Early in the Dolphins’ first training camp practice of the year Thursday, owner Stephen Ross took a moment to address what he believes is the most talented Miami team in “many, many years.”
He told his players that he will be around a lot more this year. That he’s happy with the organization’s direction. And, most importantly, that he wants them to win.
Hours later, Ross — who has spent some $2 billion of his vast fortune on the Dolphins in the past decade — was asked if he’s anxious to see a return on that enormous investment.
“You’re goddamn right.”
Attention Joe Philbin: You’re officially on the clock.
Though Ross wouldn’t explicitly say that Philbin must make the playoffs this fall to keep his job, the message was clear.
The excuses of the past three years no longer apply.
And losing, no matter the reason, will not be tolerated.
Ross turned up the heat on an already charged organization Thursday, saying he’s “expecting” this Dolphins team to reach the postseason. And that Philbin expects the same.
And if those expectations are not met?
“I’d be disappointed,” Ross said. “Obviously, I’d be disappointed.”
Ross’ ultimatum has reached all levels of the organization. Philbin now talks not about improvement, but winning championships. Players are confident this is a playoff team.
The hope is that confidence translates into wins, which in turn lead to increased interest in a team that is no longer the undisputed king of South Florida. The Dolphins have not had a winning season since 2008, and have struggled to reach a new generation of sports fans.
The Miami Heat’s following has soared while the Dolphins’ has waned. Yet Ross believes that the tide could be turning back.
Season-ticket sales, though still far all-time highs, are the strongest they’ve been since 2010. And the $425 million renovations to Sun Life Stadium are “right on schedule and pretty close to budget.”
Ross continued: “Just look at our sales and how the fans are responding to that, and the excitement. The Heat is a different organization now that LeBron James isn’t there. I think the Dolphins are a team that are capturing the imagination of the whole fan base here in South Florida.”
Other takeaways from Ross’ 15-minute meeting with local reporters:
▪ He supports NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in the Patriots’ ball-deflation scheme.
Said Ross: “I have a lot of confidence in Roger and the league offices. I dealt with him with the little [bullying] controversy not too long ago. They’re very objective. I don’t have all the facts. I don’t think any of us have all the facts. But I think the league takes everything into consideration and I have a lot of faith in what the league rules. When it happens to you, everybody is always upset. It’s a natural reaction. But I have a lot of confidence that the league has done the right thing. They have the facts. And I think Roger tries to treat everybody fairly.”
▪ When asked about speculation that the University of Miami might bolt Sun Life to join David Beckham in a joint soccer-football stadium next to Marlins Park, Ross said: “They have a long-term contract and I expect them to live up to that contract.”
Ross said that he would entertain a potential buyout to a lucrative contract with 17 remaining years “if the number is right. But I don’t see that happening.”
▪ Ryan Tannehill has all the ingredients “to be an elite quarterback,” Ross said. “You look at his performance, he’s gotten better every single year, and I think with the tools that he has around him now, it’ll continue to get better, and I think you’ll see that in our wins and losses. You’ve gotta start with our quarterback and I can’t think of a finer person — a guy with the talent, the brains and the athletic ability combined to lead this team.”
▪ Ross is optimistic that, thanks to the renovations to Sun Life, South Florida will receive one of the two future Super Bowls awarded by the league next spring.
DOLPHINS TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
▪ Friday, July 31, 8 a.m.
▪ Saturday, Aug. 1, 8 a.m.
▪ Sunday, Aug. 2, 8 a.m.
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 4, 8 a.m.
▪ Wednesday, Aug. 5, 8 a.m.
▪ Thursday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m.
▪ Friday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m. (at FIU Stadium)
▪ Sunday, Aug. 9, 3 p.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 10, 12:30 p.m.
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 11, 8 a.m.
▪ Saturday, Aug. 15, 1:15 p.m. (Finatics Season Ticket Members only)
▪ Sunday, Aug. 16, 8 a.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 17, 8 a.m.
Note: All practices will be held at Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie except Aug. 7.
Call 954-452-7004 for more information.