When I met Dolphins owner Stephen Ross a couple of years ago, he smiled (sort of) and said, “You’re the guy who writes those things about me.” And now I’m going to write one of those things about him again.
What I’m writing now about Stephen Ross is actually a positive, even if it may seem on the surface to be negative.
The time has come for Ross to roll up his sleeves and preside over the football team he owns.
A generation ago, Ross — who live and works in New York — tried to buy the Jets. Woody Johnson won the bidding. Ross later purchased the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga, becoming the majority owner in 2009. Ross continued to live and work in New York.
Since then, coincidentally or not, the Dolphins haven’t made it to the playoffs. Heck, the Dolphins haven’t even had a winning season since Ross became the owner.
After Monday night’s loss, which eliminated the Dolphins from postseason contention, interim coach Dan Campbell said, “I’ve been here six years and nothing has gone the way we wanted it to be.”
“I hate to be in this situation again but it seems like it’s the same thing every year,” added center Mike Pouncey, a first-round pick in 2011.
It’s either the same thing every year by happenstance, or for a reason. Since Ross became the owner, players, coaches, General Managers, and executive vice presidents of football operations have changed. Ross is the one constant.
And he’s an absentee landlord, the cat who is always away while the mice are fighting among themselves. The hiring of Dan Marino to essentially babysit the front office and then of Mike Tannenbaum to oversee it hasn’t changed anything yet. There’s a good chance nothing will change it until the owner: (1) moves to Miami; and (2) shows up at the facility every day.
Here’s an unmistakable truth regarding the modern NFL: Owners who live and work in the cities where their teams are located love competing against owners who don’t. That alone should be enough to get Ross to load up the truck and move to Hy-a-lee. (Ah.)
Or, alternatively, it should get Ross to admit that it’s impossible for a billionaire who built a billion-dollar real-estate business that he still runs in New York to treat his billion-dollar sports acquisition as a casual investment or a hobby. The players, the coaches, the front office, and the fans of every NFL team deserve an owner who is all in.
If Ross isn’t willing to do that, Ross should sell the team to another billionaire who is.
That’s not to say Ross should be involved in football decisions. He needs to trust the people with the expertise whom he has hired to make those decisions. But it’s one thing to hire them, to trust them, and to be there to observe and to assist and to lend active oversight to tasks falling within the owner’s skill set. It’s quite another for the owner to throw the keys into the middle of the room, walk out the door, and ignore the ensuing scrum.