Speaking for the first time in a public forum since he introduced Joe Philbin as the team’s new head coach in January, Ross reiterated his commitment to General Manager Jeff Ireland and to doing whatever’s necessary to improve the roster. He, Ireland and CEO Mike Dee sat at one end of a long table during a break in the action at the league meetings and fielded questions from the local and national media.
The last time the league meetings were held at The Breakers in Palm Beach back in 2008, Ross received his official approval from the 31 other owners and was allowed into their elite fraternity. He has learned a lot about being an NFL owner since then.
“It’s a real experience,” said Ross, who took over as majority owner after the 2008 season. “I’ve had more owners come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know what was going on for four or five years.’ Once you step in there this is a different business. You can succeed in business. It’s a lot easier do that than this is and it’s not easy to do that in these times, as we all know. But it’s difficult to win because you know what players you want, but that doesn’t mean you get them. A lot of things are out of your control, we’re all competitive and I haven’t lost at many things and I’m not planning on losing here.”
It’s precisely that approach that led Ross to pursue Peyton Manning earlier this month in hopes of landing that franchise quarterback. He authorized the large free agent contract signed by inside linebacker
Ireland has been given carte blanche to spend what he needs in free agency and the draft to bolster the roster and position the Dolphins to make a serious playoff run. The only thing standing in Ross’ way has been the salary cap.
“Let me tell you, money will never be an issue for us becoming a winning football team. That I can tell you right now,” Ross said. “We have to live with the limitations of the salary cap as all teams do and sometimes you lose players. You’ve got to put your money where you really think it’s going to have its biggest impact.
“But I think we have a lot of players expiring and we’ve got to make sure we don’t make stupid mistakes by signing players with big salary bonuses that are really going to impact the cap. One thing I’ve learned is this is one helluva complex business and trying to figure out how you’re going to maneuver things around playing within the system.”
As the 20-minute interview session with the media progressed, Ross became more and more passionate in his answers. He was very cognizant of the criticisms being aimed in Miami’s direction and promised to engage the fans even more going forward to add a sense of transparency to the organization.
Perhaps the most telling moment for Ross came when he was asked about what has been perceived as three strikeouts under his watch in the last year – two involving a head coach and the missed opportunity with Manning. Ross fired back with the kind of answer fans should appreciate.
“You know what? I’ll do it again and again,” he said. “I’m going to be bold and you know what? You don’t lose for trying and if I can find the right guy I’m going to be bold in getting him and I can’t worry about losing, because nothing ventured is nothing gained.”
Ross is intent on taking that same fiery approach to the fan base and does not want to leave them in the dark about anything he and the organization are doing.
“I’d really just like to thank the fans and we’re going to be engaging you a lot more,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a different organization. You saw what we did when we visited the newspapers and we are going to be a lot more responsive and I think you’re going to see that in the future. We’re in a new world today. You can’t have a bunker mentality anymore.”
MORE TOPICS COVERED BY ROSS: There wasn’t a question Ross wouldn’t answer, even if it meant reminding everyone that he is moving forward. To that end, what went into the decision to trade Marshall was something he identified as being in the past. Here’s some of what Ross had no issue addressing:
Ross on how the roster looks now: “We think we have a fine nucleus. We’re excited where we’re going. Rome wasn’t built in a day. From where the team was before me, I think it’s better. You see the nucleus. They continue to fight. I don’t think anyone has ever had a turnaround that part of the season with the start they had (0-7 to finishing 6-10). We know where there are some weaknesses. We’re looking to correct that.”
Ross on his early impressions of Philbin: “He’s much better than I thought. I was excited about him. The energy he has brought, the staff he has assembled, the plan he has – you are going to see a lot more energy from this organization. You are going to like the offense he has. We have the guy who put together the best offense in the NFL. You’re going to see an exciting brand of football.”
Ross on the criticism Ireland has taken: “I think it’s unfair. I don’t like it. I don’t think Jeff likes it. It’s unfair. It’s an unfinished product. If you look at his past, he’s done a great job with the draft. He’s a great talent evaluator, as hard working as anyone as I’ve ever met, as smart as they come on the football side. What are you judging him on? The team is not the same as when we arrived. It’s a lot better. We’re a lot closer. You’ve got to get breaks.”
Ross on his long-term plans at quarterback: “We’re going to keep looking to upgrade that. I’m very excited about
Ross on choosing to call two fans: “I’m a passionate fan, as they are. When someone is passionate enough, they’re going to go out and protest. That’s the type of fan I want to talk to. I wanted to talk to someone that passionate.”
Ross on the perception of his team: “You always want to be concerned. You listen to it. That’s why I wanted to engage the fans. That’s why I made the phone calls. I think it’s unfair. Winning resolves all issues. It’s not like we lost anything. We all knew where we were at the end of the season.”