ESPN analyst Rex Ryan has been calling assistant coaches from his past to gauge their interest in joining him on his staff if he becomes the head coach in Miami.
And, yes, that includes the Miami Hurricanes, who have a vacancy following Sunday’s retirement of head coach Mark Richt. But it also includes another football team in town — one that Ryan is telling “his guys” could manifest into an interview request in the coming days.
The Miami Dolphins.
The team Adam Gase currently coaches.
League sources say Ryan has told some of the assistant coach candidates that he has a solid chance of landing one or the other Miami job but that he’s an NFL coach at heart and would prefer to coach the Dolphins.
And isn’t this a tangled web Stephen Ross would be weaving amid this 7-9 Dolphins season that ended Sunday with a 42-17 derailment loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The New York real estate developer who hired a former Jets general manager in Mike Tannenbaum four years ago, is now done with Tannenbaum, who will be dismissed as early as this week, per sources. So now he might be interested in the man who coached those same New York Jets from 2009-2014?
It would explain a lot of the aura of mystery surrounding the franchise at its highest levels the past two weeks.
Inside the Dolphins locker room full of defeat and uncertainty a broken roster of players were left to answer for the current calamity. Players vainly tried to answer questions about their futures, the team’s future, or tried to find solutions to problems that have persisted for months and never got solved.
Cameron Wake, 37-years-old next month, talked about what would drive his offseason decision to return to the Dolphins or not next season. And I wondered why he would want to come back to a team that’s mostly wasted his considerable talent with only one playoff season of the 10 he’s been in the NFL.
Ryan Tannehill was trying to explain why the offense played better early in the season but collapsed the last three games -- scoring only one touchdown in each of those games while giving up two on interceptions. And then when the questions turned to his uncertain future, Tannehill smartly checked out because he doesn’t know where he’s going to be next year nor what his role will be.
“I have no idea,” he said. “No idea.”
And later he added, “I can’t really process that right now.”
Gase, meanwhile, gave a brief account of his interaction with Ross after this whitewashing that ended his team’s season with three consecutive losses for the second straight year.
“He didn’t say much,” Gase said of his postgame exchange with the owner. “Usually after the game, whether we win or lose, there’s not a lot said there.”
And amid all these attempts to explain the inexplicable, the one man who is supposed to know what happens next left the scene of his team’s accident without uttering a word.
Without explaining his thinking.
Without the courtesy of speaking to the media, for sure, but to you, Dolphins fans, by extension.
Ross’s people ordered Bills security guards to keep reporters off to one side so that they wouldn’t be able to come anywhere close to the owner.
“They’re saying the Dolphins owner doesn’t want the media to get near him,” one Bills guard said.
Minutes later, Ross was ushered out of the Miami locker room by his lieutenants. And when I asked if he’d stop and talk, he kept walking, mum. So Ross, who has not talked publicly since March, left others to do what is ultimately his job:
To answer for this team.
He left everyone else -- his players, his coaches -- to speculate what was about to happen and what the strategy would be going forward when only he really knows for sure.
It should be noted that at other NFL outposts -- Jacksonville and Tampa Bay among them -- ownership ended weeks of uncertainty by announcing its plans for 2019. Coaches who were being retained were told. Coaches who were being fired, were fired.
Ross, meanwhile, left his people in limbo.
And here is where the bad news comes: Ready?
Whatever Ross was keeping to himself, whatever he’s thinking is the answer, is probably wrong. That’s not based on opinion or frustration but rather on history.
NFL personnel people judge players based on what they’ve done in the past, be it on other teams or in college. NFL coaches judge their players based on what they see in practices or on tape.
We must judge NFL ownership based on track record.
And Ross’s track record on the football side is good in only one area in that is he opens his wallet without reproach. The franchise gets unlimited resources to effect change and try to improve. But this one bright spot is overshadowed by the fact the team has been a consistent loser during Ross’s tenure.
The Dolphins have been to the postseason only once since Ross took over as owner in 2009. And obviously that points to the owner’s inability to hire people who get the franchise on a consistently winning footing.
Remember that Ross retained Jeff Ireland when he decided Tony Sparano should be fired.
And then he hired Joe Philbin and eventually decided Jeff Ireland should be fired.
And then he hired Dennis Hickey, and then kneecapped the general manager a year later by hiring Tannenbaum over him. And, of course, he eventually fired Philbin.
And then Hickey was fired.
And soon Tannenbaum will be fired.
And we wonder Adam Gase’s fate.
There is no excellence in this. There is no thoughtfulness in shotgun weddings. There is no acumen in hiring the right people. There is knee jerk in firing others. And Ross is mostly absent from his team so he never has learned to be a football man to any great degree.
Now Ross might or might not be thinking about Rex Ryan. Maybe he’s consulting again with Bill Parcells. He’s doing whatever he thinks is right like he did those other times when he got it wrong.
No security detail will insulate Stephen Ross from any of this. This mess is of his making.
He owns it all.