On Monday, the long awaited meeting between Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano finally took place. According to the Miami Herald, Ross and team CEO Mike Dee met with general manager Jeff Ireland first before meeting with Sparano. Jeff Darlington adds that the meetings lasted for over three hours.
Darlington also got a chance to quickly speak with Ross one-one-one. Ross simply said about the meeting that "it was a productive meeting."
But perhaps the two most telling tweets from Darlington were these:
I'll have more later, but no decisions have been formalized yet. A clear sense of peace with Ross and CEO Mike Dee. I don't sense change.
For now, this is all that Ross wants to say: The evaluation is ongoing, but his meetings w/ Ireland and Sparano were very productive.
Though it's only one reporter's feelings, it's very interesting that Darlington got a sense that both Ireland and Sparano will be given another year to turn things around.
Cowher not likely?
Darlington might be in the minority, though. Many seem to think Sparano is very close to being let go by Ross and company. The most notable writer who feels this way is Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network. He writes that, according to a source, the Dolphins are leaning towards firing Sparano. But if you are hoping for Bill Cowher to come to Miami, this report would indicate you should start preparing to be disappointed.
La Canfora writes that Cowher is "unlikely" to join the Dolphins. Why? A source close to Cowher says that Bill - along with an annual $7 to $8 million salary - would want his own personnel staff. This would basically mean a total revamping of the front office and coaching staff. But Ross, according to this source, likely wants to retain general manager Jeff Ireland. Ireland and Ross reportedly have a great rapport with one another. Ireland also has close ties to Carl Peterson, who is a personal friend and business partner with Ross.
La Canfora sums up the situation by saying that "those close to Cowher don't expect him to move forward with the Dolphins unless the parameters of the job substantially change."
Another candidate emerging?
Since Sunday night, there's been a lot of talk about Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh as a candidate for a number of head coaching positions - including the 49ers, Broncos, Raiders, Michigan Wolverines, and yes, the Dolphins. Adding fuel to that fire is that Harbaugh's Stanford team was at Sun Life Stadium last night playing in the Orange Bowl. And before the game, Harbaugh was seen chatting with owner Stephen Ross.
Also at Sun Life Stadium was Jon Gruden, another potential head coaching candidate should the Dolphins fire Sparano. He was part of ESPN's broadcasting crew. There aren't any reports of Ross chatting it up with Gruden - but you never know.
My two cents
Since everybody else seems to be speculating, I might as well join the party and share my thoughts on how this situation might play out. And to me, it's actually simple. Stephen Ross isn't a dumb person. You don't become a billionaire by making stupid decisions. He's not going to fire Sparano just for the sake of change. He'll only fire Sparano - if that's his ultimate decision - if he knows he can land somebody he believes is clearly a better fit for the position.
So he simply told the media that his meeting with Sparano was "productive" to make it clear he would be comfortable having Sparano return for at least one more year. But in the meantime, he's probably at least checking into potential head coaching candidates (Cowher, Gruden, Harbaugh, etc...) to see what kind of interest they would have in becoming the head coach of the Dolphins.
Ross isn't going to fire Sparano unless he has a clear plan for what will come next. So for now, he tells us all his meeting with Sparano was "productive" and makes us think he's confident with keeping Tony for another year. But if Ross can get some kind of a "wink, nod" agreement in place with one of his favorite potential replacements, he'd have no problem thanking Sparano for his time but declare that "after much thought, I've decided to go in another direction."
Either way, I just hope this get resolved soon so we can all move on. I'm tired of the speculation. I'm tired of the rumors. And I'm tired of the wait.