After watching his franchise finish with exactly six, seven or eight wins for nine of the past 10 years, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross fired coach Adam Gase on Monday and then unveiled a new way of doing business.
Unlike the past three seasons, Ross revealed he will have a football executive, not a coach, who will control all football decisions, with general manager Chris Grier promoted to that vice president/football operations position, replacing Mike Tannenbaum, who was demoted to an unspecified role and will have nothing to do with football operations.
Over the past three years, Gase controlled the 53-man roster. Ross said Grier will now have that authority, and the new coach will report to Grier, not Ross. And that coaching search began immediately on Monday with the Dolphins asking permission to interview at least four people: Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Steelers offensive line coach and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
But Ross disclosed another significant change, too: There now will be a long-term plan to build a championship caliber team, even if it means taking a step back initially. Ross said he’s prepared to withstand potential growing pains along the way.
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That means the Dolphins will be more inclined to bypass expensive older free agents and instead build around young veterans and draft picks.
“Seeing that today we are no further along than when I bought the team,” Ross said in a Monday morning news conference. “We have been operating under a philosophy that we had a good young roster that needed maybe free agents and draft choices and we would be very competitive. To keep operating under that philosophy would be the definition of insanity — doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I thought it was time for the organization to take a different approach, much like I do in my business....
“We are going to build it the right way and looking to build an organization that can be sustainable and winning … Not just signing free agents that are older and a few draft choices and think you are going to be a contender.”
If the Dolphins continued along the same course, of trying to fill holes through older free agents, “where will we be?” Ross said. “We will be anywhere 6-10 to 10-6. That’s not good enough.”
But would he accept 3-13 seasons in the interim?
“I would hope I don’t have to go 3-13,” Ross responded. “But whatever it’s going to take, we are going to build the organization with the right players who are coming here to win….. If it takes a year or two years or three years, we are going to be there and we’re going to be an organization.”
Ross said he made the decision to fire coach Adam Gase on Sunday night and disputed an ESPN report that Gase was asked to relinquish control over the 53-man roster.
But asked why he fired Gase, Ross said: “I think Adam wants to win now. He’s going to his fourth year. He wants to win, as every coach in your fourth year really has to win. When we win on a sustainable basis — I can’t tell you which year — we will do what it takes to build the organization piece by piece so we have right players that will be here to build that winning tradition and bring it back..”
Ross called firing Gase “one of the toughest decisions I’ve made. I really like Adam. He’s a very bright guy. Worked his tail off. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way we all hoped.”
Gase is expected to emerge as a candidate in Cleveland and potentially elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Ross — with Grier’s assistance — will begin a search for a new head coach. Ross loves Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, but he’s under contract for 2019 and the Ravens are trying to extend his deal. Even if the Ravens were willing to trade him, it would require high compensation.
Beyond Flores and Fangio (who don’t have head coaching experience), other coaches available include former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, former Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It’s also possible Ross might pursue a college coach, considering the franchise’s new plan to rework the roster around younger players.
Though former Jets coach Rex Ryan has been assembling a staff with hopes of landing the Dolphins job, he is not a candidate for the position, according to a source.
Ross said he promoted Grier because “when you talk to people in the NFL, Chris is one of most respected personnel people in the NFL. He’s earned the respect of everyone in organization. He is the best person I can find for this job.
“Chris will have total responsibility leading the organization. He will make all football decisions and report to me. We have a great young roster with some key plays – we are going to build it the right way and bringing in people who will want to win.”
Though Grier will have control over the roster, he said he wants to have unanimity with his coach.
Regarding the head coaching search, Grier wouldn’t rule out coaches who don’t have head coaching experience. “You have to investigate every avenue, finding the right guy who believes in the same things I do in building a team. We talk about having control and I am over it, yeah. But it’s not going to work if he and I don’t share a vision to implement that plan throughout the organization.”
Asked about Ryan Tannehill - who is not expected to return - Grier said the “next head coach will evaluate the roster.”
Grier said he has been influenced by his experience working with Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick Nick Saban and Pete Carroll. “I talk to those guys still about a lot of different things,” he said.
Ross said in his 10 years as owner, “we succeeded in every aspect since I first bought it except winning on the football field. You have seen what we’ve done as organization – [president] Tom Garfinkel has led and you see what we’ve done with the stadium [with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on major upgrades] and creating a better environment for the fans, doing everything the right way, and what we’ve done in the community, I’m very proud of that.
“What I am not proud of is what we’ve done on the football field. That’s what I owe to the fans. I take total responsibility myself. We have to take a different approach because what I want is sustained winning seasons and having an organization that is used to winning because that’s what the fans want and fans deserve.”