Stephen Ross

Dolphins, Stephen Ross Not Punished For Tanking Allegations

While Tuesday morning’s news will significantly alter the Dolphins’ draft plans, the allegations of tanking brought forth by former head coach Brian Flores are now in the team’s rear-view mirror. The NFL cleared the organization of wrongdoing here.

The Dolphins did not intentionally lose games, nor did Stephen Ross instruct Flores to do so to improve the team’s draft slot, per the investigation (Twitter link via’s Tom Pelissero). Flores accused Ross of offering him $100K per loss in 2019. The NFL is not disputing Flores’ claim about the $100K offer but determined Ross’ proposal for losses was not to be interpreted as serious.

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,” Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”

[RELATED: Dolphins Docked First-, Third-Round Picks For Tampering]

Flores, whose tampering accusations led to punishment for Ross and the Dolphins, said he wrote a letter to Dolphins executives indicating concern about the owner’s offer. Flores had also alleged that GM Chris Grier informed him Ross was mad when the team’s wins down the stretch that season compromised its 2020 draft position.

Although Ross will be tied to the tampering charge, the investigation’s other interviews did not lend support to Flores’ account he was given a serious offer to lose games for draft positioning. Such an offer, even coming in jest, acknowledged as fact does not look great for Ross — who is having a rather eventful day — but the longtime Dolphins owner nevertheless avoided a multi-penalty morning.

I am thankful that the NFL’s investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross are true,” Flores said in a statement. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross’s offers and pressure to tank games, especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time, which the investigator has in her possession. While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity,’ Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence.”

Pertaining to the tanking accusation, the NFL determined the 2019 Dolphins — who had gutted their roster to begin a rebuild that year — “tried hard to win every game, including at the end of the year when they beat Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the 2020 draft.”

The Flores-led team’s upset wins late that season dropped Miami’s top 2020 draft choice to No. 5, when Tua Tagovailoa went off the board. The Dolphins were interested in packaging all three picks for Joe Burrow, but the Bengals were uninterested in that swap.

The independent investigation cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores other allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest.”

The Dolphins’ roster purge led the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others off the roster in 2019. Given the product the team was putting on the field to start that season, one that began with a 59-10 loss to the Ravens, Flores helming that Dolphins iteration to a 5-11 record made for a major surprise. It also prevented the Dolphins from securing the Burrow draft slot. The three-year Dolphins HC certainly did not accuse players or his staff of trying to lose games, making the upset over the Patriots moot with regards to his accusation Ross offered him bonuses for losses. But Tuesday’s report including that as evidence is nonetheless interesting.

Flores has also sued the Dolphins, along with other teams and the NFL, for racial discrimination during their hiring processes. Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined that class-action lawsuit. That matter remains ongoing, but the $100K-per-loss saga is now behind the Dolphins, who will deal with the consequences from the tampering penalties in the coming years.

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Suspended; Team Docked Draft Picks For Tampering

The tampering allegations faced by the Dolphins have led to serious consequences for the organization. Owner Stephen Ross has been suspended for the beginning of the 2022 season, and the team has been docked two draft picks (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). ESPN’s Jeff Darlington notes that the decision is final, and there is no appeals process (Twitter link).

Ross will be suspended through October 17 of this year. He is also banned from all league committees and is not allowed to attend league meetings until March 2023. In addition, he has been fined $1.5MM. The draft picks the team is forfeiting are a first-round selection in 2023, as well as a third-rounder in 2024. Dolphins vice chairman Bruce Beal, who is also a TB12 board member (per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times), has also been suspended and fined $500K.

The full findings of the league’s investigations into the team’s attempts to acquire quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton include “tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” per commissioner Roger Goodell. The league has found that the Dolphins engaged in “impermissible communications” with Brady dating back to 2019-20, when he was with the Patriots (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

Miami likewise held illegal talks with Brady while he was a member of the Buccaneers, pertaining to a potential ownership stake, Schefter adds. As for Payton, the league has found that the Dolphins’ initial talks with him took place before before his decision to step away from the Saints in January, and that permission was still not granted by the Saints after that decision (Twitter links).

With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment,” Ross said in a statement. “However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything to get in the way of that.”

Reports surfaced early in the offseason of repeated attempts by Ross to bring Brady (who has a well-known personal relationship with Ross and Beal) to Miami as the team’s quarterback and/or minority owner. The move was expected to represent a package deal with Payton, but fell through in the wake of Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against, among others, the team. Much of the story was first detailed by PFT’s Mike Florio, but was later corroborated by a number of outlets; today’s new confirms what many had already suspected based on that reporting.

The punishment handed down to Ross, Beal and the organization is meant to “deter future violations and safeguard the integrity of the game,” per the league’s ruling. While it remains to be seen if it will have the intended effect in future cases of the sort, the Dolphins certainly face a steep price for their actions.

