In the eight seasons since owning the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross hasn't been as involved with day-to-day operations like most NFL owners. On the first day of training camp on Thursday, Ross told media members after practice about his new level of involvement and his expectations for the 2015 season.
"I'm probably more involved now," Ross said. "It takes a while to really get the real feel of how it works in owning a football team. It is different than anything else that I've experienced. But I'm definitely more involved with it now and really pushing the envelope to be best in class, looking at new ideas and I think you see them."
Miami made the playoffs the first year Ross took over in 2008. Since then, the Dolphins have missed the playoffs six consecutive seasons. Ross believes the Dolphins assembled a lot of talent over the offseason.
"When you look at this team and you look at the roster, I think everybody looks at it as saying, 'Hey, this is the best roster you've seen in Miami in many years,'" Ross said. "I think our season ticket sales are up, there's a lot of excitement in the city, what we've done. Tom Garfinkel has done an incredible job. I think it's reflected already by how people are feeling about this team and what people are writing about."
Miami head coach Joe Philbin has taken a lot of criticism from fans and the media for the Dolphins late-season December collapses. The team entered the last month of the season with an opportunity to make the playoffs both in 2013 and '14 but failed to make the postseason each time.
Ross said he and Philbin have an expectation of breaking the Dolphins' playoff drought in 2015.
"Right now, all you worry about is you do everything you can to be in a position to win. When you don't, you'll face it then and what do we have to do to win. I bought a team for one purpose is creating a winner and doing it in a manner that we're consistent and we're competitive every single year. That's been the approach. The players we've signed, we sign to long-term contracts. We didn't sign a lot of older free agents, we signed younger free agents that have a lot of playing left."
The Dolphins on paper have improved, as they have surrounded quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a ton of weapons including first-round pick DeVante Parker, speedy wide receiver Kenny Stills and tight end Jordan Cameron (pictured above, right with Ross). They have also gotten better on the defensive line with the signing of Ndamukong Suh, so Ross has a right to be excited about the upcoming season.
With New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady possibly suspended for the first four games of the season, this appears to be the best chance the Dolphins have had to win the AFC East since 2008. Both the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets improved, but both have questions at quarterback.
Miami has a very winnable schedule during the first month of the season, as the team travels to Washington and Jacksonville to open things before coming home to host Buffalo and then making the transatlantic trip to London to playd the Jets. While Ross refused to say if Philbin had to make the playoffs to keep his job, his level of excitement says he expects a winner or changes could be coming.
(Top photo courtesy of www.miamidolphins.com)
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.