Stephen Ross was looking like, well, about $8 billion early Monday morning. He was smiling broadly and feeling good about himself and the football team he owns because his Miami Dolphins are on a winning streak the likes of which has never happened under Ross’s ownership.
That’s right. The last time the Dolphins won four consecutive games as they have now was 2008 — one year before Ross became the team’s owner.
Under Ross this team has never been on this kind of win streak.
Has never had a winning season.
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Has never made it to the playoffs.
But with all those grand possibilities either coming to pass now or looking more like probabilities, as the Dolphins continue to improve, Ross is riding the good times wave as much as any of his players or coaches. That doesn’t mean, however, he’s going to be making bold predictions about the remainder of the season.
“You’re not going to get me to predict we’re going to the playoffs or the Super Bowl,” Ross said. “I’ll never do that again. No predictions. Now maybe if we get there, I’ll make a prediction, but not until then.”
Forget predictions. Ross was more interested in dealing in certainties during this short conversation Monday. He was interested in giving a quick overview of what he sees from his team now.
“I have the right guy now,” Ross said of first-year coach Adam Gase. “I have the guy I wanted.”
Ross inherited Tony Sparano as his first coach. And the two didn’t like each other. So when Sparano’s star, lit by that AFC East championship he won his first season, grew dim amid the losing seasons that followed, his fate was sealed.
Ross hired Joe Philbin and stuck with him from 2012 until the bye week last season. And Ross doesn’t talk much about that period, but anyone with any sense recognizes it didn’t work either on or off the field.
Ross believes Gase is working.
“Adam has already changed the culture of the Miami Dolphins,” the owner declared.
“The organization is working well together now,” Ross added. “That’s the first time that’s happened.”
I agreed with him. The football side of Miami’s organization is working with, rather than as a separate entity from, the business side. That wasn’t always the case during the days when Bill Parcells wanted business out of his hair and kept the football side of the organization, to use Parcells’s own words, “locked up tighter than a tuna can.”
But Ross said he wasn’t just talking about the past split between the football and business side. He wanted to go further.
“I’m saying the football side is working together,” he said. “Everybody’s on the same page for the first time. Nobody is mad at anybody else and letting the entire world know about it through you. Nobody’s calling you or texting you to complain.”
He’s right. The Dolphins as a soap opera was a fact of life late in the Sparano-Jeff Ireland days. It was a fact of life in the Ireland-Philbin-Dawn Aponte days. The drama wasn’t acute or public the past two years because Dennis Hickey conducted himself like a gentleman and a diplomat even as he realized much of his power base shifted to executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum last year.
Hickey eventually departed in what was both his and the organization’s decision.
But none of that tension is apparent now. Even when the Dolphins were 1-4 and the football team seemed less capable on the field than the ones the past dysfunctional brain trusts put on the field, there was no drama between Gase, Tannenbaum and new general manager Chris Grier.
(And, trust me, I would know if there was.)
Gase generally gets the loudest voice in what players the Dolphins hire. Grier makes sure the talent level is up to par. Tannenbaum manages a slew of other issues — including if there are any disagreements — and makes certain the salaries and personalities make sense and fit in the team’s long-term plans.
That doesn’t mean there has been no disagreement. I’m told Gase initially wanted to keep players such as Dallas Thomas, for example, even when he was told by Grier and Tannenbaum and others who were in the organization previously that might not be a good idea.
And when Gase decided he wanted to cut not only Thomas, but also Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas, there was Grier trying to make sure the coach wasn’t making a rash decision out of frustration and thereby destroying Miami’s depth.
So there have been debates. There have been diverging opinions. But there has not been obvious drama. Ultimately Gase, Tannenbaum and Grier have made it work. For the first time in recent memory there really is no soap opera to be written about.
That’s important. It seems separate and apart from what happens on the field, but it really isn’t.
What goes on before 70,000 people on TV every week, the stuff you see, is a product of whether the organization at its core is in turmoil or in agreement. The Dolphins of the past few years obviously could not beat an opposing team on the field when elements of the organization were busy plotting against each other from within.
That inner struggle is not present at the moment. That gives the Dolphins a better chance to win.
And it makes Stephen Ross happy.