When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross declared on Saturday a belief that his team will be playing in the Super Bowl come February, plenty of folks concluded that Ross had lapsed into a short period of insanity.
While it’s healthy to have high hopes at this stage of the year, when every team has zero losses (indeed, the NFL has profited greatly from cultivating such optimism on a widespread basis), the guys who hold the keys to a franchise should never be talking so openly and candidly about actually achieving the goal of a championship. At a minimum, it puts pressure on the coaching staff to fulfill the high expectations, since the coaching staff could be blamed for failing to take to the top of a mountain a team that, on paper, has all the tools needed for the climb.
But during a Tuesday morning segment with Jeff DeForrest of WFTL in Fort Lauderdale, it finally hit me that Ross possibly knew exactly what he was doing.
V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells remains under contract for two more years, and he can leave at any time and collect the balance of his contract. When he goes, whether after this season or the next, it’s widely believed that long-time Chiefs G.M. Carl Peterson will become the next captain of the ship.
Peterson will want to hire his own people to handle the key jobs, like head coach. And Peterson quite possibly won’t want Sparano, a hand-picked Parcells hire.
So what better way to grease the skids for making a change than to set Sparano’s bar so high that he’ll have a hard time clearing it? Though Ross can dump his head coach any time he chooses, the fans and the media won’t support the move if they don’t believe the coach deserves to get fired. By pushing a mediocre roster to overachieve and make the playoffs, Sparano would enjoy widespread support. But if the fans and the media perceive that he couldn’t finish the job with a team stocked like a fish bowl full of trout, no one will complain if/when Peterson concludes that it’s time to make a change.
Men generally don’t become rich enough to buy football teams without being incredibly shrewd. And Saturday’s comments could eventually be proof not that Ross still has whatever it is that put him in position to purchase the franchise.