Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross became the majority owner of the South Florida franchise in January 2009, buying the team just after the team made an improbable 11-5 regular season run to win the AFC East division title and make their first Playoffs appearance in seven years.Seven years later, that 2008 season is the last time the Dolphins played their way into the postseason. Tony Sparano was fired after two-and-a-half seasons under Ross. Joe Philbin was given three-years and four games before he was shown the door. New head coach Adam Gase now has his official clock.
"After three years, if we haven't made the playoffs, we're looking for a new coach," Ross told the Palm Beach Civic Association on Monday, according to the Palm Beach Post's Jeff Ostrowski. "That's just the way it is. The fans want it."
The Dolphins then qualified the remark to Ostrowski, explaining that Ross was speaking generally about the way NFL coaches are hired and fired, and not specifically about Gase's employment with the franchise. That does not change the fact that Ross is clearly expecting the Dolphins to end their decade of futility and their long Playoff drought in the next three years. Whether Ross meant Gase specifically or not, the clock has started on Gase, and Miami has to become a winning franchise again, making their way back to the postseason, and they better do it within three season.
Ross did state that he believes in Gase and thinks the Dolphins are ready to turn around. Miami hired Gase, who has never been an NFL head coach, away from the Chicago Bears where he was the offensive coordinator. Speculation prior to the hiring had Miami looking for a coach with experience as the top sideline man for a franchise, but the team went with a coordinator who is seen as a quarterback guru and someone who can help develop Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "Instead of getting a retread that really hasn't had a great track record as head coach," Ross explained, "I was looking for somebody that really could be the next, if you will, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, you know, really great head coach, and I think we got one."
It is a comparison that may or may not turn out to be right, and one that does put some pressure on Gase, but it also is something that should be expected from an owner. If Ross does not believe Gase can and will be the next Belichick, Parcells, or even Don Shula, then why did he hire him? If Ross did not come out of the interview process with coaches believing that Gase would be the next great head coach in the league, then he should have continued the interview process and looked somewhere else.
Ross may not have meant to start an official clock on Gase's time in Miami, but he effectively did. Now, Gase has three years to prove that he is the next great head coach and that he can get Miami back into Playoff contention.