Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is driven to change the perceptions of his franchise, one step at a time.
To address the many issues -- perceived or real -- facing the Dolphins and Ross, the embattled owner and real estate mogul embraced the fan-friendly approach he's demanded by holding an hourlong conference call with season-ticket holders this week.
The conference call is another step toward full-fledged organizational transparency, ending the cold war the Bill Parcells regime started with the local media.
Instead of allowing, if not inviting, rampant speculation, and media biases to shape public opinion, Ross said he realized he needed to open up.
"I hated reading in the papers, 'sources say' and everything being speculative in terms of what the Dolphins were doing or weren't doing or what they might do," Ross said. "I want to let the fans know what to expect, what we're doing and why we're doing it."
The Dolphins have hosted similar calls with general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin this summer.
The change is palpable after drafting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and with news Monday night the Dolphins had signed six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Those moves, in addition to a more fan friendly environment and the decision to appear on the HBO training camp documentary "Hard Knocks," have helped smother public outcry for change.
Ross, who bought the team and the stadium for $1.1 billion in 2007, acknowledged being an NFL owner is more difficult than anything he's ever done.
"It's a lot easier to build a great organization in business than to do it with the football team," Ross said, referring to the NFL's rules, like the salary cap. "There are so many rules!...You can't control it as much as you'd like to."
Ross consistently stressed he's not the type of owner who micromanages his employees. He insists he never has, and doesn't intend to take that approach with the Dolphins.
"You let the football people run the football team," Ross said when asked what his role would be throughout "Hard Knocks."
"I'm not looking to be out there running the team, evaluating players, or telling the coach who to play."
Ross wouldn't put a number on wins, and predict a playoff berth like past years. He talked about being patient with the new coaching staff.
When addressing the team's infusion of talent, Ross was cautious with his expectations of Tannehill, the team's first-round pick, saying he "hopes" the former Texas A&M star can become a "franchise quarterback."
"He's a fantastic kid, who is a great athlete," Ross said. "We think he has all the makings of a franchise quarterback."
Ross wasn't so guarded with praise for former University of Miami tailback Lamar Miller, whom the team traded up for in the fourth round.
"Lamar Miller is an unbelievable steal in the fourth round. We had him so much higher," Ross said. "(He dropped) probably because of his shoulder (issues). We're excited about him."
The Dolphins are exploring moving the seats closer to the field at Sun Life Stadium.
"With the Marlins moving out we have the ability to unwind what was done to the stadium," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, referring to the baseball retrofitting that was done in the early 1990s.
The Dolphins also have plans to put a canopy over the seats, but are in the planning stages of that project.
However, Ross said the Dolphins have no interest in enclosing the stadium.
Ross admits his goal is to make enough improvements to Sun Life Stadium that South Florida gets the rights to Super Bowl 50.
"I hope we can hold that in Miami with an improved stadium," Ross said.
Ross also said his goal is to bring some of the best soccer matches in the world to South Florida. Sun-Life has already hosted a few elite matches.
Ross said he talked to Philbin about the HBO show Hard Knocks when the NFL and the producers approached the Dolphins about the project.
Ross claims he tried to convince Philbin "we can do it next year, or the year after." But Philbin told him "I want to do it now....He wanted people to know what he's about."
Ross said doing Hard Knocks in Philbin's rookie season as a head coach was a bold move by the coach, and "sets the tone for what we'll see from him moving forward."
Ross labeled Philbin a "bold" and "unique" coach.
Ross also admitted from Day 1 he did not like the Dolphins fight song. He had two popular music artists redo it, but fan outcry prompts him to green light its return this season
According to Ross, the Dolphins are looking into logo and uniform enhancements in the near future.
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