Dolphin fans all over the country have been asking the same question three weeks into the season, what’s wrong with the Dolphins? The team does not seem to be playing with fire. The team looks unprepared, making untimely mistakes in critical situations. Speculation hovers between Chad Henne not being an NFL QB and Tony Sparano not being an NFL coach. All these indicators seem to point to a coach going through the motions with his future already determined.
The blunder Stephen Ross made chasing Jim Harbaugh after last season may have deep repercussions with the current coaching staff. Jeff Ireland accompanied Ross on his foolish adventure and in doing so; he lost the trust of his coach. The bottom line is, Ross made the decision to fire Sparano and keep Ireland even though it didn’t come off. Ross, roundly criticized for trying to hire a coach while still having one under contract, let Sparano know his true thoughts.
At that point Ross, forced to back off a coaching change, signed Sparano to an extension. The damage was done. Sparano knew not only his owner, but his GM had betrayed him. He asked the GM to bring in competition for Chad Henne at the QB position, but his wishes went unheard. Tony Sparano was hung out to dry. He knew it and unfortunately, everyone in the locker room knows it as well.
Tony Sparano may have felt in his heart during those trying moments he should walk away, but his pride would not let him. Sparano knew when the air cleared from Ross’ error in trying to hire Harbaugh, he would be out of a job. His only hope at redemption was to coach the Dolphins into the playoffs while the wheels of deceit and change were spinning behind his back.
Leadership starts at the top and filters down, Ross and Ireland had deceived their coach and then expected him to be the leader they had proved incapable of being. Not finding a QB to compete with Henne further solidified the coach’s feeling that the leadership wanted the eventual coach to make his own choice. Whether any of this is true does not matter because the seeds of discontent were sowed in the Miami Locker room.
If Stephen Ross was willing to go after Jim Harbaugh on the sleigh, what was to stop him from clandestine meetings with John Gruden? Maybe Gruden wanted to make the Glazers pay the final year of the salary they owed him when they fired him in Tampa and then move on to Miami. What if there was already a sweetheart deal waiting for Gruden? What if Gruden said, don’t bring in Kyle Orton, let me figure it out when I get there.
All this is pure speculation but once the owner opened Pandora’s Box the chain of leadership from owner, to GM, to coach, to player was broken. Whether any of the speculation has a shred of truth means nothing, what is important is the owner and GM did not treat the coach with respect. Without this firm base of unified commitment, the chain of command is broken and the Dolphins now look like a team that is broke.
Ross may look to his coach or QB as his problem, perhaps closer study the mirror would be a better place to start. Unfortunately, for suffering Dolphin fans, the team will continue to flounder until the leadership chain is restored.