The Dolphins have struggled in recent years to find any real flow or rhythm. A big part of the problem is that the owner of the team doesn’t spend nearly enough time in the building to assess how or where or why things are going.
Stephen Ross lives and works in New York. He’s one of the NFL’s various absentee owners. And this has not helped the Dolphins craft the kind of consistency that allows long-term stability and success.
Without Ross there to constantly assess and monitor the vibe of the organization, the inevitable adversity leads to dysfunction. Someone will be blaming someone else for whatever goes wrong. Turf battles inevitably will emerge. The owner will be making decisions based on limited information brought to him by people who may be trying to nudge him in a specific way.
It happened when Jeff Ireland, Dawn Aponte, and Joe Philbin constantly struggled and bickered and fought for the approval and favor of the owner. It quite possibly has happened more recently, with Brian Flores on one side and the front office on the other side.
The problem is that the coach, who’s busy coaching the team, doesn’t have the luxury of whispering to the owner all of the various problems caused by, for example, poor decisions when it comes to drafting players. The G.M. and others in the front office, however, have much greater access to the owner on the one day when he happens to show up — game day. It gives the non-coaches in any power struggle/blame game a huge advantage.
If Ross were in the building every day, talking to his head coach on a face-to-face basis repeatedly, he’d be in a much better position to assess where and how and when blame should be placed and changes should be made.
The Dolphins already are putting out the word that the problem with Flores was “relationships.” Shockingly, a guy who spent years with Bill Belichick isn’t adept at kissing asses and/or blowing smoke up them. If they’d won more games, it wouldn’t have mattered.
That will continue to be the challenge for all former Belichick assistants. Even if they think they’re different, they’re far more like him than they’d ever recognize. Throw in an owner who isn’t around nearly enough to understand the broader dynamic, and it becomes easier for the various members of the front office to gang up on the guy who is all about football and not about playing politics or “being nice” or anything other than trying to win as many games as possible.
Wherever the Dolphins go from here, the problems will continue as long as Ross serves as an absentee owner. As another owner said several years ago when asked about the fact that Ross doesn’t live and work in his team’s city, “I love competing against him.”