NEW ORLEANS -- Before we go forward, you should be aware that Dolphins coach Tony Sparano will address the media starting at 8 a.m. (EDT) on Tuesday. I will be posting an update to this blog in the morning. I will also tweet Sparano's words in real time on Twitter. To get those tweets, follow me on twitter
On Monday the Dolphins brought together owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland and CEO Mike Dee to meet with the media. I must give Ross some major, major props for showing some experience and wisdom here.
In recent years, Ross has had no compunction about addressing things having to do with football and stadium matters despite the fact he has hired Ireland and Dee to take the lead on those matters, respectively. In doing that, Ross made some memorable missteps.
Ireland wasn't scheduled to be in the meeting but he was. Dee wasn't necessarily billed as being part of the meeting with the media but he was.
And Ross let his experts answer questions about their expertise. Well done.
What follows is the entire transcript of the meeting. Word to all media not present at the meeting: If you use information or pull quotes from the meeting, kindly credit The Miami Herald, ESPN.com, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. All four.
Hear that, Joe Rose? I see you.
Before you dive into the transcript, check out my column on how Ross pretty much guaranteed Ireland and coach Tony Sparano are secure and can make decisions for the long-term good of the team rather than the short-term good of, well, themselves to save their jobs.
My question to him was, "Are you giving your front office, you coach a guarantee that they can make a long-term decisions so they're not worried about their jobs short-term?"
You can see below what Ross said and you can see what that means in the column.
(On his impressions of the meetings so far) – (Ross) “They lay out where we are and what’s going on. I think that you really can’t be enthused about it because it’s not the kind of things that you want to be discussing. Not my idea of ownership.”
(On if he has experiences with labor work stoppages in your business) – (Ross) “Well, we do a lot of labor negotiations, we work with the unions and they build all of our projects. We build with a size that we have to use union labor and we have negotiated with them extensively. You have to work with them and it shouldn’t be necessarily adversarial, I mean, you are trying to win point and save money. You know what is going on in the world today, the unions have kind of exceeded their bounds in just about every aspect of life and today you have a very anti-union sentiment across the country.”
(On if he thinks that unions have exceed what they were set up to do) – (Ross) “Oh yeah, look at every single major industry that has been union dominated, those companies are in trouble. Look at every state and city government, they are all bankrupt. What’s happened is, this is like the perfect storm we are in, most of it not applicable to football necessarily. It not about the wages it’s about the work rules and the jurisdiction issues and all those kind of things and the benefits. Now that not necessarily here because I think that the players are looking more at the absolute dollars, but those other parts are issues and I think we are sympathetic to a lot of them that weren’t issues in the past. There’s a reason why there is a lot of anti-union sentiment in the country today.”
(On how closely he was watching the mediation in Washington D.C.) – (Ross) “I wasn’t watching, I was listening. I have never been through mediation, I have talked to people who have and you know it can be very trying times, you know you don’t feel a lot of movement. You aren’t sitting across the table directly, you are dealing with a mediator, and so you hope that you have a good mediator who knows how to bring people together.”
(On how much of a financial hit the Dolphins and the surrounding communities would take if there is no NFL in 2011) – (Ross) “It would be significant. No season all together?
(Or a pushback of the season) – (Ross) Anyway, obviously the worst situation is no season at all, but as you push it back, even now people aren’t buying tickets at the same rate they were in the past, people are waiting to see, a lot of people are, so it has an impact. It will have an impact with sponsors and what have you.”
(On if he was on board with the decision to lockout the players and if he was disappointed that the players walked away from the table) – (Ross) “I was very disappointed. I am the newest owner in there and I am a businessman so I am looking at it, you know, as much due diligence as we did, when you go in and buy a team you don’t understand all of the nuances. This is as complex and there are more nuances in this business than in any other business that I have been associated with. It is different, but, speaking as a businessman and knowing what I know now, you have a system that was broken and it made no sense. I think that everybody feels that we have got to get it fixed this time. Something was kind of tried, didn’t work for everybody and with the new eyes and being there and not having been there in the past they are 100% right. You cannot have a business where you pay players, as a percentage of the gross income. Anyone who has been in business who has worked for everybody, you don’t pay players a percentage of the gross. The expenses have grown so great compared to the revenues that there is no reasonable return to anybody’s bottom line, so I think the sense of entitlement that they have got to keep going up and up, we have seen that in every aspect of life, it doesn’t work. People feel that way so why should it be any different in how they feel about sports. I think that every owner wants, they own a team because they want to be on the ball field, it’s not ‘hey how do I build a bottom line’, but you have got to be reasonable in how you are doing it and have an incentive to invest money in the team and the different aspects, you know, businesses that you might go into, because you can’t pay them a percentage of the revenue, ‘hey you get 60% and we get all the expenses and then try to make money from that, I mean, it wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t have jobs if your company looked at it that way, nobody would have a job.”
