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Dolphins' Ross mulls major changes

The SportsXchange

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is contemplating cleaning house with a decision on the future of general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin expected by the weekend.

Ross, who was visibly dejected and declined to comment on the job status of Philbin and Ireland after Sunday's loss to the Jets, is receiving counsel from his appointed advisory board, which includes former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.

Ross said in December that the locker room issues that led to public embarrassment for players and management alike "couldn't have been a worse nightmare." At the time offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team and alleged misconduct, Ross contacted commissioner Roger Goodell and requested an independent investigation which is underway and could be completed in the coming weeks.

The incident took two starting offensive linemen out of the lineup, and more important, shifted the focus from the on-field product.

"I want to apologize to our fans for putting us in this situation," Ross said in December.

Miami finished 8-8, losing the final two games of the season to AFC East rivals Buffalo and the Jets to miss the playoffs. All things considered, Philbin believes he's still the right man for the job.

"I have a lot of faith and confidence in myself, the staff and in our players that we can make the corrections necessary to lead this team to play up to its potential and consistently compete for championships," Philbin said Monday. "That's what I said the day I got here. I stand by what I said the day I got here, and I'm confident that I can do that."

A major focus has been on the late-season collapse of the offense, including the struggled of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the fateful pair of losses to end the season. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and Philbin are longtime friends, but Ross could force a change.

Miami finished 27th in the league in offense (312.9 yards per game), 26th in rushing (90.0), 20th in passing yards (222.9) and 26th in scoring (19.8). Assuming Philbin gets a third year at the helm, there's no certainty offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will be retained. Sherman was Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M, but has come under intense scrutiny due to the Dolphins' low offensive production across the board.

"I have a lot of confidence in our staff, our offensive staff with Mike Sherman. He's an excellent football coach, and that's what I think," Philbin said. Again I've just begun...I haven't gotten to any discussions with any coaches. I'm going to (talk) to every single player. I'm going to talk to every single player, every single coach. We'll decide and determine 2014 at a later point in time."

Tannehill finished with an 81.7 passer rating, but was unable to move the offense when the Dolphins most needed him to the past two weeks. He was also hamstrung by an offensive line that was shaky to begin the season, then lost the right side of his line in the Martin-Richie Incognito saga.

There is precedent for Ross making sweeping changes, or at least seeking solutions without consulting his current coach.

The owner said in December he was pleased with Philbin's response to the tumultuous situation. He did not offer that endorsement of Ireland, or mention him in multiple public comments ont he matter, leading to speculation the general manager would be fired.

In 2011, Ross infamously flew to California to interview Jim Harbaugh while coach Tony Sparano was under contract and working in a head-coaching capacity at the team facility. Harbaugh, then at Stanford, chose to accept an offer from the San Francisco 49ers.

Ross backtracked, offered Sparano a contract extension and then parted with him at the end of the 2012. After hiring Philbin, Ross said Sparano "could never put (courting Harbaugh) behind him."

As of midweek, Philbin said he had not yet met with Ross.

"I'm proceeding, working and beginning my evaluation of the 2013 season," Philbin said. "I'm going to work every single day. We haven't even talked about any of that stuff."

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