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  Path Forward is Clear for Dolphins
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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This has probably been one of the most, if not the most, embarrassing weeks of Stephen Rossís life.


Morphing into the second coming of Dan Snyder, Ross overreacted to the irrational criticisms from media and fans alike and fell into madness by meddling in the teamís football affairs. The results were predictably disastrous.


To put it bluntly, Ross got royally burned. And he deserved it.


He bungled a coaching search where one was not needed, bungled it as badly as one could be bungled. He trusted the wrong people (i.e. Carl Peterson, former Chiefs GM who won NOTHING in all his years there). He alienated himself from Tony Sparano and perhaps Sparano from GM Jeff Ireland as well. And he may have crippled his teamís chances of hiring a top notch offensive coordinator.


But worse than all that, Ross labeled himself as the latest in a line of sadly incompetent owners who pretend to understand football but fail badly at it. This places an ugly stigma on the team and scares away the best coaches and free agents who want nothing to do with an incompetent, meddling owner.


And we were complaining about the teamís fight song!


And now here is Ross, where he should have been a month ago, signing Sparano to a multi-year contract extension. Instead of allowing his passions to dominate clear thinking, he should have been working to preserve stability in leadership and philosophy. In short, he should have kept his eye on the ball and his fanny out of the way, like he promised when he bought the team from H. Wayne Huizenga.


But like the old saying goes, crying about spilt milk wonít help. Itís time for the Dolphins to move forward.


Hereís how they need to do it.


1) Sign Sparano to a multi-year deal

Sparanoís credibility took a major hit this week, and itís Rossís fault. So Ross set to work on an extension, but reportedly hit some sort of snag that forced the cancellation of a press roundtable to announce the extension. Weíre not sure what the problem was, or even if the problem was related to the extension, but Ross has little leverage right now and precious little time to get the Dolphinsí house in order. Whatever the snag is, Ross needs to fix it fast; it will cost him a lot less than what he was stupidly going to pay Jim Harbaugh, a college coach with a paper thin resume. Now Ross just needs to concede and fly back to New York for the offseason to lick his wounds and consider the painful lessons learned from this fiasco.


2) Hire an offensive coordinator

Iím not sure now how Sparano plans to do this given the recent events, but my hunch here is that he has a plan in place to quickly move forward. Part of the solution is a new iron clad contract that restores his pride and security as head coach. The other part is his relationship and reputation, which carries the imprimatur of Bill Parcells. In all of this chaos, remember that Parcells is still a Dolphins employee and will help Sparano anyway he can.


3) Solve the QB issue

The first step in making this happen is for Sparano and Ireland to sort out any differences they have in the wake of the season and the current weekís events. Itís not altogether clear to me what Irelandís true role was in all the madness this week, but it is imperative that Sparano and Ireland get past anything still standing between them. Once that happens, and I do have some doubt that it will, the two men will evaluate the current roster, the draft, and free agency. Is Chad Henne salvageable? Is Vince Young worth a shot? Is there a college passer with the goods that can be had with the 15th overall pick? These are very important questions. This regime cannot afford another screw up at the most important of positions.


4) Fix the offensive line

The offensive line is the engine of a football team, and the Dolphinsí engine is sputtering. The two starting tackles, Jake Long and Vernon Carey, are fine. Whatís needed are two guards and a strong center who can handle the dominant nose tackles in the AFC East: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Williams, and Kris Jenkins. Thereís some thought that the physical Richie Incognito is best suited for the center position. If true, then two new guards must be the top priority after QB. Depth is an opportunity as well with top reserve Nate Garner coming off a season ending injury.


5) Re-sign Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams

These two players were the cogs that made the Wildcat come to life and gave the Dolphins one of the best running games in the NFL in 2008-2009. Given the teamís needs (above), it is unrealistic to expect that they will find better in the draft. Free agency doesnít seem to offer a clearly better alternative. With Ronnie and Ricky being the least of the teamís problems, and the speedy and talented Kory Sheets healthy now and back in the mix, the Dolphins would do well to re-sign both men.


There are many other needs for sure, but these five steps represent an important and meaningful beginning that will heal the wounds and bad feelings from the season and this past week.


Today the Dolphins are going to have a press conference to start to clean up the enormous mess. Their agenda is simple: create a face of harmony and unity.


But talk is cheap and credibility is low for the current regime and owner. So be very skeptical of anything coming from them at this point in time. This includes Sparano. A lot of damage was done these past four weeks, and Ross, Ireland, and Sparano all had a hand in it.


From now on, actions will speak loudest.

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