Every time Dolphins owner Stephen Ross speaks, he makes news. He was at it again Tuesday.
Eight months after calling the 2015 roster Miami’s most talented in “many, many years” — only to see the Dolphins lose 10 out of 16 games — Ross was characteristically blunt about the failures of that roster, and the men he picked to lead it.
Speaking with reporters during a break in the annual NFL owners meetings at the Boca Raton Resort, Ross said Miami’s lost 2015 campaign was “probably” the result of an overestimation of talent on the roster and a failure in coaching.
“It’s never one thing,” Ross said. “Obviously, we made a decision on the coaching, didn’t we? I think that speaks for itself.”
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They did indeed, firing Joe Philbin after Week 4 and then all but cleaning house at the season’s end.
But Ross didn’t stop there. He delivered his most pointed criticism of Philbin yet, saying the deposed coach likely stunted Ryan Tannehill’s growth as a quarterback.
“[Tannehill has] had one coach in his four years in the league,” Ross said. “He actually played under [former offensive coordinator] Mike Sherman in the same system when he came into the league.
“I think with [new coach Adam Gase’s] experience and track record with quarterbacks, I think, giving the confidence back to Ryan that probably he hasn’t had, and the support of the coaches, I think he’s very optimistic and looking forward to this year.”
Flanked on each side by Mike Tannenbaum and Tom Garfinkel, who respectively run the organization’s football and business worlds, Ross spent more than 20 minutes candidly discussing the failures of a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008.
Among the biggest takeaways:
▪ Miko Grimes’ outspoken (and profane) criticism of the Dolphins played a role in the team’s decision to cut her husband Brent.
“I think everybody knows what she represented and I thought it was best that the Dolphins move on from Brent and Miko,” Ross said.
▪ Ross supported Tannenbaum’s decision to trade for corner Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, which cost the Dolphins five draft spots in the first round.
“We’re addressing our needs and I think the trade, moving down [five] spots and hopefully ending up with three starters, is a good move,” Ross said.
▪ The team shrugged off criticism that it hasn’t been aggressive enough in free agency. The Dolphins seemingly have several holes on the roster, despite having $20 million in salary-cap space.
“I think we’re doing what needs to be done,” Ross said. “Some players, as you know, we thought we’d have [running back] C.J. Anderson, and we had money set aside for him. Unfortunately, they matched our offer. I don’t think we have really any major disappointments.”
▪ When pressed on areas where the Dolphins have improved, Tannenbaum pointed to safety, athleticism at linebacker and size at corner.
As for what keeps him up at night, Tannebaum said the Dolphins could use more depth at offensive line, running back and in the secondary. The Dolphins addressed their line Tuesday, signing former Bills offensive lineman Kraig Urbik.
▪ Tannenbaum’s thoughts on the five-year, $85 million contract the Giants offered to former Dolphins pass rusher Olivier Vernon?
“I can’t opine on other people’s decisions. I’m sure people have rolled their eyes at some of the decisions I’ve made or we’ve made in our career, so every team is going to do what they think is in their interest, where they are in their program, so I don’t think it would be fair for me to opine.”
▪ The Dolphins’ $425 million stadium renovation remains on schedule — but perhaps over budget.
“That’s my problem,” Ross said when asked if the project’s price tag has gone up.
But the organization insists the canopy will be in place for the start of the season, as planned.
“It’s really up to the contractor to deliver,” Ross added.
▪ Despite seven consecutive years out of the playoffs, the Dolphins should have no trouble filling that stadium. Garfinkel said both season-ticket sales and renewals are ahead of last year’s pace. The Dolphins ranked fifth in the NFL last year in percent of stadium capacity sold per game (102.9 percent).
“I think people are very enthusiastic,” Ross said.