by Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN), season ticket holder
From 1970 through 2001, the Miami Dolphins were one of the most successful franchises in the history of the National Football League. They played in the postseason on 22 occasions during those 32 seasons, reaching the Super Bowl five times. Their back-to-back Super Bowl victories following the 1972 and 1973 seasons, during which they compiled an NFL record of 32-2, stands as the historical high point of the franchise. During those 32 years the Dolphins won 335 games, lost 191 and tied 2 for a winning percentage of 63.6%. Best of all, only TWO of those 32 seasons were losing seasons.
Head Coach Nick Saban’s final season in Miami (2006) featured a 6-10 season. Saban left Miami for the top job at Alabama in early 2007. He was replaced by Charger’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Cameron’s one year stint as head coach produced a disastrous 1-15 season. A disheartened Wayne Huizenga decided to sell the Dolphins to New York real estate mogul Steve Ross. (Note that Cameron had no prior head coaching experience, a theme of the Ross years.)
Ross’s first season as owner (2008) was a success. The release of quarterback Chad Pennington by the Jets gave director of football operations Bill Parcells a chance to bring the highly rated Pennington to Miami. And a season ending injury to Tom Brady during the first quarter of New England’s first game provided Miami another chance to succeed. They subsequently won the AFC Eastern Division before getting blown out by the Ravens in the playoffs. More dark clouds were on the horizon.
Next season, Pennington suffered a serious injury to his passing arm. His career was nearing an end. And Parcells, unhappy with the direction of the franchise, later walked out the door. Ross turned to GM Jeff Ireland to run the franchise while also relying on the advice of ex-Chiefs GM “King” Carl Peterson. What followed was a seven year run of failure. Seven years without a single winning season, an all-time record for the franchise. After going to the playoffs in 22 of their first 32 seasons in the NFL, the Dolphins failed to win a single playoff game for 15 consecutive seasons! And, under Steve Ross, Miami is 49-64 over the last seven seasons.
And you wonder why I’m NOT happy with Steve Ross?? Well, get ready all you Kool-Aid drinkers. Here come some of my reasons for not liking Ross’s stewardship of the franchise, along with a list of recommendations on how to fix the situation.
THE FRONT OFFICE: The Tuna, Bill Parcells, was a holdover VP of football operations from the Huizenga era. Ross decided to keep not only Parcells but also GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano. All of these choices were poor ones. It was Parcells who oversaw the firing of Cameron and the hiring of Ireland and Sparano. His decision to hire Ireland & Sparano will go down as two of the worst hires in Dolphin history. The fact that Ross approved all of these moves makes him culpable. The fact that Ross later extended the contracts and gave raises to Ireland and Sparano (before firing them) makes Ross look like a football idiot!!
Ross’s hiring of Mike Dee as Dolphins’ CEO in 2009 is another head scratcher. Dee, a former COO of the Boston Red Sox, came to Miami with NO FOOTBALL QUALIFICATIONS TO RUN A FOOTBALL FRANCHISE!! In 2013, Dee failed miserably to get $350 million in public tax money to upgrade Sun Baked Stadium. In the process, Dee pissed-off major Republican leaders in Tallahassee. His failure to get this upgrade funding ultimately defeated Miami’s bids to host Super Bowl 50 and/or SB 51. Currently, Dee is CEO of the San Diego Padres.
Two years ago, Ross hired ex-Buccaneers’ assistant GM Dennis Hickey to be the next GM of the Dolphins. The jury is still out on Hickey, who was recently fired by Ross. I believe his two drafts for Miami were better than most of Jeff Ireland’s drafts. But Hickey’s status became moot when fired Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum was hired by Ross to oversee football operations in 2015. “T-Baum was seen in a heated debate with Hickey during last year’s draft. Few doubted that T-Baum had the final say on who was selected, making Hickey’s status very shaky.
Ross’s choice of Tannenbaum is yet ANOTHER poor selection on his part. T-Baum’s last two years in New York were a disaster (details too nauseous to repeat here). Suffice it to say he was fired after the 2014 season. Ross’s fascination with PROVEN LOSERS absolutely mystifies me. And, remember, T-Baum is the guy who paid out hundreds of millions of Ross’s dollars to Suh, Tannehill, etc., in an effort to upgrade the Dolphins for 2015. The result? The 8-8 Dolphins of 2014 became the 6-10 Dolphins of 2015! FAILURE!!!
