Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross's Neglect Forces My Fandom RetirementThe Dolphins Have Become the NFL's Laughingstock Thanks to Management
Fifty years of loyal fandom has come to an end during this early 2018 off-season. Sounds like drama, right? It’s not, it’s a move to preserve my ego, sanity, and not be dragged down by the embarrassment of how poorly my former team is managed. There are many reasons why the Dolphins have not been competitive in twenty years, and they have nothing to do with how good that team in New England is. I’ve already written about my “credentials” for writing on the Dolphins, and football. Read my introduction for a sense of perspective and understanding of where this voice is coming from.
I will not be moving on to another team. I am done with the NFL. I’ll get to the why of that later, I want to address Mr. Ross and the management “team” the Dolphins employ first. Stephen Ross has clearly demonstrated that he has a willingness to spend from his mountain of cash to support this team. Cheapness is not his problem. Miami had a broke owner in Joe Robbie and his family, and they ran an outstanding organization that won. The problem lies in the application of his business acumen. Wait, what? He’s a successful billionaire you say? He’s even making a profit from a terrible product! Answer: He may be an expert in his field of business, but he did not take the time nor put in the effort to become an expert in professional football. He has failed, and continues to fail at building a high functioning management team. He invokes ostrich like superpowers when it comes to the repeated and glaring mistake of the people he employs.
Let’s start with this. You buy, take over, or found a company in an already competitive market. What is the one thing you need more than anyone else to be successful? Quality people working for you. When building a team, what do you start with? A leader. One with a track record of success. If someone applies for the leadership position of your company, what is the first thing you look at? Their resume. What have they done to prove to you that they have done it before, and can do it again for you? Do you hire someone who has failed miserably at his last two positions and left those previous companies such a mess that it will take them years to clean it up? Decades? Of course not. But that is exactly what Ross did when he hired Mike Tannenbaum to run the Dolphins. A track record of disastrous contracts and personnel decisions that left his former teams in cap hell, disarray, and complete lack of competitiveness. What on earth possessed Mr Ross to think it would be any different in Miami?
Oh, It gets worse. So now, for whatever reason, you did hire this guy. Maybe during the interview you had a vision from God, and this guy had a halo around his head, Lombardi trophies in his teeth, a dulcet voice that reminded you of melted chocolate, and dollar signs for eyes. Anyone can make that mistake, I guess. Then, in his first year, he begins to do exactly what he did with the last two companies. Bad contracts, Bad hires. Overspending. Under performing. At his yearly review, be blames the previous people. The following year, he does the same things. Then he puts the blame on some of his hires, and you get rid of those people. Then he makes more bad hires, more bad contracts, all the same mistakes. The noise from your customers, investors, and pundits in your industry steadily rises. All negative. You ignore them. Another year comes and goes. Same mistakes. More noise. Three years after the hire, in his yearly review, he tells you he needs to reset the workforce, begins doing so, and everyone watches has he follows the same path. Rinse and repeat. Now your customers are screaming. But somehow, your bottom line hasn’t been affected much, so you tune out all the noise and stay the course. You are Stephen Ross.
Sometimes I wish I had spy cameras with microphones in the Dolphins complex, vehicles, and even in their management’s shoes. This way, I might really know who is making these horrendous decisions and could call them out specifically. Gase did this one. Greer did that one. Tannenbaum did all these. I asked Armando to help me out with this in a Tweet the other day. No response. I’m going to have to guess.
