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Stephen Ross says he didn’t make offer to Harbaugh, didn’t talk to other coaches

Tony Sparano, Stephen Ross

The Dolphins have circulated a full transcript of Saturday’s unusual (which sounds more charitable than “bizarre”) roundtable press conference aimed at commencing the longer-than-ownership-realizes process of undoing the damage done by the decision to try to upgrade the coaching position without taking a chance that it may be downgraded.

Owner Stephen Ross claimed during the session that he never offered the job to new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and that, despite rampant reports to the contrary, no effort was made to hire two other “rock star” coaches.

“No time have I contacted, spoken with any potential head coach,” Ross said. “Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, no one, me or this organization has made contact ever with those people.”

In fact, Ross says that he ultimately advised Harbaugh to stay at Stanford.  “I know he wanted to go to the NFL but he wasn’t exactly sure,” Ross said.  “He asked me, what should I do?  I recommended, ‘Go back to Stanford and hitch yourself to the quarterback.  You got the best quarterback, you can win a national championship, the pros will be there — I’d go out as soon as he goes out because you want to go out a winner.'”

Ross also explained that he was surprised by the attention the meeting received, and by the questions he later fielded on the matter when arriving at a subsequent business meeting unrelated to football.  “[T]he reason I didn’t tell [coach Tony Sparano about the Harbaugh meeting], and this is probably the first time I ever interviewed [a head coaching candidate] and I’m not really familiar with going through this process, but I never thought it would be national news,” Ross said.  “We walked into the meeting in Southern California, everybody was asking me about how was your meeting with [Jim] Harbaugh.  They knew every step I’d taken over that last 24 hours.”

If that last quote doesn’t demonstrate a shocking amount of naivete on the part of a man who has amassed many millions of personal wealth, try this one on for size:  “I think that really clears up all the other ideas that you’ve read about, the dollar amounts thrown around — I mean, I got to tell you, I’m learning a new world that’s out there with people sending out information that isn’t true and trying to create a story.  There isn’t any story other than what you’ve just heard from me today, and there’s nothing in between. . . .  I’ve never been through this process before but certain people, they have other reasons to get that information out there.  You can guess what they are.  I don’t want to be accusatory and saying things.  I don’t want to start stimulation [of] other controversy.  I can just tell you it didn’t come from me and it didn’t, and it certainly was enlightening in seeing it.”

There are two possible explanations, as we see it.  First, Ross is saying whatever he has to say in order to get some of the toothpaste back into the tube.  Second, Ross is telling the truth, and all reports regarding the owner’s supposedly frantic trip to California to make an “urgent pitch” to Harbaugh (per Chris Mortensen) and the momentum toward a deal and the big-dollar contract figures were embellished and/or fabricated by Harbaugh’s agent(s) in the hopes of building more and more leverage for the deal that Harbaugh ultimately did with the 49ers.

Even if the latter is the case, the owner of an NFL team must demonstrate a higher degree of sophistication in business dealings relating to his team, or he personally should have no business dealings relating to his team.  In this case, Ross or someone on his immediate behalf should have been monitoring all media developments and reports and rumors, and Ross or someone on his immediate behalf should have been prepared to pull the plug on any talks with Harbaugh the moment that word of the “urgent pitch” first hit the national radar on Wednesday evening, before the meeting even commenced.  At a minimum, Ross or someone on his immediate behalf should have told Harbaugh or Dave Dunn or Jack Bechta or whoever in the hell was negotiating the deal that supposedly was never negotiated that any further leaks would result in an immediate statement that the Dolphins have decided not to pursue Harbaugh because working as the head coach of an NFL team requires at times the exercise of extreme discretion and the Dolphins aren’t convinced that Harbaugh would be able to meet that standard.

As to the notion that Ross should have simply told Sparano that the owner would be meeting with Harbaugh, that wouldn’t have been wise, because Sparano would have said, “If you’re going to do that, you need to fire me.”  As to the notion that firing Sparano would have been the right move, it could have left Ross without Sparano or Harbaugh.

