On Tuesday, the league announced that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would be suspended through Oct. 17 and fined $1.5 million due to the league’s findings into Brian Flores’ allegations that the team tampered with quarterback Tom Brady.
Here are the full findings, including impermissible communications with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 2, 2022
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity," Commissioner Goodell said. pic.twitter.com/AG3t69yiIX
However, former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t the only person the Dolphins had contact with. According to the league’s findings, Miami’s brass also reached out to New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton while still under contract with the team. This would explain why the Dolphins took their time with the coaching search.
NFL ruled that the Dolphins had "impermissible communications with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019-20, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots. Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and postseason."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 2, 2022
Most significant, however, is that the team will also lose a 2023 first-round draft pick and a 2024 third-round draft pick as a result of the findings. However, the league did not find enough evidence to punish the Dolphins for tanking during the 2019 season, but this news is massive and will have a rippling effect.
EDIT: 12:40 PM EST
Official statement from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
Statement from Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross: pic.twitter.com/M1SEwzejDP— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 2, 2022
EDIT: 1:42 PM EST
Official statement from Brian Flores.
Some of the key takeaways from the NFL’s findings on the Miami Dolphins’ tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and Saints’ HC Sean Payton.
- The Dolphins had impermissible communications with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019-20, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots. Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and post-season. These numerous and detailed discussions were conducted by Mr. Beal, who in turn kept Mr. Ross and other Dolphins executives informed of his discussions with Mr. Brady.
- The Dolphins again had impermissible communications with both Mr. Brady and his agent during and after the 2021 season, while he was under contract to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those discussions began no later than early December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility of his playing for the Dolphins. Both Messrs. Ross and Beal were active participants in these discussions.
- In January 2022, the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Don Yee, the agent for New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton, about having Mr. Payton serve as Miami’s head coach. Miami did not seek consent from New Orleans to have these discussions, which occurred before Coach Payton announced his decision to retire as head coach of the Saints. Following that announcement, Miami requested permission to speak to Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans declined to grant.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” Commissioner Goodell said. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”
Some of the key takeaways from the NFL’s findings on the Miami Dolphins “tanking” in 2019
- The Dolphins did not intentionally lose games during the 2019 season. Nor did anyone at the club, including Mr. Ross, instruct Coach Flores to do so. No witness contended otherwise. The Dolphins competed hard to win every game, including at the end of the season when they beat Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the 2020 draft.
- On a number of occasions during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the team’s win-loss record. These comments were made most frequently to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but were also made to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Coach Flores. These comments, which he took to be suggestions that he lose games, troubled Coach Flores and led him to express his concerns in writing to senior club executives, each of whom assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami. After this, Mr. Ross no longer made any such comments to Coach Flores.
- One such comment is a claimed offer by Mr. Ross to pay Coach Flores $100,000 to lose games, as to which there are differing recollections about the wording, timing, and context. However phrased, such a comment was not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club.
“Every club is expected to make a good faith effort to win every game,” Commissioner Goodell stated. “The integrity of the game, and public confidence in professional football, demand no less. An owner or senior executive must understand the weight that his or her words carry, and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and acted upon, even if that is not the intent or expectation. Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game. The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”
Here’s how it will impact the Miami Dolphins moving forward:
- The Dolphins will forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft and third-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.
- Mr. Ross is suspended through October 17, 2022. During this period, he may not be present at the Dolphins’ facility and may not represent the club at any team or NFL event. He may not attend any League meeting prior to the Annual Meeting in 2023, is removed from all League committees indefinitely, and fined $1.5 million.
- Mr. Bruce Beal, Dolphins’ Vice Chairman/Limited Partner, may not attend any League meeting for the remainder of the 2022 season and is fined $500,000.
- This discipline is informed by the Competition Committee’s clear guidance that more stringent discipline, including suspensions, should be imposed for tampering violations to deter future violations and to safeguard the integrity of the game.
P.S. Everything in italics is from the official document handed out by the NFL.
What are your thoughts on the Miami Dolphins losing a first-round draft pick in 2023? What about the fourth-round pick in 2024? Does this change how you feel heading into the season? Could have the timing of this been any worse? Let us know in the comments section below!