Stephen Ross is fifth richest team owner in the NFL. But being one of the richest in the game, doesn’t mean he is one of the best. In fact, you could argue that Stephen Ross is the absolute worst owner in all of professional sports, let alone football. The team has been the drizzling shits on the field, and that is overshadowed by the manic pace of scandals, investigations and downright embarrassing displays outside the field of play.
Since 2009, when he became the majority owner of the franchise, the team has had only four winning seasons, two playoff appearances and no wins in the annual postseason for the NFL. Multiple league investigations over some major issues, a carousel of head coaches and front office personnel, and a dizzying amount of verbal and political faux pas that would sink a city councilperson’s campaign.
And while the list is stunningly long of Mr. Ross’s ill-informed decisions, piss-poor executions and flat out awful behavior, we will stick to just five of Ross’s fantastic failures here in Miami.
Jim Harbaugh (Part One)
This happened early in Mr. Ross’s ownership tenure, so many chalked it up to somewhat of a rookie mistake. Little did any of us know that this was the preamble to a cacophony of fuck ups by the octogenarian owner. And in this case, part one of two when it came to his pursuit of the forever khaki’d, Jim Harbaugh.
At the conclusion of the 2010 NFL Season, The Miami Dolphins sat in third place in the AFC East, with a 7-9 record, for the second consecutive year. Players were unhappy about Coach Tony Sparano’s schemes and most people felt that the time was right for Stephen Ross and/or Jeff Ireland to fire Coach Sparano and go after Jim Harbaugh, who was finishing up a tremendous season coaching the rich kids at Stanford.
Apparently Stephen Ross felt that PART of this plan was correct. Because He and Jeff Ireland hopped in Ross’s private jet, flew across the god damn continent to a crappy little town called Burlingame, California (I can call it crappy, I was living there at the time) and met with Harbaugh at a hotel to pitch him being the highest paid coach in the NFL for Ross’s beloved Miami Dolphins.
Except, there was only one problem…
…ROSS NEVER FIED TONY SPARANO BEFORE THIS MEETING!
That’s right, the owner never took the time to execute step one, and instead jumped all the way to the final step of hiring a new coach. As it turned out, Harbaugh felt kind of weird about taking a job that was already filled by someone else, and instead took over The 49ers head coaching gig. Ross ended up flying his big stupid jet back to Miami, only to be greeted by a pissed off fan base, a neutered head coach and a locker room full of players wondering just what in the fuck their owner just did.
University of Florida Day
Tim Tebow is a LEGEND in Gainesville, Florida. The former Heisman winning QB even has his famous speech, “The Promise” immortalized on campus due to, well…keeping his promise, I suppose. In many ways and in many parts of Florida, Tm Tebow and The Florida Gators can do no wrong and are to be celebrated vigorously.
Miami, Florida is NOT one of those places in Florida that feels this way, however. Why? You might ask? Because The University of Miami is a pretty big deal, as well. And have had their own fair share of success on the NCAA level. Also, they happen to play their home games in the same stadium where The Miami Dolphins play.
So naturally, in 2011, Genius owner, Stephen Ross decided that having a “Gator Day” in his home stadium, where a rival state college plays their home games, was a great idea.
Tailgate parties, a special halftime show to kiss The Gator mascot’s ass and even a FUCKING POST GAME PHOTO OP WITH FORMER FLORIDA PLAYERS. What. In. The. Actual. Fuck?!?!?!
But wait…there’s more. The team the Miami Dolphins were playing on Gator Day? The Denver Broncos who happened to employ a quarterback by the name of TIM TEBOW. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Stephen Ross planned a celebration day for a rival college team and their quarterback who was playing against the NFL team he owns. It sounds like a rejected movie plot for a low budget sports comedy movie, but unfortunately, it was real.
And top kick Dolphins fans directly in the oranges, Tim fucking Tebow ended up engineering two touchdowns with less than three minutes left in the game to force overtime where he went on to beat the home team, along with the rest of the Denver Stupid Broncos.
But hey…at least you got to take a picture with Mike Pouncey after the game, right?
Jim Harbaugh (Part Two)
The fact that I had to split Jim Harbaugh into two separate entries on this list should be enough to tell you how stupid Stephen Ross has been during his tenure. I mean, my god…how many khaki jokes can one person make? But this part of the Jim Harbaugh story may be even more strange than the original from 2011.
