich winning history and the fame of recording the only perfect season in NFL history. The high expectations were there and they still are.

Star-Studded Beginnings

Miami Dolphins Celebrity Ownership
Emilio and Gloria Estefan become Dolphins minority owners 
Ross started by keeping Bill Parcells as VP of Football Operations to manage football-related decisions. After all, he had no idea how to run a football team. Instead, Ross focused on drawing attention to the franchise by tapping into the pool of celebrity power that is concentrated in Miami. 

He rolled out the Orange Carpet for stars to become minority owners and generate buzz around Fins games. He took it a step further by trying to change the Dolphins’ fight song with a new version sung by T-Pain. And more recently he considered changing the team logo. In essence, Ross wanted an extreme makeover for the Dolphins.

The fact remained that most fans didn’t care for all the glitz, glamour and change that Ross had to offer. Dol-fans just wanted to see plain ole football without the extravagance. All of these alterations only confused and angered the average fan, making them question Ross’ leadership abilities.  

The Downfall    

Bill Parcells
Former VP of Football Operations Bill Parcells
After a successful 2009 season, where the Dolphins reached the playoffs with an 11-5 record, the wheels began to fall of the wagon. The Dolphins slowly slipped into mediocrity, posting less than 8 wins in each of the next two seasons. 

Bill Parcells’ football decisions had failed Miami and he exited before the roof caved in. Ross stood by as his team drafted Phillip Merling, Chad Henne, Pat White and Patrick Turner as 2nd and 3rd round picks. He also watched Parcells’ bring in Gibril Wilson, Joey Porter, and a stockpile of Dallas Cowboys outcasts.

These are just some of the many moves that didn’t pan out for Miami under Ross’ watch. Many blamed Parcells for poor judgment but also dished some of it onto the Dolphins owner for allowing it to happen. Today the Dolphins find themselves in full rebuilding mode as a result of the past three seasons. With this comes the highest disapproval Ross has experienced in his tenure at the helm.

Starting From Scratch

Forced to start fresh after hitting rock bottom, Ross has taken strides to right the ship and lift this team from the ashes. He began by recruiting Joe Philbin as the new head coach, coming from the 2010 NFL Champion Green Bay Packers. Believing in Philbin’s philosophy, he approved of Chad Johnson’s release despite the upside that the veteran WR could have provided.

8th Overall Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins
QB Ryan Tannehill
He followed up by pushing for the Dolphins to draft a QB in the first round, namely Ryan Tannehill. This is something that Miami hadn’t done in 29 years and had been a topic of public outcry for multiple seasons now.

And more recently, Ross rolled away the Orange Carpet in an effort to refocus on football. This shows that Ross has strayed from his initial ownership philosophy in favor of making more fan-oriented decisions.

The Stephen Ross of 2009 probably wouldn’t have made these decisions today. Where he once stayed away from football decisions, Ross is taking a more proactive approach to managing the team. After a little learning on the job, suffering costly mistakes and listening to the fans, Ross is beginning to grow into his role as an NFL owner – one that values winning and tradition over stardom and fluff.

Final Word

We can’t say that these moves will ultimately lead the Dolphins back to the Promised Land. But we can say that Ross is doing what he can to reverse the downward trend this franchise is headed toward.

This by no means is an endorsement of Stephen Ross. He still has plenty to prove in this league. Let's not forget that he also stuck with the unpopular Jeff Ireland as the team's GM after many fans called for his head (Note: The "Fireland" campaign has picked up steam with websites like Dont Hate Miami supporting the cause). 

This is an approval of the steps Ross has taken to correct his own mistakes and swallow his pride for the sake of putting a winning product on the field. Always keep the fan faith alive, victory is so much sweeter after fighting through the sour taste of defeat. 

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