Since mid season, we’ve cut all our best players! Jay Ajayi was a young stud pro-bowl running-back. I haven’t forgotten the back to back 200 yard games he gave us in his first year as a starter. My memory is getting bad as I age, but last year is still there. He’s happy now in Philly with a ring on his finger. Getting a 4th round pick – the last pick in the 4th round – for him is insane. Surely we could have done better. Our NFL record holding wide receiver Jarvis Landry, also a young alpha dog, was “tagged and bagged” and probably won’t see a ring in Cleveland. I wouldn’t have paid him #1 money either, but getting a 4th round pick for him is criminal. He was a second round pick, and he’s a pro-bowl talent! This is Cleveland we are dealing with people! Tannenbaum is worked over by the worst of them. Suh has left the building. I hardly know what to say about this. He’s a barbed arrow in the side of the Phins. At some point, it needs to be yanked out, and when it is, it’s going to do more damage. When the Suh deal was originally announced, I went ballistic. I yelled to anyone who could hear, and many who didn’t want to hear me (like my wife). “Oh my god! That’s the worst contract in NFL history! No one pays franchise QB money for a <bleeped> DT! Fire this guy Tannenbaum right now!”
Warning, I feel the sarcasm cranking up. Tannenbaum should complete the carnage. Just rank the team from best to worst and start lopping heads off the top! Wake and Jones need to go! Let him destroy every bit of above averageness on this team! Meanwhile, the bad contracts of Branch and Alonzo continue to punish the Phins. I haven’t heard yet if cutting the horrific free agent “splash” Julius Thomas is also doing financial damage. Now this management team has signed Wilson, a KC WR with a case of the the drops, and Danny Amendola – the perennially injured slot receiver of the Pats. And oh! Surprise! Over priced contracts with guarantees! Are you kidding me?
Whose moves are these? Who signs washed up old players? Who gives them guaranteed, overpriced contracts that mortgage the teams future. Over and over again? I don’t see the New England Patriots making deals like any of these. What’s their record again? Is Gase telling him to make these moves? In full or in part? Where in the hell is the GM in this? Is Greer draft picks only? Microphones in shoes.
If I Were the Dolphins GM
Ah, the fun part. Here’s where you might say to yourself while reading this; ” this guy is making claims after the fact! Hindsight is 20/20!” I want to head that off a bit. Trust me. If I could play back the conversations (from the microphones in MY shoes), emails, and texts with the men I described in my introduction to you here, you wouldn’t question what I am about to say. I’ll even point out a couple where I was wrong. Here it is: If I was the GM, we’d have been, and would be now, a far better team than we are.
Historically, my NFL-wide talent awareness has come from Fantasy Football. Laugh if you will, but know this: It was invented by a scout of the Oakland Raiders long ago. I was doing it in the early 90’s many years before it was “popular”, or there was any software to do it with. We subscribed to the printed USA Today for official game stats, and the commissioner of the league spent Wednesday and Thursday calculating scores from their stat pages. In addition to the things people are aware of in the FFB Industry now, we did more. We drafted individual defensive players. We drafted O-lines. As the commissioner, because I did the scoring, I knew what all the players did, every game, all season long. This made me strong when free agency became a thing.
On the draft side, you didn’t used to have to pay for Mel Kiper’s list, who contributed to making draft analysis as popular as it is today. I was so interested in it, I would go out and read about nearly every player listed in the first couple of rounds. When game video became available online, I even took the time to watch it, especially if I thought the position was one of need for the Dolphins. When the combine became televised, I watched some of it (particularly QBs), and followed all the stats made public. Until now, I have watched or listened to the draft religiously, always with a list in my hand of people I wanted, at a minimum for the first two rounds.
I have developed a dozen rules for my delusional GM-hood.
- There is never a higher priority than getting a franchise QB if you don’t have one. Draft a QB every year for the future, unless your backup is the future.
- Always keep fresh talent coming to your O-line, but don’t draft them before round 3 unless they are the best there ever was.
- When getting players over 30, offer contacts under average rate and never guarantee them. only exception: franchise QB
- Second priority is spread equally between Left Tackle, A shutdown corner, an unstoppable pass-rushing DE, A savvy injury proof MLB.
- Third priority is skill positions.
- Good RB’s can be found in any round. Keep your stable young. Never trade for one unless under 25.
- It’s ok to use a top pick on a WR, but he must be a sure fire number 1.
- Make sure a TE is willing/able to run block no matter how good he can catch.
