Look, those who want to bash Ross can go right ahead, but all of this "worst owner in the league" stuff is really pretty silly. What sins were committed? Let’s recount:
1. The charge that stuck: Tampering (ooooooh). Teams are constantly angling to obtain other players and never an offseason goes by when someone doesn’t cry "tampering!" The league has a "legal tampering period" for goodness’s sake. So, we have a couple of conversations with talent and their agents. Against the rules? I guess so, but like they say in NASCAR, "if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’." A couple of things to note:
- This tampering never went anywhere.
- It took two to tango each time. Are charges forthcoming for Payton and Brady?
2. The charge that didn’t stick: Throwing Games. Every year, numerous teams face the prospect of winning games only to hurt their draft prospects. Fans talk about it (even here). They media talks about it. EVERYONE talks about it. The relationship between more wins and worse draft position is a FACT. The idea that the people actually working in the football industry wouldn’t be aware of it, and considering/lamenting the implications is ridiculous. The league correctly said there was no reason to believe any suggestion was meant to be taken seriously, and they are right. And remember, teams really do tank on occasion (I’m looking at you, Indy) and no one does anything more than clutch at his/her pearls in response, anyway.
So, what happened? And more importantly, why?
We all know the punishment that was handed down. It was incredibly disproportionate. If the league is truly looking to crack down on tampering (which I doubt), something along the lines of a third-round pick would still be overdone, but would serve as an earnest warning to the teams. And regardless of your opinion of the owner and his possible suggestions on improving draft position, anything more than a scolding for "poor decorum" was not warranted in this case.
So, why the hammer? I think there are three driving factors.
1. Flores invoked the race card in his complaints. Without discussing NFL race issues here (a certain no-no), it can objectively be said that the league takes its image very seriously when discussing race. An outsized response is a way (a very unfair way) to appear to be taking racial complaints seriously. I use the word "appear", because it’s really a form of patronizing that actually may do more harm than good in the long run.
2. The Deshaun Watson debacle has been dragging up "well, just look at how easily the league has been letting the owners off for their infractions" objections. This sort of "two wrongs somehow making a right" thinking is misguided, but it has enjoyed a certain amount of traction, tarnishing the league. So, in this case, the league went out of its way to avoid the appearance of going easy on the "rich owner."
3. And circling back to Mr. Watson, I think the league wanted to inoculate itself from points 1 and 2, so that it can say, "Hey, were tough on everyone. Look at what we just did to the Dolphins." I expect the league to be appealing (upward) the 6-game suspension any minute now, maybe even by the time this gets posted, but probably tomorrow morning.
I have no problem with the Dolphins getting punished when caught, but a first and a third for talking? C’mon. In the grand scheme of things, I think the team was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.