As an NFL owner, Stephen Ross lacks nuance. He lacks tact. He is a blunt instrument.
Recently, he was advised by the Dolphins and agreed that the best way to address the protestations of fans, including a rally outside of Dolphins camp, was to rush headlong into a one-on-one phone call to a fan to explain his team's rationale for this offseason.
It is an interesting public relations move but there are myriad reasons other embattled owners don't do it -- for one it has the potential to make as many problems as it solves.
I assume Ross got this one fan to agree with his rationale about how and why the club has approached this offseason. Great. I also assume some other fans feel good that the owner is willing to reach out to at least one of their number. Great again. Call all 40,000 season ticket holders if you want. Now, that would be truly awesome! That is the advantage of being blunt.
But there is missed nuance. There is failed tactic. Ross opens himself up for questions that I've already read via email from other disgruntled fans: When is Ross going to call me? I'm upset, too, I want a phone call! Is Ross going to call every fan or just the ones so upset that they protest? Isn't that rewarding the protest and penalizing patience?
By calling this fan, Ross has made his season ticket more valuable than others. So why does this person get a call and the guy who's had a season ticket since the 1960s doesn't?
Calling fans is cool, but I suppose Ross realizes that makes the fan he speaks with his unofficial team spokesman and the conduit to everyone else. If he understood nuance he would realize the move undercuts the worth of his actual team spokesmen. And that also makes the media (specifically me) more wary of you because you've been avoiding us since the Joe Philbin hiring and you clearly have stuff to say -- but obviously don't want to say it in a forum where you also have to answer questions.
It makes me convinced Ross has stuff to hide.
Ross by the way is now under fire in Chicago. It seems during this talk with the fan, Ross said the Dolphins were going to simply cut Brandon Marshall if no trade partner appeared soon. The Bears stepped forward. Except the account of the conversation between Ross and the fan makes it seem like the Bears got duped into taking a wide receiver that was going to soon be a free agent.
Ross thus makes Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery look like he got taken. The Dolphins found a trade partner in Emery and perhaps a friend going forward. But Ross effectively threw him under the bus according to accounts in Chicago and elsewhere. That's bad business.
Blunt instrument. Not tactically sound.
Ross supposedly said other things during his talk with the fan -- notably that if his coach wanted Matt Flynn, the Dolphins would have Matt Flynn. Well, Philbin called Flynn a handful of times before the player's visit to Miami. Did he call him to say he didn't want him? Did the Dolphins bring Flynn to Miami because they didn't want him?
The nuanced version of that and what Ross should have said is the Dolphins wanted Flynn but only at their price. So Ross either missed this or said this to the fan but it didn't get relayed correctly. Either way, it's Ross's problem because that is the way things are when a fan becomes your spokesman.
I like Steve Ross. I love his passion and I believe he has the Dolphins' best interest at heart. But he needs refining. He also could stand to listen to the right people more.
He told this fan that Peyton Manning sent him a letter explaining why he wasn't joining the Dolphins. OK, what has he done with that letter? Has he begun to address the issues that made the Dolphins unattractive to a Pro Bowl quarterback?
I also wrote Ross and the Miami Dolphins an open letter that published in today's newspaper. It lets Ross and the Dolphins understand how fans feel -- from my perspective, of course.
I hope they read it. I trust they will. But more importantly, I hope they take it to heart and don't just answer with a loud bull(bleep) -- which has been how the blunt instrument has reacted in the past.