Armando Salguero

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wasn't exactly blown away by team's early-round picks

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is starting his tenth season as the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is starting his tenth season as the owner of the Miami Dolphins. Miami Herald Staff

After months of studying prospects and having set their board for weeks before the first night of the NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins brass was in agreement about picking Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round when they were on the clock.

Except club owner Stephen Ross was not sold.

At all.

The Boston Globe reported over the weekend that Ross "stepped in and implored his team to trade back, both to acquire more picks and save money on the first-rounder."

That's only half right. Ross did indeed speak up.

He wanted his people to think more strategically. He wanted them to consider multiplying the team's pick by trading down for extra picks. He wanted the Dolphins to consider more outside-the-box strategies and possibilities before merely turning in the Fitzpatrick selection.

"Correct," Ross said in an email Tuesday morning. "Saving money will never be an issue when it comes to winning."

The money dynamic was not part of Ross' thinking. The billionaire real estate developer has done everything throughout his previous nine seasons as owner to give the team's leadership all the resources it requires to try to win.

But the execution of that attempt has sometimes underwhelmed Ross. That was initially the case when executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and coach Adam Gase wanted to pick Fitzpatrick at No. 11.

And that was something of a theme for Ross on the draft's second night, when the Dolphins selected Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round and Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker in the third round., both picks coming without the team moving or trading for extra picks and neither selection a quarterback.

Ross left the team's facility that night saying he hoped the players would work because his people told him they had a plan for the players.

But the owner was not exactly enthusiastic or absolutely certain and sold on the picks.

"We'll see," he said. "Nobody knows for sure with this stuff."

That's a different view of the Dolphins' early draft haul than what general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum painted both during and after the draft.

“He’s like a Swiss Army knife.," Grier said of Fitzpatrick after selecting him. "He does a lot of things really good. You’ve heard everybody talk, it’s his skill set. He gives your defense a chance to be flexible and do a lot of different things. It’s his football intelligence, his love for football, and he’s been a productive player from the minute he stepped on campus at arguably one of the best programs in college football.”

Fitzpatrick is perhaps the most notable addition in an offseason the Miami leadership trio has authored and is happy about.

“I think it’s still like a work in progress," Tannenbaum said. "I think Adam, Chris and I sat down with Steve after the season and talked about a lot of things. We feel like we’re heading in the right direction.

"We really like the group here as a whole; but as Chris already mentioned, I’m sure between now and opening day, there will be some other changes. There always are. That’s what our charge is. That’s really the fun part of the job now that this is over. Maybe the media spotlight isn’t as bright, but there will be opportunities to improve.

"We feel like we’re going in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of work to be done."

A couple of things...

Ross should not be blamed for wanting to maximize the pick at No. 11 or being less than certain either player selected the second night will be stars. Indeed, history has given him reason to be skeptical and want better results.

Fitzpatrick is probably a good pick. He's definitely a safe pick. But unless he becomes a latter-day Ed Reed, Fitzpatrick isn't going to change the course of the team's fortunes. And the other two early picks seem promising, but both come with notable questions — Gesicki whether he will be tough enough to even get off the line of scrimmage, and Baker whether he will be physical and instinctive enough to play as a weak-side linebacker despite being undersized.

Ross, meanwhile, badly wants his team to rise from the doldrums of mediocrity it has battled a majority of the last decade under five different coaches, three different general managers and two different executive vice presidents.

All have told Ross the team is going in the right direction. None have yet to deliver consistent winning.

So here's the lingering question:

If Ross was not initially blown away by the idea of Fitzpatrick, and is not certain either Gesicki or Baker are right, why should fans be?

One assumes Ross gets the best sales job in the entire organization. He's privately given information and told stuff that never sees the light of day — until they get leaked by someone to the Boston Globe, which is a troubling issue for another day.

So if Ross gets that information and sales job and merely agrees to go along, as he eventually did on the Fitzpatrick pick, then why should fans be all sorts of fired up about what happened?

A wait-and-see posture is probably wise here.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
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