Still, Ross should have not courted Harbaugh without firing Sparano.  It’s impossible to forage for two in the bush while still trying to clutch the bird in the hand.  It appears that the owner’s only real regret is that Sparano found out about the effort to determine whether the team would be better off with Harbaugh.

Either way, Ross genuinely believed that on Saturday he could talk his way out of the corner into which he had clumsily painted himself.  In so doing, he provided a glimpse into the sausage-making process that could cause many South Floridians to opt for bacon instead.

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30 Responses to “Stephen Ross says he didn’t make offer to Harbaugh, didn’t talk to other coaches”
  1. joetoronto says: Jan 9, 2011 8:41 AM

    I don’t think anybody envisioned that Ross could make things even worse than they already were.

    Somehow, this man has done exactly that.

  2. finfan316 says: Jan 9, 2011 8:42 AM

    His execution may have been clumsy, but to want to upgrade the HC is a no-brainer. TS is completely inept as a HC.

    Any fan who sympathizes with this loser (Sparano) is the problem, not Ross. Ross might have had a chance at a better coach, but not unless he took the opportunity to do what he did.

    Good news is…after next season (2011 or 2012), he will be looking for a HC again, and he will have experience. He probably needs to get a new GM (one that doesnt pick Pat Whites and Pat Turners) and let that GM head up the coaching search.

    The Bad news for Ross is…after the Fins lose the first two home games, even the moronic Fins fans are going to realize nothing has changed or been upgraded with the Fins and the fans are going to stop going to the games, costing him many more millions of dollars.

    I have no sympathy for a billionarie losing a few million dollars. I also dont have sympathy for a horrible coach or fans who support horrible coaches.

  3. fin72 says: Jan 9, 2011 8:45 AM

    More than Ross’s lack of sense, I’m concerned about his lack of balls. Why not come out at the roundtable and say, “You’re damn right I explored possibilities that could improve this team and for that I’ll apologize to nobody. Everybody in this building is accountable… Players, coaches, everybody. What happened here last year was unnacceptable and I’m no happier with last year’s direction of the team that any Dolphins fan out there.” Besides, they did to Sparano EXACTLY what Sparano did to Henne this year with he whole Pennington move that didn’t work out. Bottom line is Sparano is lucky to be a HC in the league and is in no position to demand or be entitled to anything. If they were smart they’d hire Mangini who is actually a great strategic coach who got a raw deal in Cleveland or a real HC like John Fox.

  4. msadpoet says: Jan 9, 2011 8:46 AM

    Watching Ross talk makes me pause and think “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Sporano had that look of a husband sitting with a group of buddies while having to listen to his wife tell a horrible lie (The off in the distance stare).

  5. bryaninohio says: Jan 9, 2011 8:51 AM

    ya mike right on i’m just sick about all this how dare ross do this to dolphins nation slap in the face to the fans!

  6. dolphinsrule65 says: Jan 9, 2011 8:54 AM

    Why is all the media that reported that Carl Peterson was on the plane not backtracking and saying, opps sorry….He really was not on the plane or even with them? It amazes me that this is such a story, when even Cowher has said, they did not contact me.
    So lets correct some so called facts by the news media:
    1) Carl Peterson was NOT ON THE PLANE OR IN ANY MEETING,PERIOD.
    2) the team DID NOT CONTACT COWHER
    3)No offer was ever made to any other coach.

    All of this said, what surrounded the Dolphins last week was just a bunch of overblown noise, bad PR but nothing else. Sports is soap opera for males, so As Sparano Turns was just something messy that gave the appearance that the people in charge don’t know what they are doing. But perception is not reality, not for the discerning. Reality is reality. And the reality is that Ross was just doing his job by trying to upgrade his football team.

