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Perception may hurt Dolphins in hunt for Cowher

Sometimes perception is reality. And sometimes that's enough to hurt.

Well, this morning, I'm told the Dolphins may have been hurt in a self inflicted way by the lasting pictures of former Florida coach Urban Meyer sharing time on the sideline with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross at Sun Life Stadium Sunday afternoon.

I wrote in Monday's Herald how Ross and Meyer shared time on the sideline before the game, during the fourth quarter, and during overtime as the Dolphins lost to the Denver Broncos. I made the point that the time the two spent together during the game was coincidental because Ross was headed toward the locker room rather than the field had the Dolphins held their lead.

I also wrote that Meyer isn't a coaching candidate for the team on an interim basis, but if you know Ross and his desire to hire a "star" coach next January, Meyer cannot be discarded longterm from the conversation until either he or Ross says he's not a candidate.

So basically, the time the men spent together wasn't a big deal from a practical standpoint. But apparently from the perspective of football people, the time could be costly to Ross and the Dolphins.

I'm told the sight of Ross laughing and talking with with Meyer while current coach Tony Sparano was busy trying to get his team its first win upset some football folks around the NFL. This morning, I already have three three emails from football people around the league who are livid at the Dolphins owner for "dissing," as one put it, Sparano on his own sideline.

And apparently Bill Cowher could be one of those that might have been left shaking his head. Cowher, by the way, is on Miami's informal list of coaches to approach once the season is over and the Dolphins go searching for a permanent coach replacement. Fact is, Cowher might be the leading candidate for the Dolphins if anyone can be considered that.

But one person who is familiar with Cowher's thinking tells me the former Pittsburgh coach cringes at the idea of working for an owner who would "show up" his current coach as some football folks believe happened Sunday.

Cowher, you see, is keeping close tabs on how the Dolphins are conducting themselves these days because he recognizes Miami is a possible landing spot. But, my source said, Cowher has apparently been disappointed in some of the things he's seen from the Dolphins as to how they treat Sparano, dating back to last year.

It's plausible if you believe Cowher wanted nothing to do with the Dolphins last year when Ross was looking around following a 7-9 season. Cowher was rumored to have told Ross he would not speak about any coaching vacancy while the Dolphins had a coach still on the job.

I cannot say that Cowher actually got that message to the Dolphins or not. But I know people close to him are convinced Cowher doesn't take kindly to other football coaches being mistreated. And, as I just said, a handful of football people who emailed me this morning thought Sparano was disrespected by Ross and Meyer.

So it's quite possible what Ross might see as harmless happenstance time spent with Meyer on Sunday might cost him a chance to land Cowher because the former Pittsburgh coach and other NFL football people have a different opinion what that time meant.

Again, the truth is the Meyer-Ross show on the sideline during the game was coincidental. But that doesn't matter to some people. They perceive that time the owner shared with a potential future coach as disrespect toward his current coach.

And, true or not, perception is reality in their minds.

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