Before the Dolphins were spending big on free agents and wheeling and dealing draft picks, there came a low point in early 2011. It was around that time that the organization failed in its courting of Jim Harbaugh, inciting then-lame duck coach Tony Sparano.
Reflecting back, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross claims Sparano developed an irreparable grudge from the event, and it “damaged the whole organization”
“(Sparano) could never put it behind him,” Ross said, via the Miami Herald. “I don’t think he was the right head coach for the Miami Dolphins. I didn’t hire him. We’re a much better organization today than then.”
Trying to mend a clearly torn relationship, Miami gave Sparano another year at the helm. But it proved disastrous, as the team fell to 0-7 while watching Harbaugh succeed in San Francisco. Sparano was fired before the end of the season, and it was thought GM Jeff Ireland also had a pink slip in his future.
Ireland, however, would retain his job and even gain support from Ross.
“People wanted to blame our losing on somebody, and he was the easy person to blame it on. I believe in Jeff, and you’re seeing today what Jeff Ireland can really do,” Ross said.
Today, the Fins are looked at as a team on the rise, with some pundits putting them in discussions of capturing the AFC East throne from New England. Much of the positive pub can be attributed to Ireland, who helped find a head coach worth keeping in Joe Philbin.
In just two years, Ross says he’s watched his franchise go from a dark valley to a rare peak.
“This organization is functioning the best since the [Don] Shula days, [because] I picked the head coach with Jeff Ireland. People see this organization is really on the uptick,” Ross said.
Somewhere, in Oakland, Sparano is wondering where it all went wrong.