Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/27/12
The Miami Dolphins could do themselves a great service by uttering those two unspoken, yet obvious words. You know those dirty words, the two that turn off fans and insult players at the same time: Were rebuilding. Thats whats going on with the Dolphins. But neither owner Steve Ross nor general manager Jeff Ireland wants to admit it publicly. Or, maybe they dont believe it. Regardless, rebuilding is what the fans want to hear, its what intelligent football fans know to be the truth. And thats where this tremendous, never-before-seen disconnect between Dolphins management and its fans becomes evident. Ross and Ireland see something totally different than everybody else. We think we have a fine nucleus, Ross said Monday at the NFL owners meetings about an hour north in Palm Beach, Fla. I think were excited about where were going. Rome wasnt built in a day. Maybe not, but the Romans had a plan. Clearly, fans arent buying what the Dolphins are selling, almost literally. Miami had to purchase tickets to five of last seasons eight home games to have the local TV blackout lifted. And there are already reports that the Dolphins might put tarps over empty upper-deck seats at Sun Life Stadium next season, a sure sign fans are staying away. Judging by emails and calls to radio shows, fans are dropping season tickets and planning to stay away in large numbers once again. Fans arent stupid, especially the ones in South Florida. Theyve been watching football a long time. They can see their team has three consecutive losing seasons, is suspect at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, and has a first-year head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. Fans want to hear management say whether they're building or rebuilding toward the playoffs. Instead, all fans get is a veil of secrecy and the appearance of disarray. Thats why about 30 fans protested outside of the teams facility in Davie last week. It wasnt the number of fans who showed up, it was the message they sent about their level of frustration. Some fans wore brown paper bags over their heads. Others carried signs, such as the one whose sign said, Toot to give Ireland the Boot. Some had costumes and signs, such as the fan who wore a red clown nose and carried a sign reading, Stop the Circus. Ireland Must Go. Ross, who bought majority interest in the team in January 2009, and Ireland, who took control on personnel decisions in 2010, seem puzzled by this sentiment. Its just another example of the unbelievable chasm between the team and its fans. Ask Ross about the criticism of Ireland from both fans and media. I dont like it, Ross said, I dont think Jeff likes it. I think its unfair and I think the idea is, what are you judging him on? Yikes. How about presiding over a pair of losing teams (7-9 in 2010, and 6-10 in 2011), failing to secure an impact player, and trading away Miamis best offensive player (Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall) for a pair of third-round picks. And thats just the start. Regarding the quarterback position, where Matt Moore and David Garrard will battle for the starting job in training camp, Ireland said, We feel good where we are at quarterback. Huh? Statements such as that are why many Dolphins fans (most Dolphins fans?) think this team is meandering along with no real direction. I dont feel all the fans feel that way, Ross said. I dont think theres been enough communication with them. Were going to engage in that a lot more. Thats a good idea, but how about telling the truth? Face facts: the Dolphins are rebuilding. The defense could compete for a playoff spot right now, today. The offense? Its probably a year away, optimistically, from competing. The problem is neither Ireland nor Ross will say this, and thatll only serve to put pressure on the organization to win next season, which isnt likely. And then the Dolphins will go through entire process again, where fans are disenchanted and management scratches its head in amazement. Fans want to know the plan. Dolphins management refuses to reveal its plan. Im not going to get into exactly what the plans are, were right in the middle of free agency, Ireland said. Were trying to prepare for the draft. So the gulf between Dolphins management and its fans will continue to widen. The disconnect is already at a distance this franchise hasnt seen before. And itll likely get bigger until Dolphins management learns the best policy is to tell the truth.
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