(On the setback to the stadium renovation brought by Broward County declining the bed tax) – (Dee) - “The Broward County reaction to what was purposed was surprising to us because we had a series of discussions over a six month period with county staff, members of the county commission, then (Broward) Mayor (Ken) Keechl regarding what our intent was, and you can subscribe to a theory or two as to what happened. Obviously the (NHL’s Florida) Panthers role is well documented. I think that the new commission was put on the spot to react and take a strong position on the matter before there was sufficient time to sit down and really fully vet it, again be mindful that the goal of the legislation wasn’t to execute an agreement, it was to enable a discussion and a process to unfold and take place. We brought 65% of the benefit the last time around to Broward county. Many hoteliers and those in the tourism community…Nikki Grossman is on the record saying how important it is, but also little known is the economic impact of having our training facility in Broward County, which is an annual impact of $130 million dollars a year, we had a study done. So we remain enthusiastic about engaging Broward County down the road. We think that we are a stakeholder in the county and they are a stakeholder with the team’s business interests in the county. They’ll be another day to have that discussion…will unlikely be part though of this particular legislative strategy that we are in the midst of.
(On if the organization has had conversations with Roger Goodell about the stadium) – (Dee) “Yes, they are aware of our efforts and we keep them updated on a periodic basis. We are not on the clock at the moment for a Super Bowl bid. The 2015 Super Bowl will probably likely be awarded later this year, there will be an update on that process at this meeting tomorrow. We have said publicly, we are going to continue to pursue Super Bowls in earnest with or without the improvements, but clearly based upon the lay of the land and competitive landscape that is out there, we are going to be an increasingly, you know, competitive environment.”
(On if the organization has looked at alternative ways to fund the canopy/roof) – (Dee) “We are focused now on our legislative strategy in the hopes that we have this local discussion. We are going to be heard tomorrow in Tallahassee in our first senate committee on our senate bill and we are working hard on thought and hope that the political will in Tallahassee will support the opportunity to engage locally, not only on the stadium, but on the Miami Beach Convention Center.”
(On if the training facility’s $130 million economic figure an annual or aggregate figure) – (Dee) “It’s an annual impact of over $130 million a year and we will make that study available to anyone who is interested in it. We have given the study to members of the Broward County Commission who we met with in the aftermath of the action that they took, so it is public record. There is a lot to go in. Like Nat Moore said ‘when I played for the Dolphins, the only guys that lived in Broward County that played for the Dolphins were Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Everybody else lived in Miami-Dade County because that’s where the training facility was. You look at the amount of players that live here and the taxes, the businesses around there…and players start business whether it is Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski or Dwight Stephenson around where they live. You look further at the economic impact of the hotel’s room that we buy with training camp. We are the single biggest customer with player stays and training camp. There are a lot of different spokes to that.”
(On if he brought the team knowing that there will be a lockout) – (Ross) “Well, I didn’t know it would get to this level. It was a risk. I would have thought that better minds would have prevailed already. It was certainly a risk.”
(On what he thinks it will take for both sides to resolve this issue) – (Ross) “I think they need to get back together and start negotiating. I don’t think anything’s going to be resolved in the courts because at the end of the day it’s the players and the owners that have to resolve the issues. People might say hey I got this advantage or that advantage but I think the most important thing is that they start talking again. The sooner that happens the better chance there is for an agreement.”
(On if he is confident there will be a 16 game schedule this year) – (Ross) “I sure hope so. There’s a lot of time for that to happen but I think the fans and everyone want to see it as soon as possible. Put that behind us.”
(On how the NFLPA compares with other unions that he’s dealt with) – (Ross) “In other unions we’re talking about wages up to maybe 50-60 dollars an hour. Here at the high side, here you’re talking about players making 2 million plus a year. Big difference.”
(In terms of philosophical) – (Ross) “That’s a philosophical thing. There’s a bigger sense of entitlement when you’re making a huge amount of money. I mean from that standpoint.”
(On what he can apply from dealing with unions before or if this is totally different) – (Ross) “I think the best thing is you’re talking to them and they have to understand your needs. That’s not all about their needs. And I don’t know how much what I read is what you guys write. And it tends to be hey that they’re entitled to x amount of dollars more than they’re getting not the fact and the owners they don’t have to suggest the owners are making too much money but we can get paid more for this and it’s extraordinary. Don’t forget they’re taking a percentage of the gross. Very typically you’re paid by the hour in wages. So it’s a total different thing. So I don’t think that people can be as sympathetic to players and their needs as you would find in the typical labor negotiations in business.”
(On his needs of the expenses of running a team, and also the recession and how it’s impacted the fan base) – (Ross) “Right. I think that’s all part of that. You certainly can’t raise prices. The costs are going up and we’re at the point now people just can’t afford to pay more for their entertainment dollar. They’re sports dollar so typically that’s what’s always happened. You always raise the prices. We’re at that point you can’t raise prices any more. I think everybody accepts that and our costs keep going up. So and you have people earning 2 million plus a year. So where do you think the reasonable, the line of reason falls. It’s pretty simple, right?”