So here’s my verdict on Ross’s decisions to retain or hire the following FRONT OFFICE PEOPLE:
1) BILL PARCELLS; FAILURE.
2) MIKE DEE; FAILURE.
3) JEFF IRELAND; FAILURE.
4) DENNIS HICKEY; TO BE DETERMINED.
5) MIKE TANNENBAUM; FAILURE.
THE HEAD COACHES: More bad news on these retentions/attempted hires/hires by Steve Ross:
1)TONY SPARANO; FAILURE.
2) The HARBAUGH HIRE ESCAPADE; FAILURE.
3) The JEFF FISHER REJECTION; FAILURE.
4) TODD BOWLES: Coached Miami to a 2-1 record and was let go by Ross. Bowles was 10-6 in 2015 as HC of the Jets. Has NO CHANCE to get hired by Ross because he’s a proven WINNER BOTH IN MIAMI AND NEW YORK!!
5) JOE PHILBIN: FAILURE.
6) DAN CAMPBELL: FAILURE.
7) ADAM CASE: TO BE DETERMINED. WAS O/C of the 6-10 Chicago Bears in 20015. WHOOPEE!! Has NO HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE AT ANY LEVEL. Sound familiar?
THE STADIUM UPGRADE:
After the embarrassing effort to get tax dollars failed, Ross announced he’d plunk down $400 million of his own money to upgrade Sun Baked Stadium. Many praised Ross for his efforts. But Ross is NOT doing this out of the goodness of his heart. He’s doing it to get a SUPER BOWL, and its benefits, in Sun Baked Stadium! Ross’s $400 million pales in comparison to the 1.3 billion spent to build Levi’s Stadium (home of Super Bowl 50). And it looks positively puny compared to the over $2 billion spent by the Kroenke family for the Rams’ new stadium in suburban Los Angeles.
The new seats in Ross’s stadium look nice, but the fact that ROSS REMOVED about 11,000 of them will be viewed negatively by those who award Super Bowls. Anyway, this Super Bowl talk is irrelevant to Dolphin fans. Miami has NO CHANCE of going to the Super Bowl as long as Ross owns the team and sticks with the current philosophies expressed in his past football decisions.
Ross’s alleged “Shade Devices” constructed over the stadium actually will NOT help most who are seated in the lower deck seats, including yours truly. Same old, same old, in the hot months of September and October. And speaking of those peak hurricane months, the next category 4 hurricane that hits Miami Gardens likely will do massive damage to Ross’s “Shade Devices.” I’m calling “BULLSHIT” on any claim that this stadium project is hurricane proof!!! Perhaps if Ross actually LIVED in south Florida (instead of New York), he would know better!! Conversely, Marlins’ Stadium, totally enclosed and air conditioned, is constructed so that it likely will withstand a category 4 hurricane (according to an analysis I saw on, I believe, either the Weather Channel or the National Geographic Channel). Ross SHOULD HAVE DONE what was done in Miami regarding the construction of the stadium. For an estimated cost of $700-$800 million (according to a Google article) Ross could have built a similar stadium that was NEW, AIR CONDITIONED, AND MUCH MORE RESISTANT TO HURRICANES!! Then he could expect the NFL to put SEVERAL FUTURE SUPER BOWLS in his edifice. Instead, he spent $400 million for an OLD< NOT AIR CONDITIONED, stadium that is far from hurricane proof! –STUPID!!!!
One of the most hate-raising issues associated with Ross’s stewardship of the franchise is the issue of seat assignments. I was told I COULD NOT buy tickets between the goal lines on the Miami side, even though I’ve been a season ticket holder almost since forever last season. Nor would I be allowed to buy tickets on the visitor’s side between the 30’s, either. I found that people with 2-3 years as ticket holders were given preferential seating treatment and location over people like me and “MY BOYZ” who’ve been lifelong loyal season ticket buyers. The guy who got tickets one row in front of my brother-in-law (Jim) has had tix for just ONE YEAR! When Ross said he’d offer tickets according to how long we’ve been ticket holders HE LIED!!! Just tell the truth, Steve, if you can. It’s REALLY good for business.