  7. nnagi says: Jan 9, 2011 8:55 AM

    …because harbaugh really needs stephen ross’s advice on whether to coach in the nfl…it makes sense consulting an owner who barely knows the game instead of your brother, who’s already an nfl coach…

  8. larryfinfan says: Jan 9, 2011 9:03 AM

    If, as Ross says, that he was naive, that’s fine, but why didn’t Ireland or Peterson (if he was acting as a benefactor for Ross in any of this) reach out and stop him ?? Sure, Ross is the boss and Ireland may not have been able to effectively stop him from inserting his lower limb into his mouth and embarrassing his organization, but someone involved had to have some knowledge of the ‘scandal’ this would bring. Searching for a new coach before you fire the old one is not an uncommon practice, just not publicly. This is all nothing that won’t be forgotten with a playoff appearance next season…

  9. couldntdodiddlypoo says: Jan 9, 2011 9:06 AM

    huh. it does make you wonder how guys like these ever made a fortune large enough to buy an nfl team. some people just don’t know when to shuttie.

    have this guy and mcdaniels ever worked together?

  10. Brian Duper says: Jan 9, 2011 9:20 AM

    Sparano got his extension, that’s all that matters now. Resume scouting for the April draft. Move along, nothing to see here.

  11. jwil444 says: Jan 9, 2011 9:31 AM

    yea right………….who’s advising this guy on his spin? Bill Clinton?

  12. hendeeze says: Jan 9, 2011 9:34 AM

    @dolphinsrule65

    hey if you pour salt in your water it will fizzle

  13. gazinkus says: Jan 9, 2011 9:35 AM

    1. Ross can talk to anyone at any time about his head coaching position. There are, however, consequences of the news getting out, one of which is the current employee getting pissed and quitting. Executives do this all the time in other businesses; employees do it, too. It’s called the First Rule of Wing Walking: You don’t let go of what you have hold of until you have hold of something else…

    2. The feeding frenzy that is the news media, including the sports news media, doesn’t bother with getting the facts right. Never has, never will. The focus is on getting the story out FIRST. We need someone calling out these people who fabricate stories in the name of getting info out first. And then they need to get fired – unless, of course, they are in the business of publishing a Rumor Mill, which by its very name isn’t expected to be a paragon of integrity.

    3. Sparano, or Tom Cable or Wade Phillips in past years – would not put up with this if they had any balls, or any options. When you get the news that your employer disrespects you, it’s time to move on. The fact that those coaches stayed in place means they value their continuation in their current position more than they value their own sense of self-worth.

    3. I’m with @fin72.

  14. commandercornpone says: Jan 9, 2011 9:39 AM

    out in the real world, stuff like this happens all the time. i dont blame sparano for trying to and getting a financial apology. a lot of fans blow it out of proportion due to their emotional attachment to team, game, coach, etc.

    but this stuff happens. lets not discount that if the owner does this kind of thing repeatedly, it will affect the quality of the people he can hire and what he has to pay them.

    if i was ireland, i would push the envelope and see if i could get fired with pay. ross already has peterson inhouse doing whatever. that isnt a non-toxic situation.

  15. petesfish says: Jan 9, 2011 9:54 AM

    Hey Ross!! Enough with the bull crap already! Slide back under that rock, keep your mouth shut and stop embarrassing us Dolphin Fans!

    Go Fish

  16. JakeDSnake says: Jan 9, 2011 10:01 AM

    I thought Sparano had to wear sunglasses all the time…wait, what’s has Ross done with the real Tony Sparano?!
    Is that Mangina under a Sparano mask?

  17. FinFan68 says: Jan 9, 2011 10:05 AM

    Somebody please buy out this moron and restore some respect to the franchise. This organization has been an embarassment since Mr. Robbie died. It is disgraceful how the Blockbuster buffoon and P.T. Barnum have transformed this once proud franchise into a bunch of starstruck pansies striving to be average and coming up short.

  18. golfol says: Jan 9, 2011 10:12 AM

    Larryfinfan sez; This is nothing that won’t be forgotten with a playoff appearence next season. Gimme some of what you’re smoking! This group, led by the Pizza Maker will founder again next year like they have the past two. He will have the credibility of a rubber stamp, and when times turn tough, the inmates will run the aslymn. His decesion making ability is pathetic, and now without Parcells around to give him advice, he’ll totally muck things up when the pressure is on. I can’t believe that anyone in their right mind would or could say the words Dolphin and playoff in the same breath, as long as this charletan is semi in charge.

