To say that the Miami Dolphins have had a horrible offseason is like saying that minority owner and occasional entertainment consultant Jennifer Lopez is a fairly decent-looking gal. The 'Fins have been rejected by nearly every free agent player they've chased, and they're a bit of a running joke at this point. While general manager Jeff Ireland is taking the brunt of the media abuse for the team's current dysfunction, team owner Stephen Ross must also shoulder a great deal of responsibility. How is it that a team in Miami (of all places) can have so many talented players running like heck to get out of the city limits after visiting the team's facilities?
According to Izzy Gould of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ross is now very concerned about damage control with an increasingly apoplectic fanbase. To that end, he scheduled a phone call with Dolphins fan Jason Lawrence, who's been a season ticket holder for over 20 years. Lawrence was one of the protesters who made their feelings known at the Dolphins facility during a time when Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and Alex Smith were slipping away from the franchise in chronological order. The call was set up by team CEO Mike Dee, and Ross talked with Lawrence for 27 minutes.
"I was nervous as hell," Lawrence told Gould. "I was shaking, and everything. I thought they were going to be upset. ...It was the coolest thing I ever did in my whole life."
Ross revealed a few very interesting tidbits about the general thought process of the Dolphins' front office:
-- He told Lawrence that had the Dolphins not traded receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks, the mercurial pass-catcher would have been cut outright. "[Ross] said they had been shopping [Marshall] for a couple weeks," Lawrence said. "Nobody would return their phone calls about getting him. If Chicago didn't take [Marshall] … they would have ended up cutting him very shortly after that, and got nothing." Of course right after the trade was announced, the news came out that Marshall, who has an exhaustive history of disputes with team officials and police in multiple states, was involved in an incident in a New York nightclub. Apparently, both teams knew of the incident before the trade.
Oh ... and ouch, Bears. You could have had Marshall for nothing.
-- The Dolphins were not going to enter the Tebow sweeptakes. "[Ross] told the staff immediately unless Tim Tebow can help them win, they're not interested in getting him."
-- Regarding the quarterbacks who refused to stay and play in Miami, Ross told Lawrence that he met with Manning for 90 minutes while the future Hall-of-Famer was touring different cities and making his decision. In the end, Manning wrote Ross a letter explaining why he wasn't comfortable with the Dolphins, and that was that.
Flynn, who could have worked with new Dolphins head coach and former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks instead. "[Ross] goes, 'If my coach wanted Matt Flynn, didn't you think he would be here?'" Lawrence said. "'If my coach said I want Matt Flynn as our starting quarterback next year he would be here, but I couldn't pay Matt Flynn $8 million to come here. If I end up getting him, it's a gamble … and I'm still drafting a quarterback. I'm still looking for another option."
Kind of a mixed message there, no? If your coach wanted Flynn in Miami, he'd be there, but not at $8 million per year? As Bill Parcells might ask, who's buying the groceries here?
As for Smith, Ross said that the quarterback wanted to play in Miami, but Ross could not justify paying that $8 million per year when Matt Moore has enjoyed similar production. In this case, Ross actually has a pretty decent point. In 2011, Smith completed 271 of 445 passes for 3,144 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Moore completed 210 passes in 347 attempts for 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine picks. Neither quarterback had what you would call elite targets, so it made sense for Smith to go back to San Francisco, where he has a much better chance to win with head coach Jim Harbaugh -- especially after Harbaugh breathed new life in to Smith's career.
-- To Lawrence's concern that the Dolphins don't care enough about winning to close these deals, Ross had this response:
"[Ross] said, 'I'm telling you right now I want to sit next to you and I want to beat my chest with you,'" Lawrence said. "'I didn't buy this team to make money, or to run a business. I'm passionate. I want to win, I'm a winner.'"
Not this season, he isn't. The phone call was an interesting gambit, but there's still something rotten going on in that organization ... and all the PR spackle in the world won't make it go away.