Stephen Ross is one of the smartest idiots on the planet.
Ross is, objectively, a pretty enviable guy. Worth upwards of $10 Billion, he’s made a habit of donating sizeable amounts of money to charitable causes over the years—although in the rich guy fashion of making sure his name is engraved on a building somewhere after the fact. Although his alma mater, The University of Michigan, has been the biggest destination for his largesse, he’s also given plenty to hospitals, libraries, foundations, youth sports initiatives, urban renewal projects and the like.
He’s no dummy, either, with multiple degrees from places like Michigan, Wayne State Law School and New York University School of Law. His uncle and mentor was a close confidant to numerous presidents and has a stretch of highway named after him. Following close in his footsteps, Ross is on the proverbial speed dial of everyone from Mitt Romney to Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg.
Yet, this very successful man is afflicted by the same idiocy that afflicts so many successful people—impatience.
The latest news out of Miami is that Ross and his crony, Chris Grier, hatched a plan straight out of Ocean’s 11 which would’ve seen the 2022 Miami Dolphins coached by Sean Payton and quarterbacked by Tom Brady. That plan was deep-sixed by the inconvenient minor detail that neither man particularly wanted to be in Miami and both chose retirement rather than play along with Ross’s fever dream.
It has to be so difficult to be so rich and to still not get what you want.
On this week’s Three & Out, my co-host Ty Schalter of FiveThirtyEight didn’t quite defend Ross as much as repeated his long-held (mostly true) maxim that owners don’t really affect NFL franchises as much as fans pretend they do. With a salary cap and so many rules in place, there’s only so much you can do (or not do) within the confines of NFL rule of law. However, setting up secret yacht meetings and paying people to tank season is decidedly outside of those NFL rules.
This is the problem with Ross. It’s the problem with far too many NFL coaches. Ty used a baseball analogy of “taking big swings,” and that’s something that should be lauded. Owners and their teams should take big risks, but the problem is not that the Dolphins have taken too many big swings, it’s that they’re completely changing their batting stance every couple of years—every few weeks, lately.
Ask yourself how quarterback Tua Tagovailoa feels. It was supposed to be Deshaun Watson’s job…then Tom Brady. How many in between? What about Mike McDaniel? Your predecessor claims he was asked to lose games on purpose and you know for certain that you’re your bosses, what, fifth choice? It’s being set up for failure.
That’s what Ross’s Dolphins are, a failure…and he has no one to blame but himself.
The Schottey Six: Potential “Budget” Free Agents
While so many are focused on the biggest names in free agency, often, the biggest impacts are seen by players signed by the right team at the right price. So much can affect whether or not these players are actually signed by the “right team” and some might even break the bank, but these are some selections flying under the radar.
1. Quandre Diggs (S Seattle Seahawks)— If the Seahawks had been a better team over the past couple of seasons, Diggs would be a household name. After languishing in Detroit before that, Diggs has one more contract to win himself a Super Bowl, and I think he’ll prioritize a contender.
2. Christian Kirk (WR Arizona Cardinals) — Outside of some (impressive) flashes, things never clicked for Kirk as one of the Cardinals’ complementary targets. He’d hoped that this year he could break the bank, but he’ll likely have to settle for a “prove it” short term deal.
3. Haason Reddick (EDGE/LB Carolina Panthers) — The former Cardinals linebacker made a bigger impact as an edge rusher for the Panthers, and that’s likely how he’ll try to set his market this offseason. That said, he may attract suitors who can appreciate the fact he can do both.
4. Laken Tomlinson (OG San Francisco 49ers) — One of the NFL’s better interior linemen that too few people talk about. He’s set for one more payday and the 49ers may be looking for a younger (read: cheaper) upgrade. Anywhere he can be asked to maul and road grade, he’ll help.
5. Darious Williams (CB Los Angeles Rams) — Does he want to leave a championship team? Maybe…if he can overplay his hand out of this “budget” status. Teams will worry about his age and whether he can succeed without the NFL’s best cornerback across from him. It’s a deep cornerback market, though, and a solid draft class.
6. Marcus Maye (S New York Jets) — Whether it was a poor fit in a new defense or just not having Jamal Adams to lean on, Maye had a down year in 2021. But, he’s a talented deep safety who could seriously help any number of defenses.
Oh, Another Thing…
It’s not “NFL” news per se, but the NFL world is all atwitter with the Hue Jackson regime at Grambling State University. I understand that Grambling isn’t exactly the cradle of future NFL talent, but couldn’t they do better than the guy who went 3-36 at his last stop?
More than that, Jackson repeatedly showed during his NFL career that he’s a man of shifting loyalties with no moral compass. To say his players disliked him would be a massive understatement. He spent three years building zero trust in an organization that needed multiple years just to recover from the mental damage he did. He proved all this almost immediately with his attempted hire of former Baylor coach Art Briles to be his offensive coordinator.
Briles does not deserve another job in football. I believe in forgiveness and redemption more than most, but Briles has never accepted responsibility for the culture of sexual abuse he oversaw at Baylor, nor has he apologized. Grambling is a proud institution that would’ve been made worse by his presence and the public outcry that let to his immediate resignation (before an introductory press conference even happened) was a good thing. Briles is not being “canceled,” the young men and women are being protected.
Which brings us back to Jackson. Much like Urban Meyer’s failed hire of Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle, this moment should be seen as a disqualifying mistake for Jackson. Jacksonville should’ve fired Meyer a year sooner for trying to round out his staff with a racist man who did not truly care about his players, and Grambling should fire Jackson for trying to complete his staff with an awful person who placed winning about the safety of the campus he served.
Cleaning out the Notebook:
— With the NFL Scouting Combine starting this week in Indianapolis, we’ve got Draft content coming just around the corner here at Pickwatch.
— A new study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center states that 208 million people watched at least some part of the Super Bowl. That’s an increase from previous estimates of 167 million which didn’t attempt to take into account that the Super Bowl is often watched in large groups. That’s between 2-3% of the entire population of Planet Earth…even more if you only count the area of the planet with the ability to watch the Super Bowl.
— The point? The NFL is not dying…it’s thriving.
— I pointed out last week that the USFL may have pole position when it comes to the next generation of “alternative” leagues, but the XFL’s deal with the NFL means they’ll have every advantage to come out on top. Now, the “old USFL” is suing the “new USFL” over intellectual property rights. If you didn’t know there were technically two different entities, you’re not alone.
— The presence of Brian Woods as the head of the USFL is going to continue to be problematic for the league. He ran The Spring League into the ground and burned a lot of bridges with players and their agents. He clearly sees these leagues as a get rich quick scheme, and does not have the longterm interests of any of his employees in mind.
— One of the interesting subplots of this draft season is all of the coaches and NFL decision makers who are skipping events like The Senior Bowl and Combine. With other employees attending and the events providing video feeds/recordings to the NFL, there’s no real incentive to go other than networking and schmoozing. For young coaches/coaching staffs like the Rams and Robert Saleh with the New York Jets, there’s some wisdom in staying back and, you know, actually getting work done and spending time with your families rather than at St. Elmo’s.
"The man on top of the mountain didn't fall there." –Vince Lombardi