Ross says Dolphins made ‘big effort’ for Manning

When a couple dozen protesters showed up outside the Miami

Dolphins complex last week, team owner Stephen Ross took

notice.

So he called two of them, asking what the team could do

better.

”We all have one thing in common,” Ross said. ”We all want to

see a winning football team.”

And while speaking at the NFL owners meetings on Monday, Ross

said he believes the Dolphins are getting better, even after trying

in vain to land quarterback Peyton Manning earlier this offseason,

along with past coaching candidates such as Jim Harbaugh and Jeff

Fisher, who both spurned Miami as well.

Those have been the three highest-profile known pursuits Ross

has made since taking over the Dolphins, and he said he isn’t

deterred by going 0 for 3.

”I’ll do it again and again,” Ross said. ”I’m going to be

bold. 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. I can’t worry

about losing. Because nothing ventured is nothing gained.”

Ross made a big change late last season, firing Tony Sparano and

eventually bringing in former Green Bay Packers offensive

coordinator Joe Philbin to take over. Ross raved about Philbin on

Monday, saying he’s already ”better than I thought.”

The Dolphins made little secret about their interest in Manning,

the four-time NFL MVP who was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts

and became the highest-profile free agent on the market this

offseason. Ross even met with Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, in

December about the notion, and the Dolphins were one of the teams

on Manning’s list of candidates before he ultimately chose to sign

a $96 million, five-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

With Manning gone, the Dolphins also talked with Alex Smith,

then wound up signing David Garrard, who will presumably be Matt

Moore’s backup entering the season. The Dolphins won six of Moore’s

final nine starts last season, after starting the year 0-7.

”I’m very excited about Matt Moore,” Ross said. ”People, we

got so many people who really liked what Matt Moore did last year.

I think as he got more experience, the team got better. That’s a

good place to start with. And if we can continue that, that’d be

great. There’s a lot of good personnel on that team.”

One big name that became available after Manning chose Denver

was Tim Tebow, who was eventually traded to the New York Jets. Ross

said Miami was not in any contention to land Tebow.

”In talking to the coach, he didn’t really fit our system.

You’re not going to bring someone in just to sell seats,” Ross

said. ”Therefore, we kind of dismissed that early on because the

coach has an idea where he wants to take this team and how it’s

going to perform and get players who can really fit in that system.

And Tim Tebow didn’t fit in that system.”

Ross also defended embattled general manager Jeff Ireland, who

in turn spoke highly of Moore.

”I don’t have any second thoughts on trying to address the

quarterback position,” Ireland said. ”I’ve made it very clear

that the quarterback position needs to play better for us to have

the ultimate success. … A lot is to be said about Matt Moore and

what he was able to accomplish last year.”

The Dolphins traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago

earlier this offseason, another move Ross defended.

”That’s history,” Ross said. ”We want to go on. We wish him

the best. That’s really behind us. It was a trade. He wasn’t cut.

And we think we got fair value and we think the football team is

better for it.”

Ross and Ireland both lauded the ”passion” of the smattering

of fans – some of whom wearing grocery bags over their heads – that

turned out for the impromptu protest last week. Ross said after

talking with them, he understands their urgency to win, and hopes

they understand his.

He said the nucleus of the Dolphins is solid, and acknowledged

that there’s plenty of work left to be done.

”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 cap, the salary

cap, as all teams do. So sometimes you lose players. But I think we

have a lot of players expiring and we have to make sure we don’t

make stupid mistakes by signing players that have big names and big

salary bonuses that are really going to impact the cap.”