Also, there’s the ultra-embarrassing story of Ross’s $1,000-$2,500 seat per game “LAZY BOY SEATS” located on the Miami side near the Dolphins’ bench between the 30 yard lines. THEY WERE MOSTLY EMPTY!! When Dolphin players turned and looked at the crowd, they saw EMPTY SEATS!! Boy, that will get you pumped-up for the 4th quarter, eh??Ross’s ticket agent told me “all those prime seats selling for $1,000 per game (and up) were sold out.” How come they were 75-90% vacant during every game I attended?? I’m calling “BULLSHIT” again!! Sell those seats next year to the highest bidders and put noisy Dolfans near the Dolphins bench as happened in prior years! Bring the THUNDER, not the SILENCE! Fill those seats!
Finally, the parking issue. The price of my parking pass has TRIPLED SINCE 2008! It’s now $300 per season to park in the area where we’ve had our “MOBFESTS.” In this season’s opening game vs. Buffalo, my “PRIME” space was located more than a mile from the stadium underneath the Turnpike overpass way southeast of “Sun Baked.” In 2007, I remember a friend paying $5 to park there! –As for parking lot security, a major security issue at the Chiefs’ game in September of 2014 occurred. My wife will no longer attend games because of this near riot (featuring cars running into each other) inside the southeast corner of the fenced-in lot. NO SECURITY, I REPEAT, NO SECURITY ever arrived in that area despite verbal pleas to officers on the outside of the fence to restore order. We have yet to receive any apology/explanation from the Dolphins almost 18 months later despite two in-person complaints and several email complaints. ROSS JUST DOESN’T CARE!! – – So, be sure to “pack some heat” in your glove compartment if attending future games!!!!!!!
We’ve gone over some of the major problems with the Miami franchise under Ross’s stewardship. Now it’s time for—-
1) CHANGE ADVISERS; Ross has relied heavily on Carl Peterson and Jeff Ireland for advice during the years he’s owned the team. Thankfully, Ireland eventually was jettisoned (but only after he received a contract extension and a pay raise). An article in the SUN-SENTINEL in 2014 stated that Ross consulted with “King Carl” on every major football issue from 2008 to 2014. Eventually, though, Ross brought Mike Tannenbaum into his inner circle of advisers. This came AFTER he was fired by the Jets. “T-BAUM’s” impact on the franchise, so far, has been negative (witness last season’s 6-10 season). Time to CHANGE ADVISERS! I’d strongly suggest that Ross seek out the advice of the Hall-of-Famer himself, former Bills and Colts GM Bill Polian. His advice could be just what our franchise needs to return to its winning ways. And Ross should also ask Polian “Who else would you recommend I take advice from?” I’ll bet neither King Carl nor T-Baum will be on Polian’s list!! Do it, Steve!!
2) STOP HIRING HEAD COACHES WITH NO PRIOR HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE!! –Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin, Dan Campbell and now Adam Gase. Need I say more?? Ross tried to hire guys who had prior HC experience (Harbaugh,Fisher). He botched both of them. KEEP TRYING, STEVE!! And consult with Polian on who to interview. (Perhaps Ross SHOULD let Polian do the interviews?)
3) Our new GM was promoted from within. If this appointment also fails, I’d favor bringing in someone who’s had success in a WINNING FRANCHISE. Hiring guys who’ve worked in a losing franchise IS NOT THE WAY TOO GO!
4) THE STADIUM UPGRADE. I already addressed this issue. PUT ME ON RECORD as favoring a retractable dome/fully air conditioned NEW STADIUM for the Dolphins. Ross’s patchwork approach will prove to be an inadequate failure when the next major hurricane passes over it! DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!!
5) ROSS NEEDS TO LIVE BY HIS WORD that those who’ve had season tickets the longest will get first shot on available seats. This absolutely WAS NOT DONE LAST SEASON!!
6) PARKING LOT SECURITY needs to be upgraded. Having NO SECURITY and TRIPLING parking rates in some areas over a 7 year period IS UNACCEPTABLE. This stunt is pure “King Carl,” going back to his days in Kansas City! FIX IT!!!
7) ONE LAST REQUEST: Put “fannies in the seats” between the 30 yard lines on the Dolphins side in the luxury seats. If prices need to be lowered, then LOWER THEM!! Perhaps giving them away to local high school football players might break the silence and “RESTORE THE ROAR” of the historic Orange Bowl!!
WE ALL WANT A WINNER, STEVE!! – – GET TO WORK!!–The Old Dolfan,” Randy Campbell