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All you can ask of an owner of an NFL team is really very simple: Hire competent football people to make decisions, give those people the resources to win and be there, if needed, for guidance and assistance.
Under those parameters, Stephen Ross has been an excellent owner for the Miami Dolphins.
Four seasons have passed since Ross became majority owner of the Dolphins. He is still waiting for his first winning season, still waiting for this football team to unite this community the way it did when he was a young man growing up in Miami Beach.
Remember those days? The white hankies in the Orange Bowl? The long lines at the airport to greet this team after a playoff win? The passion? The excitement? The love affair?
Stephen Ross yearns for those days once again. That’s why he spent more than a billion dollars for this team and its stadium. That’s why he remains steadfast in his efforts to provide all the support possible to make it happen again.
I did an in-depth interview with Ross shortly after he purchased the team. Sitting at a conference table on the second floor of the training facility, Ross spoke so fondly about sitting in the Orange Bowl back in the early 1970’s, cheering every Griese pass, every Csonka run, every Warfield catch. Who knew that young man would someday own the franchise? And would someday try to re-create the magical marriage between a football team and its fans.
“Great memories,” Ross said during that interview. “Now I want to bring those memories back.”
Each summer when Ross sits down with the media, as he did Wednesday afternoon, he brings with him the same type of optimism he had as a young man. He talks about trusting his decision-makers, about liking the nucleus of his team, about seeing real evidence that this franchise is about to turn the proverbial corner.
I made a point during yesterday’s press conference to specifically ask Ross once again about those wonderful times of the 1970’s and whether he can still see the day when that type of excitement once again surrounds his football team.
“I think we are going in the right direction,” he said. “You can see it. I think the fans are starting to feel it. I think you saw it with the fans we had at the scrimmage, over 22,000. You can see the makings of the team. The moves we made in the offseason really show the commitment. We didn’t try to sign players that had reached their potential and was just a name. We had a plan and we are following that plan to create the winning tradition.
“We certainly want to make the playoffs. But I want to see the growth in the team, building a foundation for this season and future seasons as well. I don’t want to be a one shot wonder. I think that’s what the fans want to see. A team that is committed to excellence.”
This is a man who was never given anything, who earned his fortune the good old-fashioned way, who borrowed $20,000 from his mother to start a real estate company that is now worth billions. What he has learned over the past four years is that success in business doesn’t automatically transfer to sports. There is no magic wand, no quick fix. Patience becomes a mandatory trait.
“Sure, I would have liked to have won already,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot. It’s not as easy as business from that standpoint. You know talent, but that doesn’t always mean you can attract the talent. We are doing everything to be the best of class.”
Over the past few years he has made some important decisions that will have a direct bearing on the short and long-term success of this franchise. He made the decision to stand by General Manager Jeff Ireland. He led a search that produced Coach Joe Philbin. He signed off on an offseason free agent spending spree that, all told, exceeded $100 million.
“We have a plan in place,” he says. “You have to follow that plan. That’s what we’re doing. I like the position we’re in.”
For a man as complicated as Stephen Ross, it is all really very elementary: He wants to win. And he wants to win NOW. And he’s willing to do anything within his power to get there.
Can you really ask any more than that of an owner?
On Friday, A.C. in the A.M. writes about what needs to happen against Jacksonville.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.