DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to put a positive spin on the franchise's direction at a news conference Tuesday, stressing the need for more organizational harmony and better teamwork.
Then, as the media began to question Ross about Dolphins dysfunction, coach Joe Philbin and executive Dawn Aponte rose from their front-row seats and left.
As Ross said, his team's teamwork needs work. The owner's candid comments came during the formal introduction of Dennis Hickey as the team's general manager.
Hickey replaces Jeff Ireland, who clashed with Philbin and Aponte during the Dolphins' tumultuous 2013 season, which was rocked by a bullying scandal and a December collapse that cost them a playoff berth.
"The reason we made the change wasn't because I didn't think highly of Jeff," Ross said. "But we needed to have harmony within the organization where everybody had respect for each other and operated with the same mindset at all times."
The news conference was filled with awkward pauses, and the mood was subdued because Hickey's hiring came after two candidates turned down the job, while others also gave the Dolphins a stiff-arm. Several were concerned about the team's power structure, and Ross' loyalty to Philbin and Aponte may also have deterred potential GMs.
Ross said Hickey and Philbin will report directly to him. Aponte — a salary-cap expert as executive vice president of football administration — will report to Hickey.
Ross said he wasn't going to let a general manager decide the fate of the head coach.
"I own the team," Ross said. He shrugged when asked about the candidates who rebuffed him.
"I set out the characteristics I was looking for," he said. "People might have other ideas in their mind. We were pretty clear in the structure. It's not an unusual structure. I think we have very talented staff that I'm very comfortable with."
Ross said compatibility between the new GM and Philbin was his top priority in the search. The owner remains firm in his support of Philbin, who is 15-17 in two seasons with Miami.
Continue reading this story on the...