- Fourth priority is everything else. Prioritize line improvement here.
- Believe in the Wonderlic test and do your best to “hire” people to your team that score well. A must for QB’s.
- No scumbags. Stay away from anyone with a repeat offense. One time can be an aberration. Just use caution, be alert, and educate. More than once is habitual and it will surface again. Certain offenses are unforgivable even one time.
- All rules are off for an “unquestionable” once in a lifetime type talent – except maybe the latter half of #11.
Here’s what the Dolphins would have looked like over the years if I was drafting. Marino retired in 1999. We had no greater need than at QB. I didn’t believe in Jay Fiedler. In 2001, I fell in love with a QB coming out of Purdue. I read his stats. saw some video, and watched one game. I wanted him bad and told all my Dolphins buddies. On draft day. I watched in anger as my team passed up that QB, and instead selected an undersized CB, Jamar Fletcher, in the first round. Folks, If I was drafting, we would have had Drew Brees for all these years. I can’t tell you how excited I was in 2006 when the Chargers let him go. When I read that he was in Miami talking to the Dolphins I was ecstatic. Finally, a replacement for Marino at the helm! Wait, the Dolphins signed WHO? Dante Culpepper? You have to be flippin’ kidding me! It made no sense. Off Brees went to the Saints to win a Superbowl.
Let’s go a little further back. It was 1996. My buddy Alex was raving about a UM Linebacker. We needed one. I did my research, and watched a couple of UM games. The guy was a force. It was immediately obvious he was next level talent. Dan was still our QB, and Jimmy Johnson was supposed to be a defensive mastermind. This Linebacker was right there in his backyard. At pick 20, Johnson passed on the LB and drafted a DT kid out of Baylor that looked like an old man. We nick-named Daryl Gardener “Klingon” and he never amounted to much. That linebacker? Ray Lewis. Johnson did draft a LB out of Texas Tech in round five that turned out pretty good. But folks, can you imagine our line-backing corps with Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas? Legendary.
Many of the years, I had us drafting QB’s in the first or second round, to try and find the next Dan. In the early 2000’s both Johnson and Dave Wannstedt had a penchant for trading away future picks (which, unless it is for a franchise QB, is a philosophy I vehemently disagree with). So we didn’t have a first rounder until 2004. That year I wanted Ben Rothlesburger, but he was gone when the Phins picked. Alex had me convinced on a DT by the name of Vince Wilfork. Instead the Dolphins chose a tackle whose own coach had nicked named him “coulda been”.
I’m not going to walk through every year. With the exception of 2007 when I really wanted Brady Quinn (I guess Ted Guinn was better? I would point out my Drew Brees pick that would make this mistake unnecessary), I had a better pick or a wash every single year. Let’s close things with out last draft and come back to the current funny car of clowns that manage the Dolphins. Before I knew, as well as after i knew, that we had signed the oft-injured fat old under-performer Julius Thomas for way too much money, I knew the Dolphins needed a TE of the future. It was the a missing element on offense for many years. There were not one, but THREE TE’s I loved for our first round pick. Only O.J. Howard went before the Phins pick. That left Njoku, who was a game breaker in Miami, and Engram, a dominant force at Missouri. Many of the rumors said the Dolphins were going to draft a DE at their pick to “compliment Wake.” The rumors were right, and the Phins picked Charles Harris, who didn’t start, and served up two sacks on a porous Miami run defense. Folks, right now, If I was drafting, David Njoku would be the Miami Dolphins starting tight end of the future. All those dropped passes and catch and lay down plays Thomas had would have been potential game breakers, and that guy is only going to get better. Anyone could have had Harris’s two sacks. I actually had the same guy (Greer?) picked in round 2, Raekwon McMillan. So I can’t complain about that one.
