Do Latest Offseason Rejections Prove Dolphins' Brand Is Slipping?
QB Peyton Manning's decision to sign with the Broncos after being courted by the Dolphins “tells you how far the Dolphins brand has fallen, how much the bar has been lowered in recent years,” according to Dave Hyde of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland can “calm the waters and help the offense by finding the right quarterback this off-season,” but their “equal job is to figure why the NFL insiders run the other way from their organization.” Hyde writes the Dolphins were the "best fit for his non-football checklist," but when Manning “looked seriously inside the organization, his thoughts changed.” He “back-pedaled so quickly the Dolphins had to enlist the services of former Dolphin greats like Dan Marino and Jason Taylor to phone him and help secure a visit.” The body of work Ross and Ireland “have assembled over the last few years evidently scared Manning.” Hyde wrote, “It's not so much Manning chose another great team. It's that he thought B-listers like Arizona and Tennessee were better” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/20). In Miami, Greg Cote wonders, “What has happened to this once-proud, now-ridiculed franchise?” The Dolphins “lead the league in major rejection despite a proud (if receding) tradition and a tropical locale tourists save up to visit.” Throw in rookie head coach Joe Philbin and “you have a top management that lacks both a heavyweight presence and a track record, a management team that obviously does not inspire confidence but rather invites trepidation.” Dolphins officials’ “recent failures have been spectacular.” Cote: “Reputations can form and harden quickly, and recent results suggest it has been tough for Miami’s owner and GM to overcome the perception -- fair or not, accurate or not -- that they are in over their heads.” Ireland has made “some solid moves here that worked,” but if he is “not respected around the league, rejections will continue” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/20). DEADSPIN.com's Barry Petchesky wrote, "Believe me when I tell you that I say this with zero malice: the Dolphins are a pathetic franchise at the moment." Manning took a meeting with Philbin and his staff only "as a favor" to Marino, who "called Peyton's personal phone and pleaded for some show of engagement" (DEADSPIN.com, 3/19).
THE BLAME GAME: The SUN-SENTINEL’s Hyde writes it is “becoming open season on Ireland from his NFL players.” Free agent LB and former Dolphin Joey Porter said of the problems with the team, "Jeff Ireland has a big part to do with it. I don't think when you come in and you're being recruited by him you really believe the things that are coming out of his mouth. He's just a guy that is not trustworthy." It is “one thing for Ireland to be a front-office tough guy,” but it is “another for him to have the kind of developed reputation that's hurting the football team.” Hyde: “And we're at that point now” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/20). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said players do not want to play for the Dolphins, and noted, “I look at the Miami Heat, everybody wants to play basketball there. I look at the Miami Marlins now, it seems like people want to play there.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon noted Ireland is “not calling the shots at those two franchises.” Kornheiser: “If it is this one guy -- and he’s the guy who asked Dez Bryant, ‘Is your mother a prostitute’ -- maybe that went out among players and they said, ‘We’re staying away from this guy.’ ... I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to play for the Miami Dolphins. That’s a wonderful, historic franchise” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/19). NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington said of the Dolphins, “If you are confused about the Dolphins’ blueprint right now, you are not alone. This is a situation where internally within that building some are starting to wonder what is up general manager Jeff Ireland’s sleeve.” NFL Network’s Warren Sapp said of the Dolphins, “It’s like an exodus right now in Miami. Everyone is leaving like Hurricane Andrew is coming. ... Right now their front office is in shambles” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/19).
SLIPPING FROM NO. 1? Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said that market research conducted by the franchise “shows the team remains a top-five brand across the country.” But in Ft. Lauderdale, Izzy Gould noted, “After years of bad hires and losing seasons, the Dolphins these days seem to be struggling to put it all back together.” The team “struck out landing big names such as Manning, [Matt] Flynn and coaches Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh.” They have “suffered through three straight losing seasons,” and attendance at Sun Life Stadium “is falling and they've had to buy thousands of unsold tickets to keep games on television locally.” In addition, the Dolphins are also “facing increasing competition from other franchises -- the Heat, Marlins and Panthers -- for the local sports dollar” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/19).