  19. ampats says: Jan 9, 2011 10:24 AM

    dolphinsrule65,

    Stop spending your time at the beach with your head in the sand !

    There is also a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

  20. richm2256 says: Jan 9, 2011 10:46 AM

    @fin72 : You had me applauding, up until that last sentence.

    @nnagi: Well said.

    Ross clearly contradicts himself:
    “No time have I contacted, spoken with any potential head coach”

    “this is probably the first time I ever interviewed [a head coaching candidate] and I’m not really familiar with going through this process”

    Harbaugh clearly did not seek out the opinion of an NFL owner, whom he didn’t know”, for his advice on what he should do at Stanford. Ross clearly acted like a young man who was fishing for a better girlfriend while staying with his current one “just in case”. He was poorly advised and should have known to conduct himself better in the first place, and when the news broke -whiche he HAD to know it could -he should have simply stepped up and said “YES, I’m unhappy with my current coach and looking to do better”.

    Who would have blamed him?

    Not saying at all that he should have hired Harbaugh, but the irony is that he is now committed for another year to a coach whom he was not happy with in the first place, and looks like a first class buffoon publicly, people wondering how a guy this stupid ever became that successful!

  21. austskate says: Jan 9, 2011 10:52 AM

    WAIT A MINUTE… So Ross took a plane ride across the country to “advise Harbaugh to stay at Standford.”

    Give me a break.

  22. rexisgay says: Jan 9, 2011 11:00 AM

    Schefter: “Dolphins NEVER offered Harbaugh a contract”

  23. commanderroman says: Jan 9, 2011 11:02 AM

    agree with fin72.
    -Al Davis.

  24. rexisgay says: Jan 9, 2011 11:28 AM

    Does The Media Always Tell The Truth? – Do You Believe Everything You Read?

    news rushes at the speed of the Internet, as Twitter and cell phones demand a constant feeding of information, as the need to be fast and need to be right in reporting are at greater odds than ever, what if the media got more wrong than the Dolphins this week?
    Or, at times, 90% wrong?
    I’m a hard facts type of guy. Show me proof, or don’t tell me at all. I know, not everyone is like that. And that’s ok, I suppose. However, it’s imperative that you do your research, and find out the truth of the matter in anything you want to believe. It’s ok to have “faith”, yes. It’s not ok to blindly ASSume something is right and correct and real.
    “Dolphins NEVER offered Harbaugh a contract” and that is TRUE !

  25. rexisgay says: Jan 9, 2011 11:29 AM

    austskate says:
    Jan 9, 2011 10:52 AM
    WAIT A MINUTE… So Ross took a plane ride across the country to “advise Harbaugh to stay at Standford.”

    ……………………………………………………..

    That is True! H e did!

  26. dieharddolfan6493 says: Jan 9, 2011 11:35 AM

    my ass

  27. phinfan says: Jan 9, 2011 11:45 AM

    I believe he did make a pitch to Jim. Twice. I think with the media firestorm that stirred up visions of ross’ looniness made him realize how much of a jack-ss he was being to the team and coach. So someone recommended ficing it by resigning sparano. Ross is a rookie at this interviewing for coaches thing and never expected a media firestorm

  28. jwil444 says: Jan 9, 2011 12:16 PM

    “J-lo made me do it!”
    -Ross

  29. smokim says: Jan 9, 2011 12:45 PM

    “Stephen Ross says he didn’t make offer to Harbaugh, didn’t talk to other coaches”

    what a lyin sack Ross is!

    looks like we’ll have another losing season with Sparano

  30. texasphinsfan says: Jan 9, 2011 1:14 PM

    Ross definitely bungled all this.

    That said, most of the hoopla was driven by false media reporting. We just saw Ross apologize publicly, but you’ll never see the same from the media.

    Think about that before you start raising pitchforks.

    Ross should have fired Sparano in the first place – under no circumstances should you retain the guy, regardless. He is not a “fall back” option.

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