NFL Turn Off
I hate the kneeling thing. From day 1. I don’t want to beat a subject I wish was dead, because SOOOO many people have written about it and discussed it. When it first happened, I immediately wanted to understand why. I spent time and energy, BEFORE everyone was talking about it, to understand why Colin Kaepernick started this. After learning his cause, how can anyone understand it and not support it? The cause absolutely should be supported. However, not the method he chose to bring attention to it. I’m just going to tell you how I feel with analogy. Because of the way I grew up, the respect for anthem and flag and country that was instilled in me, it felt the same to me as when I see people burning a flag, spitting on soldiers, or just plain flipping me off because of my ideals. I agree with and support better relations and better education and training for police, when dealing with the public in general, and with dealing with minorities in particular. They have a dangerous and challenging job, but they have to do it better. Consistently and without exception. All lives matter. Don’t flip me off to get my attention, there are better ways.
I’ve read many articles about it for the last two years and despite many good points, including our American ideals that include a right to protest, which I support, I still don’t like it. To add a note, every serviceman I have asked also hates it. Perhaps my perspective is skewed, since most of them are male and around my age give or take ten. All twenty two (so far) have expressed passionate disdain. In fact, of the people I know who quit watching the NFL, some of them are the same soldiers. It makes think the military people coming forward “in favor of kneeling in protest” in these articles equate to a vast minority, being pushed into the spotlight by writers with a political agenda of their own. It REALLY makes me angry when a media member writes or says “if you don’t support kneeling, you are ignorant, you don’t support the cause behind it.” To those people, you are delusional, don’t speak for me. In fact, come and say that to my face, you won’t like my response. Bottom line: I don’t have a political agenda. I just don’t like it, and the NFL puts it in my face every week.
Aside from the team I love stinking for the past twenty years, and I predict, the next twenty, the other main reason I am quitting boils down to loyalty versus the almighty dollar. In a shorter sentence, I live in San Diego. I saw the Chargers owners manipulations of the public from a neutral chair. There’s a lot wrong with leadership in this beautiful city I’ve called home for the last twenty something years. Nobody really took up the mantle on behalf of so many San Diego fans from a political standpoint. Even the eventual vote was corrupted by the geographical boundaries of who could vote and who could not. I live less than ten minutes from both the old stadium, and the proposed site, and I could not vote on the new stadium measure. Isn’t that outrageous? Despite their obvious greed and failings, it seemed as though no one really tried to work with the Chargers owners. I’ve heard inordinate hours of sports talk radio and read many sports articles, both local and national on the subject. The NFL commissioner came to San Diego and made speeches. I listened. The words were correct, but I found the person and message to be ingenuous. The results proved it out. The Chargers are gone. Blame lies in many places, but ultimately, the promise of greater wealth incited the Spanos family, and there was no counter to that bunch of dimly lit bulbs. I feel terrible for the life long fans of that team. I watched as many packed away, gave away, or publicly burned their team gear. There is a homeless problem in this city, which is not funny, but seeing so many of them now wearing $100+ Charger jerseys is a statement with some humor to it.
Wrapping This Up
There are so many more stories of embarrassment as a post Shula Dolfan to tell, but I have to stop this somewhere. My dad gave me his old Army duffel bag when I was a kid. I used it as a laundry bag in college, for camping, on road trips. Now I pack it with jerseys, jackets, hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, shorts, ties, polos, and even socks to store away in the back corner of my closet. I am thinking that I will not live to see the day that the Dolphins are good again. That they will be worthy of my time, worthy of my passion, worthy of my hard earned money. Maybe my son or daughter, or un-conceived grandchild will have a taste of the excitement I had as a boy. Big O said it well this week (I paraphrase): “At the end of the day, Mike Tannebaum goes home to a nice big house with a paycheck larger than most of us will ever know. So does Adam Gase. So do all the players. If they lose, there’s no impact on them. They still get paid. A lot. We, the fans, are the ones that really lose. We are the ones with the emotional and financial investment. We are the ones that feel the pain of losing.”
Before I go, I thought I would share some of the more entertaining texts of my Dolfan brethren. If you find sarcasm and creative bitterness funny, read on!