SBD/Issue 81/Franchises

Ross Apologizes For Handling Of Dolphins' Coaching Search

Ross Admitted He Did Not Inform Sparano
Before Meeting With Jim Harbaugh

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross on Saturday "expressed regret for the way in which he conducted his business during a bizarre, unforgettable week," according to Jeff Darlington of the MIAMI HERALD. Ross led a 40-minute "roundtable discussion with a limited group of media at the team's facility, at which time he provided an overdue dose of transparency that outlined the details of his mishandled exploration for a new head coach." Ross and Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland last week interviewed then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, but Ross said that he "never told" Dolphins coach Tony Sparano about the meeting. Ross: "Not until after I read the newspapers did I realize the anguish I'd put Tony through. I'm not familiar with going through this process, but I never thought it would be national news. I was a little naive. Looking back, I can tell you I shouldn't be talking to any coaches, seeking a replacement, until I've decided that I needed to make a change." He added, "Everything I did was because I wanted a winner, just like the fans do. Would I go about it differently, having been here once before? Yeah, I'd go about it differently." Ross clarified that former Chiefs President, CEO & GM Carl Peterson, his friend, "did not attend the trip to California" to interview Harbaugh, as had been widely reported. Peterson "remains strictly a business friend, but he has no say in football input for the Dolphins" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/9). Ross and Ireland both admitted that they "made several blunders last week, especially in their lack of communication with Sparano." Ireland said, "There's no doubt in my mind, the lines of communication should have been handled differently" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/9).

TRYING TO MOVE ON: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino cited a Dolphins source as saying that the team has extended Sparano's contract "two years, through 2013." His $2.8M annual salary "is believed to remain in the same range, and he will also have an 'expanded role' in player personnel decisions" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/8). ESPN.com's Tim Graham wrote the Dolphins "will go through a healing process in the coming months." Team officials "need to set aside their differences and get ready to evaluate prospects at the Senior Bowl and then the NFL scouting combine." They will "need to work together through free agency," and also be "on the same page at the draft." Graham: "The Dolphins fully expect to move past this. But so often these fractured relationships simply don't have a happy ending" (ESPN.com, 1/8).

OUT OF HIS LEAGUE: In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes under the header, "Naive Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Runs Team Like Starstruck Fan." Ross seems "uncommonly starstruck for a billionaire with access to powerful people in all walks of life." As good a coach as Sparano "may eventually demonstrate himself to be, he'll never have the crackle of celebrity." He never will be the "straw that stirs the drink, or the center of cocktail party conversation at Ross' Palm Beach mansion" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/10). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "The Dolphins are worse than an NFL laughingstock right now. ... The Dolphins are national clowns for the nincompoop bungling of the coaching situation by Ross" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/9). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda wrote, "A once-proud NFL brand is in tatters. The Dolphins, despite their most recent failings and almost 40 years without a Super Bowl title, long have been one of sports' signature franchises. Now, it's dysfunctional" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/8). ESPN L.A. Managing Editor Eric Neel said, "They're left with nothing except a bad reputation. Sparano ends up looking good and they look like a mess" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/7). In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote Ross has "embarrassed the Miami Dolphins, his coach, his fans, and himself" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/7). On Long Island, Bob Glauber wrote under the header, "What Is Ross Thinking?" (NEWSDAY, 1/8).

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote Ross made "some missteps, sure," but as the "truth spilled into a boardroom at Dolphins headquarters Saturday, the overriding emotion was an uneasy one about why this story became so coast-to-coast big at all." Ross "made mistakes" last week, but they "didn't belong in bold type." Hyde: "The real problem Ross had is that nothing in any business tycoon's background prepares him for owning a sports team. Nothing. ... So cut Ross some slack, if you have it in you. He learned a lesson about being a sports owner this week. A hard lesson" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/9). ESPN's Cris Carter: "This is ... a case where we see billionaires who have been very, very successful in other businesses, they come into this business -- this business is totally different. But, you can write a check to cover up for your mistakes" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/9).

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