Stephen Ross was all about bridging divides Friday night.
His growing RISE initiative held a star-studded forum on racism that SiriusXM carried live.
And he even got a warm hug from Brandon Marshall, who was happy to participate even though Ross traded him away in 2012 after two tumultuous seasons in Miami.
Things are peaceful back in Davie, too. The dysfunction that poisoned the organization in the past is now a distant memory. Ross likes the new power-sharing equilibrium between Mike Tannnenbaum, Adam Gase and Chris Grier so much, he intends to keep it in place for a long time.
“We're keeping it together,” Ross told the Miami Herald Friday. “This is not about contracts. This group is staying together.”
Added Ross, who declined to say if Tannenbaum has received an extension: “They're all on the same page, they're all working. There's absolutely no issues. There's never been a situation that I've seen, where they've really all enjoyed working with each other, they rely upon each other and they really worked as a team.”
The Dolphins owner was far more upbeat Friday than the last time he spoke publicly -- immediately after his team’s 30-12 playoff loss to the Steelers.
But that doesn’t mean he’s complacent. Far from.
What he wants from his team in 2017:
“[To] continue to improve, and I think, add onto it, and kind of shore up some of where we were weak and have a better team that's really capable of taking the next step.”
The next step would be to win a playoff game. Or two. Or maybe even three. If they do that next year, Ross will do more than host a forum on race in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. (“It was great,” Ross said of the packed-house conversation at Texas Southern University, which featured current players Marshall, Michael Bennett, Michael Thomas and many more.)
He’d be preparing for the Dolphins’ first Super Bowl appearance in more than three decades.
There’s little doubt Ross believes he has the coach to lead the franchise there.
Gase impressed Ross with “how he's been able to change the culture in such a short period of time, the people feel it, the locker room feels it, the players feel it, the whole organization feels it. You look at it, I think the stadium kind of embodies the whole thing. It's all coming together all at the same time, but it's all with a long-term view, and let's keep it that way.”
Ross, who turns 77 in May, surely thinks about his legacy, and believes he’s made the franchise better than how he bought it.
“If you look at just the front office, if you look at the way people react to each other, you look at the feeling throughout the whole organization, up and down the line,” Ross said. “It's not just in the locker room, it's not just in the front office, it's the business side of it, and I think the community is feeling it. They can see it, the reaction in the community. We now have all sold-out games. It's a ticket that's hard to get now. I think the Miami Dolphins are really coming back to what the community thought they were originally. I'm very excited about the future.”