Ever since the billionaire Stephen Ross took over ownership of the Miami Dolphins in January 2009 the team has crumbled into irrelevance. It is easy to pick at Ross with his wrongheaded idea that celebrity is what football fans want when they attend a game. Ross made Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan co-owners of the team and established a rocking club in the stadium, so that when the Dolphins are being blown out at halftime the fans can be getting their drink on. But Ross doesn’t get that Dolfans don’t want glitz and glamour. They prefer the nostalgia of hearing the Miami Dolphins #1 song when the Dolphins score their rare touchdowns rather than a Godawful Jimmy Buffet song commissioned by Ross.
But what fans want most from their football team is victory. With the Miami Dolphins starting out 0-4 there won’t be very many attending the season’s remaining games (not even in the club) no matter how many times Marc Anthony sings the National Anthem. But I have connected the dots to see this is part of Ross’s shrewd plan. One does not become a billionaire by being the dummy Ross has appeared over his tenure as owner. No, Ross has very obviously seen the Miami Dolphins as constituted has no chance of competing in the NFL. The team needs an elite quarterback. And there is one playing in Palo Alto, California. His name is Andrew Luck and analysts have called him the best quarterbacking prospect in thirty years. In order to get Luck the Miami Dolphins will need to finish with the league’s worst record. Every move of the last twelve months has been toward securing that position as you can infer from the following chain of events.
January 5, 2011 – With Tony Sparano still the Miami Dolphin’s head coach, Stephen Ross flies to the west coast to recruit Andrew Luck’s Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh, as the Miami Dolphins new coach.
January 6, 2011 – Andrew Luck says he will forgo the draft and stay at Stanford for his Senior season.
January 7, 2011 – Jim Harbaugh is hired as the San Francisco 49ers head coach.
January 8, 2011 – Stephen Ross gives Tony Sparano a two year contract extension to stay as Miami Dolphin’s head coach.
What seems like blundering by Ross was actual shrewd calculation. My interpretation of those four days in January stem from Ross wanting Luck. He thought hiring his college coach would make Miami seem more palatable. But Luck decided to stay in college which meant that in order to get him, Miami would need to tank the next season. Harbaugh wanted no part of that and so decided to stay in the Bay Area. Ross next turned to Sparano who had done a mediocre job the past two years and said we will give you a two year bonus, if you do everything you can to make every wrong decision at every opportune time, so we can lose all our games. If you have seen the first quarter of the Dolphins season, then you know Sparano is playing the good soldier.
The Dolphins then avoided trading for a steady quarterback like Kyle Orton or a prospect with potential like Vince Young and stayed with Chad Henne. Henne this year had not been awful. He has been consistent and avoided the bad decisions that plagued his first two seasons. His competence might have led the Dolphins toward stumbling into a couple victories. So Sparano told the offensive line to stop protecting Henne and the backfield to not pay any mind when Henne changes the play. This led to Henne separating his left shoulder forcing him toward season ending surgery. This ushered in the Matt Moore era. Moore was acquired because his stellar play last year helped the Carolina Panthers get last year’s top pick, Cam Newton.
The one bright spot of the Dolphins season has been rookie running back Daniel Thomas. He almost willed the Dolphins to two victories with his hard running. So in game 4 Thomas was declared injured, and fumble addict Reggie Bush helped the Dolphins lose.
Mr. Ross’ plan is coming to fruition. In three months the Miami Dolphins should be 2-14 with the first pick of the 2012 draft belonging to the Miami Dolphins where Gloria Estefan can serenade Andrew Luck.