Stephen Ross met Tony Dungy late in 2011 and soon offered him a job filling an advisory role with the Dolphins. Dungy declined, but the former Super Bowl winning coach and the Dolphins owner stayed in contact, and Ross even got Dungy’s input when Miami was hiring a new coach last year.
Now Ross is turning to Dungy again.
Ross offered and Dungy accepted an appointment to a committee that after this season will review organizational conduct policies and make recommendations on various areas to improve.
And whatever you might think of committees setting internal policies that coaches have traditionally set, let me say this: At least Ross is trying.
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But as with all things involving the Dolphins for the past decade, this committee thing is not enough to actually make a big difference. It is not enough to turn the Dolphins into a consistent winner.
Ross should meet with Dungy and at that meeting present one of the NFL’s most respected men and gentlemen with a blank check he can fill in if he joins the Dolphins.
Ross should offer Dungy the franchise’s reins, make him the face of the franchise publicly and its most powerful man internally. And Ross should make it clear that $10million, $15 million, whatever amount of money it takes on an annual basis to convince Dungy to join the Dolphins is a bargain if Dungy can help turn this rudderless ship around.
I’m not saying make Dungy the Dolphins coach. Dungy already has been there and done that and the Super Bowl ring he owns is clear evidence he has nothing further to prove in that capacity.
I’m saying make Dungy the highest-ranking executive with power to hire and fire everybody except Ross himself. I’m talking about convincing Dungy he would be helping the Dolphins but also becoming a trailblazer in the NFL management field as surely as he was a trailblazer when he became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Make him an owner
And if none of that works, then try this:
Offer Dungy a significant ownership stake in the Dolphins — no, not like the largely ceremonial and often ridiculed celebrity partners Ross enticed a few years ago — but as a serious partner with actual and immense power.
Ross should do this. Ross needs to do this because his team is only slightly less embarrassing than Toronto’s mayor. Ross needs to do this because fans are abandoning him and the Dolphins now and many who remain are hiring airplanes to fly “Fireland” banners over the stadium Sunday.
Ross should do this because the wide swaths of empty seats in his aging stadium when the Dolphins play the Chargers are only going to get wider and unfillable with folks who were gifted free tickets.
Ross should start working on this immediately because Dungy would be a valuable get, but he also would be a tough get.
That’s because Dungy’s instinctive response to this idea is to not accept.
“As I have said many times, I have no plans to work for a team in coaching or any other management capacity,” Dungy said in a statement released to me when I asked his current employer, NBC, for an interview. “I’m very happy in my role with NBC Sports and my other off-the-field endeavors.”
Well, that ends things right there, correct?
Releasing a statement to the media is one thing. Actually sitting in front of that grand opportunity and turning it down might be an altogether different matter.
And Ross, who should be desperate to rehabilitate an ownership tenure punctuated by that infamous chase of Jim Harbaugh behind Tony Sparano’s back, the failed effort to hire Jeff Fisher, contract extensions given to people he soon fires and, of course, four consecutive losing seasons, should be itching to swing for the fences in hopes of connecting.
That’s because Dungy has everything the Dolphins truly need.
He is so respected around the league that troubled players and star players alike call him for advice. He is so well regarded and wise that coaches and at least one owner calls him for counsel.
Dungy obviously knows what it takes to win. The Indianapolis Colts made the playoffs every year he was their coach.
He has the experience of having played the game with Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the New York Giants. The Dolphins, who admit to having locker room dysfunction if committees are needed to set locker room standards, surely could benefit from a man who was not a star but nonetheless a leader in the Steelers locker room of the 1970s.
Dungy also rose to his head coaching success the hard way — as an assistant with the Steelers, Chiefs and Vikings. The point is he can recognize good coaches and assistants.
The first man to give two-time Super Bowl coach Mike Tomlin an NFL job? Dungy. He also gave Rod Marinelli, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell and Clyde Christensen their first NFL jobs.
Did I mention Dungy and Smith are close friends?
Smith is unemployed now because the Bears fired him last season after his team won 10 games but missed the playoffs. Some Dolphins fans would perform unspeakable acts in exchange for a 10-win season.
Smith won the NFC North three times with the Bears and took them to Super Bowl in 2006. The Bears were 13-3 that year. Their quarterback was Rex Grossman.
Are you kidding me?
Tony Dungy as the Dolphins’ chief executive and Lovie Smith as head coach?
Why isn’t Stephen Ross working overtime on this already?