(On Brian Daboll) – (Ross) Jeff, Tony and I we met him and thought he was very exciting. His ideas and he was well suited for the project and over other people that were there. I mean Jeff had said he wasn’t the first guy he thought about when he brought him in. He was kind of blown away by him.
(On his vision for the 2011 Dolphins offensively) – (Ross) “Well I mean I think what we want to do is be improved over where we were last year and I think that everybody wants to see improvement and you have to look at every position and hopefully you can improve, the player improves or we bring somebody else in. It’s about competition and certainly we’ve got to put more points on the board. So I guess that’s probably the best way you can really determine…have you really improved but based also on the won/loss records. I mean we were strong defensively. We want to get better offensively.”
(On keeping Tony Sparano and not having newness during the lockout) – (Ross) “Certainly, but that wasn’t the reason why we retained Tony, because there might be a lockout. I didn’t take that into consideration. It was the first time I had the opportunity and I understand that continuity is such an important part you just can’t keep changing the parts and expecting a different result. And in talking to people, which I learned a lot. Like I said I thought Tony was the best person for the job. I still believe that.”
(On how he would do things differently with a couple of months of reflection) – (Ross) “I mean like I said when I had the press conference. I realized how public it is. And I wouldn’t want to do anything to really compromise my relationship with Tony from that standpoint. I wouldn’t want him to be surprised. He’s got to read the newspaper and following my journey across the country.”
(On if he’s giving his front office long term decisions on their jobs) – (Ross) “Absolutely. We talk about it all the time. If not you go sign old players and old big names and hope they have one year left. I think we have a very young squad. One of the youngest in the league. We’re building it from the ground up and I think the whole idea when I first bought the team is we want to be consistent you know playing in the playoffs. Year in and year out where the people can expect to have a good, exciting product on the field.”
(On what his expectations are for the 2011 season) – (Ross) “To be better than they were last year. Well I mean last year you guys quoted me, I said something, I thought we’d be there this year and I had to read it all over the papers, they were everywhere I went so…but I think that we have a great nucleus. We’ve looked to really improve that. Unfortunately people haven’t seen anything because we can’t sign free agents. The draft hasn’t occurred. So I think you’ll have a better idea as I will and even Jeff to see who we’re able to attract and who we end up with. But I am sure that the amount of work that’s being put into it. I know the staff, Jeff is working tirelessly. I don’t think there’s a guy in this hotel that’s putting more effort in it than Jeff. And we’re making sure in our organization. I mean we’re right up there in terms of working. It’s really incredible. It takes hard work in this. You just don’t go by what you read in the press in terms of what players you take and just looking at statistics and these guys pore over through every single detail. Looking at them, once, twice, three times, different people looking at him. Giving consensus. And Jeff makes the ultimate call. I mean I’m impressed by their work ethic and nothing happens successfully without a lot of hard work.”
(On making his decisions) – (Ireland) “You know I’ve never felt that way, even with Wayne, now with Steve, I’ve never felt that way that I didn’t have time to make decisions. And I know my role here. My role here is to make decisions for this franchise. The Miami Dolphins are bigger than Jeff Ireland. I’ve got to make decisions whether I’m on a one year contract, a three week contract or a four year contract. I’ve got to make decisions for the Miami Dolphins long term. Our ultimate goal is to win and win consistently in this league and that’s my job responsibility.”
(On Chad Henne) – (Ross) “Chad Henne, you talk to people who really look at him and he has a lot of great skills. Certainly, he has to continue to improve. He made some improvement in other areas and I think people were unhappy with some of the other. But I think he has the skills. It’s unfortunate a strike like this, the lockout like this …. Help working with him. I’m very optimistic that he’ll have the capabilities to take us.”
(On what he has learned about running a team) – (Ross) “The process of building a team is much more sophisticated and there’s so much more that goes into it than you’d expect. The work these guys do during the season and the offseason – its incredible. They really sacrifice an awful lot to try and deliver winners. I don’t think people understand that. It’s too easy to read the papers and talk about players. What these guys are doing is really scouting them and understanding them and watching tape after tape to find out if he’s consistent and will fit the right profile and that kind of stuff. It amazes you. You don’t realize that. A fan doesn’t realize that. And also during the game, a fan might say, ‘hey a guy ran a wrong route.’ But there’s a lot more to it. As a fan, I didn’t know that. And I talk to him afterward and say, “oh really, I didn’t know that.” But that’s it. Basically the fans want to see something exciting and they want to win. It’s that simple. And have a lot of fun doing it. And that’s what we have to focus on doing – winning and that they have a lot of fun when they come to the game, and basically winning at home.”