Stephen Ross is Guilty of Trying Too Hard

Badgered incessantly for failing to lure a prominent head coach or GM, Ross’s shortcoming has not been rejection. Ross is guilty of trying too hard…

Most successful NFL teams have two things in common, a great quarterback and organizational stability.

Jim Harbaugh was never coming to Miami. He lived in the Bay area where QB Alex Smith was selected number one in the draft, but Ross tried to lure him anyway. Jeff Fisher wanted full control and probably would have gotten it, but Saint Louis had Sam Bradford and a bevy of draft picks, the choice again was obvious, but Ross still tried. Had Jeff Fisher proposed a contract number and insisted on Jeff Ireland’s removal, Ross quite possibly would have relented. The negotiation never got to contract talks.

Peyton Manning had the choice between coming to Miami and helping rebuild a franchise or going to Denver which had won a playoff game the previous season with Tim Tebow at quarterback! Manning was thinking about going to Super Bowls, rebuilding was not on his agenda. John Elway, a fellow member of the QB mutual admiration society, was running the Broncos and at least Manning was honest enough to decline an interview. Yet Ross went to the extent of asking Dan Marino to help.

During the GM selection process, Ross never lost sight of the two keys to success in the NFL. Ross defined the real problem, “we needed to have harmony within the organization.  We had to think as one organization where everybody had respect for each other.  That operates in the same mindset at all times in all situations.”

Ross knew Jeff Ireland did not have a mutual respect for Joe Philbin and said as much, “It goes back to having respect for each other. I didn’t feel it. We had to make a decision and move on.”

New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio and Tennessee Titans vice president Lake Dawson came into the interview with the expectation of being able to fire Joe Philbin. Ross was willing to try to work with these men and proved it by offering the position, but he made the offer with the expectation of organizational stability. Both men wished to keep Miami on the merry-go-round by starting over yet again with a new coach. Ross refused, and he and his team were labeled dysfunctional.

Ignoring the Ross mandate for organizational stability the critics call it blind loyalty to Philbin. The question is, can there be stability without loyalty? When an organization is criticized no matter what move they make, the only option is to ignore the critics and make decisions based on the guidelines that predict success. Stability begins with loyalty, Ross gave that same loyalty to Jeff Ireland only Jeff forgot the word “organizational.” Achieving organizational stability comes with mutual respect which is another form of loyalty to those on the same team. Ireland broke the chain of respect and the loyalty it implies.

Caserio and Dawson expecting Ross to meet their requirement of hiring their own coach were effectively asking Ross to abandon the philosophy he mandated for success, stability. These men called the situation in Miami untenable because their own egos were already bigger than the team. They saved face by walking away bad mouthing Ross and the Dolphins, but objectively they lost the opportunity of a lifetime by ignoring the importance Ross placed on the formula.

Dennis Hickey was considered a lame duck in Tampa after the firing of Mark Dominick. Why would Miami choose a GM who was on the chopping block in Tampa? The perception that Dennis Hickey was not worthy in Tampa is incorrect. Mark Dominick was fired because he hired Gregg Shiano who failed as an NFL coach. New coach Lovie Smith was given the power to hire his own GM, since Hickey was Dominick’s assistant he was the odd man out, it had nothing to do with his performance in Tampa.

Unlike the other candidates Hickey placed no stipulations on his employment. Hickey did not feel power was more important than teamwork. He was happy to collaborate with Joe Philbin and arrives with the most experience in the evaluation of college talent of any candidate interviewed.

Ross solved the stability issue by hiring Dennis Hickey. The team remains intact and there will be no sweeping changes.

The second key to NFL success is the QB position. Hickey brings new eyes to the table… Ryan Tannehill has many attributes of a good QB, but the tangible proof of winning has not shown through. Miserably losing the last two games to beatable teams still falls more on the field no matter how easy it is to fault the stoicism of the coach. Coaches and GMs pay the price for QB play every year in the NFL. Genius on the sideline and in the front office coincides with QB play on the field.

Ross has now bought all the groceries… If it does not translate to wins, he has no one to blame but himself.