Stephen Ross mentioned the Dolphins plan for success about half a dozen times Monday during his state of the team address, so midway through I asked the owner what that plan is for 2013.
The question should be easy.
It basically absolves Ross and the Dolphins of everything that has happened the past four losing seasons because it looks toward the future rather than the past. It doesn’t really require intricate details because no one really expects an NFL team to unveil strategy.
The owner, briefed on the coming offseason’s direction by his head coach and general manager, should be able to easily give us the talking points of how his team will turn perennial failure to success.
But in this seemingly easy exercise, Ross struggled.
His plan for 2013?
“Win,” he said.
Firstly, that is a goal. That is not a plan.
Secondly, as I followed up with Ross, wasn’t winning part of the equation last year? Or the past four seasons he has been the owner?
“This is really the first time I’ve really gotten involved,” Ross answered. “I didn’t select the people that were here before. I was handed a situation that, for one, I was kind of painted to the wall. When [Bill] Parcells left it was my fault, when Miami lost it was my fault, and all that. I have a lot of respect for Bill, but I didn’t put together that organization.
“I also felt that I should learn a little bit before I started making moves. Making moves for the sake of making moves is sometimes probably the worst move you can make. You want to sit back and really assess the situation, which I was able to do, so that was probably good from that standpoint.”
It’s interesting to know Ross actually believes after four years as owner, 2012 was truly his first year. But other than that, I have no idea what he means.
All I know is he didn’t answer this simple question:
What is the Dolphins’ offseason plan for 2013?
That’s the question fans want answered. The answer will help fans decide whether to buy tickets or continue to watch on TV. The answer will help us gauge whether the Dolphins have a realistic chance to win. And ultimately, the answer will help us know a year from now if these guys got it right or not.
We don’t have that answer now, because what we got Monday was a jumbled message.
At one point Ross said the Dolphins believe in building through the draft, and seemed to dismiss the ability of free agency to significantly help the cause of bringing a franchise wins.
“I think, as the coach has stated, you want to build through the draft, and you certainly look and see what’s out there in free agency and seeing you get the right player that will fit in that locker room and would bring the right kind of ingredients and is still hungry enough — that isn’t just signing for the big contract,” Ross said.
“Free agency certainly isn’t the answer. We’ve all seen that. You can talk about the failures in free agency more than you can about the successes. Everybody gets all excited when you sign a player and, ‘My God, we’re going to win.’ You haven’t seen that, I can’t think of a player you could say that really happened with, because I think the philosophy is you know you’re players better than anybody else and you know who you want to sign, who you want to keep as part of that. Often times there’s a reason why a guy is out there as a free agent.”
Fine, so the Dolphins have not been a big free agency player the past two offseasons and might not be again this offseason. Except that earlier, Ross said kind of the opposite.
“I’m willing to spend whatever it takes to build it,” Ross said. “I think sometimes people look at spending as a way of winning and in business it isn’t money that solves problems. It’s brains that solve problems and using your abilities. But certainly all my resources are there, and if the right players are there, I don’t care what it costs. We’ll go after them.”
So which is it? Are the Dolphins going to go after “the right players” no matter the cost? Or do they believe, as Ross said, “free agency isn’t the answer?”
This is what I was hoping to hear but didn’t:
I wanted Ross, a man with a brilliant business mind, to be clear and tell us the Dolphins will be on the attack in 2013, starting with the offseason.
I wanted to hear that everything is on the table as a possible solution to four consecutive losing seasons — including free agency, the draft and trades.
I wanted to hear that free agency has brought success to teams such as Denver (Peyton Manning), New Orleans (Drew Brees), Green Bay (Reggie White and Charles Woodson), Atlanta (Michael Turner), Minnesota (Jared Allen) and the New York Giants (Plaxico Burress), rather than some fiction about it never succeeding.
I wanted to hear that trades, including some on draft day, have helped New England (Randy Moss), Seattle (Marshawn Lynch), Baltimore (Anquan Boldin), Houston (Matt Schaub), Atlanta (Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones) and Washington (Robert Griffin III), rather than not have it mentioned at all.
Ross said 2012 left him “disappointed” because the team didn’t win. He added next year he wants the team in the playoffs.
Well, unless the so-called “plan” the owner referenced so often includes a serious foray into free agency and an openness to make trades, Ross will likely to be disappointed again a year from now.