MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4: New owner Stephen Ross watches warmups as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Despite an attempt to put a united finish on the debacle in Davie, there was something a bit fishy about the Dolphins' media rountable Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Tony Sparano rarely looked at owner Stephen Ross and general manager/troll Jeff Ireland as the trio faced the press to discuss circumstances surrounding the two-year contract extension the Dolphins were obliged to offer Sparano after they humiliated him by interviewing at least one other prospect while he dangled in the wind back at home.
"I was a little naive," Ross claimed, acknowledging that he ought to have informed Sparano of his and Ireland's Thursday flight to California to interview Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford head coach who has since signed a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. "I shouldn’t have been talking to coaches until I decided that I should make a change."
Sparano learned of the flight the same way everyone else did: as it unfolded under a wave of publicity, complete with media tracking Ross' private jet across the U.S.
Ross says that contrary to multiple media reports, no one in the Dolphins organization ever interviewed former Steelers Bill Cowher, and that he never offered Harbaugh a reported $8 million salary -- a deal that would have made Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in NFL history.
Instead, he said, he and Ireland concluded that Sparano -- who still had a year left on his contract -- was still the man for the job.
But not everyone is buying Ross' "I-didn't-realize-this-would-be-national-news" schtick, perhaps Tony Sparano chief among them. Media members present noted that Sparano seemed agitated and rarely glanced at either Ireland or Ross. He repeatedly referenced the "breakdown in communication" -- a clear sticking point between him and Ireland, with whom he had enjoyed a close relationship in the past.
For his part, Sparano said he intended to do what he always tells his players: don't place blame, solve problems. He said he would move quickly to replace departing offensive coordinator Dan Henning, and was anxious to "open this [offense] up, be more explosive."
Ross concluded the 40-minute meeting with a promise to "deliver a win[ning team]." Though some lauded his willingness to face the music, reaction across the watching NFL world seemed to fall in line with Fox Sports' Adam Schein.
"Stephen Ross has no clue," he tweeted. "I feel terrible for Tony Sparano."