Owner says Dolphins in good shape
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross thinks years of instability in the coaching and quarterback jobs are over, and the team's losing will end soon, too.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Ross said he was pleased about the work of first-year coach Joe Philbin and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, even though the Dolphins went 7-9 to finish below .500 for the fourth consecutive season.
''The two biggest ingredients in a winning team are your coach - and I think we have our head coach - and second is a quarterback you can build around,'' Ross said. ''This is a quarterback-centric league, and you see every great team that is there consistently has a quarterback. I think we have our quarterback.
''Once you are there, it is a lot easier, I think, to put the building blocks around them.''
Ross believes those blocks can be in place in 2013. When asked the organization's plan for the coming year, he laughed and said: ''Win.''
Philbin was hired a year ago as a first-time head coach - and Miami's seventh coach in eight years - after Ross unsuccessfully courted Jim Harbaugh in 2011 and Jeff Fisher in early 2012. While Philbin wasn't the first choice, Ross said he was impressed by the coach's organizational skills on the job, and the way he followed through on the plan he laid out before the season.
''We have a really solid head coach here, and a guy that I think will be here a long time and hopefully bring all those victories that everybody wants,'' Ross said.
Tannehill, the first quarterback drafted in the first round by Miami since Dan Marino in 1983, became the first Dolphins rookie QB to start all 16 games.
''What really impressed me is his intelligence and the type of person he is,'' Ross said. ''He's a high-character guy, and that's what you want.''
Ross completed his purchase of the Dolphins in January 2009, when Bill Parcells was the football czar and Tony Sparano the coach. Parcells stepped down in 2010, and Sparano was fired late in the 2011 season.
But according to Ross, only now does the organization bear Ross' stamp.
''This is really the first time I've really gotten involved,'' he said. ''I didn't select the people that were here before. I was handed a situation that, for one, I was kind of pinned to the wall. I have a lot of respect for Bill, but I didn't put together that organization. I also felt that I should learn a little bit before I started making moves. Making moves for the sake of making moves is sometimes probably the worst move you can make. You want to sit back and really assess the situation, which I was able to do.''
One position of stability for the Dolphins has been general manager Jeff Ireland, who is beginning his sixth year with the team even though many fans consider him the chief culprit for the recent losing.
Ross was asked why Ireland is the lone holdover from the Parcells regime.
''His football intelligence, his knowledge, his hard work,'' Ross said. ''He has the respect of his peers and he is one of the youngest general managers around. I like dealing with youth and enthusiasm. And I think he has the knowledge and desire. He is smart, and he is committed.''
Ireland has the Dolphins well-positioned this offseason, with five of the first 82 draft picks and more than $40 million in cap space. Philbin has said he prefers to build through the draft, and Ross agrees.
''Free agency certainly isn't the answer. We've all seen that,'' Ross said. ''Oftentimes there's a reason why a guy is out there as a free agent.''
But the billionaire real estate developer said he's willing to spend whatever it takes to build a winner.
''Certainly all my resources are there, and if the right players are there, I don't care what it costs,'' Ross said. ''We'll go after them.''
The Dolphins have reached the playoffs only once in the past 11 years, and home attendance is in decline. This season, they ranked fourth-worst in the NFL at 57,379 per game.
''I can understand, when you're not winning, why some people might not show up. We put a winning team on the field, I think we'll fill up the stadium,'' Ross said. ''We're moving in the right direction, and I feel good about it, more so today than I ever have.''