After the 2021 season, Stephen Ross decided to fire Brian Flores (more on that later). At the time, it came as somewhat of a shock considering that Flores had Led Miami to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003. Which means it was the first time in Ross’s tenure as owner of The Dolphins that he saw sustained success, year over year, as it relates to winning more games than losing.
But nonetheless, Flores was fired and the coaching search for Miami, started in earnest.
Except, the obvious name that everyone assumed would be at the top of the shopping list, and would be universally considered an upgrade to Brian Flores, wasn’t on the list at all.
That’s because Stephen Ross made it known immediately that he WOULD NOT be the guy to take Jim Harbaugh away from The University Of Michigan, where Harbaugh is currently coaching. This despite the numerous reports from multiple sources that Harbaugh was ready and willing to jump to the pros should, if, and when the right situation arose.
In other words, Jim was publicly asking Stephen Ross to send that same jet that he sent in 2011, to Ann Arbor, Michigan and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
But Ross never sent the jet.
So…to clarify…Ross flies across the country to wine, dine and 69 Harbaugh back in 2011, despite HAVING A HEAD COACH ALREADY, but refuses to talk to the same guy he has had a crush on forever, when he has an actual job for him?
How does any of this make sense? Is Ross some sort of sociopath Marvel villain who simply likes to watch his own world burn? He could not possibly be this obtuse. At this point, it feels like he is only keeping the franchise for the sake of torturing a fan base that is begging to be put out of its misery. Or, to put it in Pixar terms for the parents reading this…Stephen Ross is Sid from Toy Story.
Remember the simpler times when the controversy around Stephen Ross was centered around stupid PR stunts and bad head coaching searches? Those problems seem so petty and whimsical compared to the fucking horror story that surrounded the 2013 Miami Dolphins. From Richie Incognito verbally and physically abusing his mentally unstable teammate, to allegations of cover-ups and eventually, arrests of people involved in this scandal, this seemed like the lowest of lows for The Dolphins franchise and Stephen Ross as it’s owner. And for a long time, it was.
For those that don’t remember, offensive guard Richie Incognito was tasked by his coaches to “toughen up” Jonathan Martin. Richie decided that that meant berating, demeaning and sometimes physically attacking his fellow offensive linemen constantly and without remorse. Literally like a fat Disney high school bully, Incognito (along with help from his boys Jake Long and others) drove the soft spoken Jonathan Martin to the edge of insanity with his harassment. And then one day…Jonathan Martin tipped over that edge and the proverbial shit hit the literal fan.
What happened next was a barrage of media outlet reporting on the “toxic” culture of The Miami Dolphins organization and called into question, sports culture, in general. People were fired, players ended up in mental and correctional facilities and The Dolphins franchise dropped from being a poverty franchise, to a destitute one.
And it all could have seemingly been avoided, had the owner demanded better from his employees from the top down. But as we eventually come to find out, Richie Incognito’s antics, Chris Foerster’s partying, and Jeff Ireland’s line of questioning were not outliers in an otherwise stellar organization. They were reflections of the franchise’s ultimate leader, Stephen Ross. An 80-something year old billionaire who runs his football team like some sort of senior citizen Scarface, letting his underbosses, capos and soliders do his bidding while he watches from a distance, through binoculars.
Tanking and Tampering
And for his next trick, Stephen Ross is going to be accused of contract tampering with Tom Brady and bribing his head coach to lose games to the tune of $100,000 per loss, in order to secure the top draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Of course, this comes on the heels of another controversial head coaching decision to fire Brian Flores after three years, and two winning seasons due to “poor collaboration”. Brian Flores asserts that that “poor collaboration” was him not willing to cooperate with Stephen Ross’s attempts to break league, and possibly federal, rules.
And while there is a long way to go until we uncover what really happened in 2019 between Ross and Flores, on some level, does it even really matter what the truth is? The damage has been done to The Miami Dolphins franchise and brand. Most fans have a deep disdain for Mr. Ross due to the poor performances on the field and all of the aforementioned (and unmentioned) moments off of it. Most would welcome an ownership change, even if it is forced upon the team by Roger Goodell and/or The NFL, as a whole. That is how bad of a failure Ross has been.
So much so that without any true corroborating evidence to substantiate Brian Flores’s claims, most people who root for and/or follow this team seem to agree that SOMETHING happened. And the reason they feel that way is because Ross has given them/us no reason to think it hasn’t. And ultimately, that is the true sign of failure.
When the people you are tasked with leading, no longer follow.