The so-called round table the Dolphins planned for Saturday is over. The idea of the thing was to set the record straight on what happened over the past week and announce coach Tony Sparano's two-year contract extension, which is worth approximately an extra $6 million
It had its moments. But it was not the Dolphins' finest hour, I'm sorry to report.
As a synopsis, I would tell you:
Club owner Stephen Ross says he never contacted either Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. Jeff Ireland said he "never wavered" on his opinion of Tony Sparano and that he told Ross "Tony was still the right man for the job."
"In the beginning and in the end of all this, I believe Tony Sparano is the right football coach for this football team," Ireland said. "I've always felt that. That has never changed."
Ireland, however, was on that flight to California to woo John Harbaugh. And he never communicated to Sparano that he was going or what was happening. He did not address those specific facts. But did admit, "I was in a tough spot. And I put Tony in a difficult spot as well."
Ireland read his opening comments from a piece of paper. So did Ross for the most part. (You'll be able to tell in the audio.)
"I was asked by Steve if I thought Harbaugh was the right coach for this team. I told him Tony was still the right man for the job."
Ross did his predictable (read my previous post) admonishing of the media. We're evil and often wrong. He corrected the fact Carl Peterson was not on the flight to California to get Harbaugh -- which was reported by ESPN, NFL Network, The Miami Herald and practically every other media outlet out there. Guess everyone had the same wrong source.
Ross did admit some mistakes of his own. He said he should have told Sparano he was flying to meet with Harbaugh. "I shouldn't have been talking to coaches and seeking a replacement until I decided that I should make a change," he said.
Now, let me take you back a second. Despite saying he only talked to Harbaugh, Ross did talk to more than one coach and every time he spoke on the topic he used the word "coaches.' He "talked" to Eric Mangini when the former Cleveland and Jets coach called him about something or other.
And while Ross said neither he nor anyone in the organization ever spoke with either Cowher or Gruden, sources close to both men continue to insist he spoke with their representatives.
That doesn't make Ross a liar. But if that's how it happened, it makes him a master of nuance. When you speak with someone's agent, folks, it's like you're contacting that guy in my book. Anyone that doesn't understand that needs to go back to working with crayons. It is, in fact, the first or second step of trying to hire that guy.
Then there is something that wasn't asked thus not addressed: Suppose Ross is completely accurate here and everyone else is wrong. So Ross, who said he was trying to explore all avenues of improving his team, was doing so by flying across the entire span of this nation, but he completely ignored the two most accomplished and decorated unemployed coaches on the market?
Ross is clearly thinking of replacing Sparano but doesn't pick up a phone to talk to two former Super Bowl winning coaches, one of which has put your team on a list of teams he'd love to work for?
Sorry, you cannot have it both ways. Either the Dolphins did contact Cowher and Gruden (at least through their agents) ... or they really are inept about getting the best coaches possible.
If Ross maintains the media -- all of us -- were wrong about contact with Cowher and Gruden and if that is the actual case, then he is totally clueless about which coaches need to be contacted during a search. Wonder if he would be so eager to say the media was wrong when presented with that choice?
The Dolphins need help upgrading the offense and don't even reach out to Gruden? Really?
Ross also said he didn't think his search for a new coach would be a big deal. "This was my first time I interviewed and I never thought this would be national news," he said.
Sparano agreed with Ross and Ireland that mistakes were made -- by them.
"The communication problems, I felt like at the time, had it been said right away, that would have been fine and I would have been able to deal with it," Sparano said. "I do think the communication end of things that both Jeff and Steve alluded to could have been handled different."
(A little aside here: I was not at this meeting. I was not allowed in, in part, because the Dolphins limited media presence to two people per outlet. The Miami Herald in an epic failure of wisdom, in my opinion, decided it would use its slots on a reporter and videographer/photographer. The Herald offered me the one reporter chair. I turned down that reporter chair because I am not the beat reporter. I am a columnist that specializes on this beat so I wasn't going to ask someone not at the meeting to write the lead story while I wrote my opinion. I also am the morning show host of Armando and the Amigo on 640-Sports here in South Florida and that station had two slots. I could have used one of those. But the Dolphins forbad that, saying I would be taking advantage of a "loophole." Thus I was locked out. I heard the entire meeting on a speaker phone, instead. Not the best way to do it but did what I could with what I had to work with. You might be asking why did the Dolphins conduct this meeting in a room so small they would have to limit media access. They do, after all, have a team meeting room that seats about 100-150 people. I'm told some of the folks speaking at the meeting aren't comfortable getting up in front of large groups.)
And with that ...
The thing that intrigues me most is the relationship between Ireland and Sparano. These two guys have to work together if the Dolphins are going to have any chance of winning going forward.
Ireland said Sparano would probably still have questions about what exactly happened this week. But he also said he and Sparano had a great conversation to discuss everything and that hard questions were asked and answered.
"... He knows how I feel about him and I know how he feels about me," Ireland said. "We've worked together for nearly seven years. We have a great working relationship and more important we have a very close personal relationship."
Sparano put a good face on the relationship as well. He didn't say he loves Jeff Ireland but neither did he mention leaving a bloody, sawed-off horse head in Ireland's bed last night.
"I tell my players we don't place blame, we solve problems," Ireland said. "The three of us are trying to solve problems and move forward."
Sparano on the offensive coordinator search: "We're going to open this thing up and try to be more explosive. We're going to hire the best man for that job."
The time frame for that?
"We're going to move forward as fast as we can," he said.
Ross ended the 40-minute meet by saying, "I will deliver a winner."
I was listening on a speakerphone. Maybe he said he will deliver a wiener.
Anyway, if you got an extra 45 minutes or so to spare, you can listen to the entire meeting. Just click here. There are a couple of seconds of empty background noise to start and at the end. If that link doesn't work, try this one: