This morning the Dolphins will make official what the Miami Herald confirmed on Saturday, namely that the team's attempt to secure hotel bed tax dollars and other tax breaks to help finance half of a $400 million upgrade to Sun Life Stadium would be put before the voters of Miami-Dade County in the next few months.
It's a gutsy move by the team. It's also something of a Hail Mary because even though local taxpayers are not generally having to fork over the money themselves, asking voters to approve any tax increase of any kind (even when it's on tourists) is often not a winning proposition.
And it doesn't help that the county's elected officials did such a horrible job vetting the Marlins and dealing with that rogue organization as they negotiated a deal for the new Marlins Park. Public monies beyond bed taxes were used in that deal because the Marlins were losing money and promised to field a great lineup in exchange for their deal.
Except it was eventually learned the Marlins were making money. And the politicians never got the team to open its books before or after that fact came to light. And after one season of upgrading the roster, the club conducted a fire sale and will field a glorified Triple A team lineup this coming season to save money.
So the Marlins and the politicians that voted on their behalf screwed Miami-Dade.
And the fallout from that bomb threatens the Dolphins in this upcoming vote.
This vote also offers the Dolphins a grand, awesome opportunity. And, if embraced by the club, it can mend the recent narrow but apparent fissure between the team and its fans.
As you know, Dolphins' fans have not been thrilled with the recent direction of the team. The last four years of 7-9, 7-9, 6-10 and 7-9 were not great, but this break was coming well before that with Nick Saban lying and Bill Parcells splitting and Cam Cameron stinking.
So the love affair has been a little rocky and the historically low attendance last season was proof.
But, as I mentioned, this offseason, this vote, this time in team history is a grand and golden opportunity. Think of it, if the team reaches for greatness and that lights a fire under the fan base to turn out to the polls, we could go to August with:
1. A better team filled with promise and some actual proven stars.
2. A team whose house will be modernized.
3. A team that actually seems exciting to its fans.
4. A team that will remain in South Florida for a long, long time.
5. A team whose fans backed it at the polls.
And all this without winning a game. Indeed, all this without even playing a game.
So how does this happen?
Remember right after the season when I suggested the Dolphins handle this offseason in the fashion the Miami Heat handled the offseason in which they got Dwyane Wade re-signed, and added Chris Bosh, and LeBron James and Mike Miller?
Remember the offseason the Heat went big?
That's what the Dolphins have a chance to do this offseason with $46 million or so in salary cap space and five draft picks in the first three rounds.
And so that is the opportunity. The Dolphins can tilt the offseason, the roster, the fan base and the vote in their direction if they simply have the, um, fortitude to go big this offseason as the Heat did three years ago.
Get a bigtime playmaker or two in free agency. In other words, win in free agency. Then add talent in the draft that doesn't suggest you're going to be the same team you've been for a decade. Get that seam-threatening tight end. Get a promising safety to team with Reshad Jones. Get us some corners that knows how to do this thing recently foreign in Miami, what's it called? Oh yes, intercept the football.
Add a running back if you have to.
Hey, how about checking out the trade market, too. Percy Harvin might be out there. Explore, it! (I'm not ready to push for that move per se. But at least explore. Don't sit in a dark film room studying tape of the right guard from New Mexico, when freaking Percy Harvin is dangling out there.)
Dare to be great. And let your fans know as much.
Now, all this sounds like fanciful sportswriter mumbo jumbo, right? It's just a columnist with a vivid imagination sitting at his computer, eating twinkies and filling space.
Well, it would be that if I was lazy.
I'm not lazy.
I texted several of my Dolphins sources about this very subject Sunday. I asked if the team welcoming a vote would cause greater urgency to do something exciting?
The resulting answers were mixed.
First, the topic has not been discussed internally. Remember, the announcement is today. So there has been no grand strategy session within the organization to see if football operations can be helpful to the business side.
This, by the way, has to fall at the feet of owner Stephen Ross. He knows the business side has agreed to take the issue to the voting booth. He had to approve such a move. So once he got done with that conversation, why didn't he pick up another phone (my understanding is billionaires often have multiple phones) and call the football side and say, "Hey, general manager Jeff Ireland, we're doing this presser on Monday. We've got $200 million on the line here. The vote will likely be in May. I want to hear what you're going to do to help. And, you better help!"
That's the owner's job. He has business interests that represent $200 million dangling on a vote, it should automatically dawn on him to rally every asset within the organization to make sure the team does what most professional sports teams are in business to do: Win.
Win the offseason.
Win the fans over.
Win the vote.
(Peanut gallery speaking: "But, Mando, we want a team that wins during the season, not the offseason.")
Shaddup, ya foofs.
There are no games available to be played now, okay? And to win in the regular season, you have to build a team successfully in the offseason.
Anyway, I call on Ross, the head of the Dolphins organization, to get his business side hand and football side hand to speak to each other -- one hand working with the other -- and come up with a strategy that willl make the entire organization emerge from this victorious.
Is the business side into the idea?
Heck yes. In talking to a couple of people on that side, they completely agree that if football operations makes some significant advances or moves that convince fans the team is clearly going to be better, they are more likely to win the election.
"This would seem to be the time to make a statement," one source texted me.
That same source asked if signing a particular player would get fans fired up. I cannot divulge the name of the player used because my job is not to get sources in trouble for tampering. But suffice to say the player is a looming unrestricted free agent who makes plays.
I told the source it would help. But I believe it will take more than one player to light the excitement flames for Miami fans. Also, and more importantly, it's going to take adding more than one player to make the Dolphins much, much better. That's the beauty of all this. The business side would love signing several talented players because it helps them. The football side should love the idea of adding gobs of talent because it helps them.
So the business side would be pleased if this was the approach.
But, and here comes the newsy part of this post, the football side doesn't seem too excited with the idea at this point. I texted a couple of folks on that side, too.
I asked if the vote would bring greater urgency to get bigger name players.
"Nope," was one response I got.
"Doubtful," was another response. "We make football moves for the longterm well-being of the franchise, not to please fans."
So, the football side is not on board at this time. It is going about things like this is another offseason that brings opportunities to improve. But it is not approaching this like it's make-or-break and $200 million and the long-term viability of the team in South Florida are at stake.
Do I agree with this?
Yes. And no.
I agree that winning rather than pleasing fans should be the goal. Always. But some people act like winning and adding bigtime players are mutually exclusive. BREAKING NEWS: Adding great players is what brings winning.
Also, if you're telling me that despite the need to please fans with a big name addition you would, as a hypothetical example here, refuse to pay Mike Wallace $15 million per year, I agree with you.
But, on the other hand, if you're saying you'd refuse to go to $10 million per year because you want to also add the $4 million per year guard, I'd think you're a certifiable dunce.
Deep threat. Imperative.
Guard. A grunt that isn't going to win you games.
(Peanut gallery speaking: "But Mando, you need good interior players too to win big in the NFL.")
Shaddup, ya twits.
You can't name the four guards that started in the Super Bowl and even if you could, you can't name one occassion when a guard scored in the NFL this season. And teams must score points to win. Also, the Dolphins have guards on the team already.
So where does this all leave us?
We have one side of the organization hoping the other side gets on board while the owner is in the middle having not yet broached the topic with either.
Let's hope this changes. There is still time before free agency. There is still time before the draft. There is still time before the NFL trade period opens. There is still time before the Miami-Dade County vote.
Most importantly, there is still time for the Dolphins to become a synchronized organization with all sides harmonizing toward a common goal.