NFL Attempts To Move Brian Flores Lawsuit To Arbitration

The latest development in the ongoing legal dispute between Brian Flores and the NFL is a notable, if unsurprising, one. The league formally requested a federal court send the matter to arbitration, as detailed by Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic

The move was widely expected, as the NFL clearly stated its intentions of doing so much earlier in this process. As its filing indicates, arbitration is the “preferred venue” for the league to settle disputes such as this one. It argues that little precedent exists for courts to handle the internal matters of sports leagues, which, it further states, is the purview under which Flores’ bribery allegations against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (along with his other claims) should fall.

The league is also attempting to get former coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – who joined Flores’ suit as co-plaintiffs in April – to “sever their cases and file separate arbitration claims.” Just as those decisions come as little surprise, so to does the response made by Flores himself.

“With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March, knowing arbitration would be a strong possibility. Given the scope of his allegations made against the league in general, and the Dolphins, Texans, Giants, Broncos (and, after the addition of Wilks and Horton, the Cardinals and Titans), public proceedings would understandably be the plaintiff’s preferred avenue.

Flores was hired by the Steelers as the team’s linebackers coach in February, less than a month after his lawsuit was filed. Kaplan notes, however, that his contract has yet to be formally signed off by commissioner Roger Goodell, something which is standard practice for NFL employment contracts. He adds that the pact “had a minor adjustment [made to it] shortly before the filing, but nothing that will hold it up.”

As a busy offseason for the league continues with respect to off-the-field issues, this legal battle could take a notable turn in the near future if its move for arbitration is allowed to go through. Even in that event, this appears set to remain a significant storyline.

Latest On NFL’s Dolphins Investigation

The NFL’s probe into the Miami Dolphins, and in particular owner Stephen Ross, has begun. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the result of the investigation could cost Ross the team. 

This stems from the allegations former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores made against Ross that included, among other things, $100K payments for each loss during the team’s rebuilding 2019 season. The league announced it would open an investigation one day later. If proven to be true, Ross could face a wide range of consequences.

As Rapoport writes, Ross’ discipline “could be severe, up to and including [him] losing the team by a vote of fellow owners”. That option, while extreme, is a possibility, according to commissioner Roger Goodell, who recently stated, “I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league”. Rapoport adds that a three-fourths majority vote would be required for such an action to take place.

From the outset, Ross has denied any wrongdoing, calling Flores’ allegations “false, malicious and defamatory”. He also stated an intention to cooperate fully with the investigation. Goodell added that the league’s next actions will, of course, not be determined until after the facts of the probe have been established. When that time comes, though, its ramifications could clearly be far-reaching for Ross.

NFL To Investigate Brian Flores’ Allegations Dolphins Offered Bonuses For Losses

THURSDAY: Denying Flores’ claims that he offered six-figure bonuses for 2019 losses, Ross indicated the Dolphins will cooperate with an NFL investigation (Twitter link via’s Adam Beasley).

WEDNESDAY: A day after Brian Flores filed a lawsuit that, among other allegations, accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering $100K for each Dolphins loss in 2019, the NFL will investigate the matter, Chris Mortensen of tweets.

Considering the seriousness of Flores’ accusation, the league taking action so soon does not surprise. The NFL’s investigation does not yet have a timetable, per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske (on Twitter), but this matter will not be going away anytime soon. The league will also investigate other rules violations, per Mortensen. The Dolphins have denied Flores’ allegation.

Flores accused Ross of offering those payments to boost the Dolphins’ prospects of securing top draft position in 2020. When Flores went 5-11, GM Chris Grier allegedly communicated to the since-fired Miami HC that Ross was unhappy the team slid to the No. 5 overall position in the 2020 draft. Instead of the rebuilding team picking first in 2020, which would have placed Miami in position to draft Joe Burrow, the Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5. Despite Tagovailoa being a Dolphins target for several months, Burrow’s record-breaking 2019 season prompted the team to shift course. The Dolphins were unable to turn their three first-round selections into that year’s No. 1 pick, with the Bengals selecting Burrow first overall.

This investigation will obviously generate interest, as the Dolphins were committed to a full-scale rebuild in 2019. Gutting the team to produce losses and payments coming as a result of those defeats are certainly different matters. Ross would stand to face significant punishment if the latter can be proven. Interestingly,’s Cameron Wolfe notes a Dolphins source was aware of Ross offering the bonus payments for every 2019 loss (Twitter link).

Brian Flores Sues NFL, Dolphins, Giants, Broncos

Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos — on Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination, Marcel Louis-Jacques of reports. The Dolphins’ decision to fire him after three seasons, along with the Giants and Broncos choosing other candidates in 2022 and 2019, respectively, are at the root of this suit, which he filed in New York.

The Dolphins stunned most by firing Flores after back-to-back winning seasons, but the 2019 season — one in which the team was connected to tanking for the 2020 No. 1 overall pick — comes up frequently in Flores’ suit. The since-fired HC alleges Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him an additional $100K for each loss that season and that GM Chris Grier informed Flores that Ross was mad when the team’s wins down the stretch that season compromised its 2020 draft position. The Ross allegations are particularly explosive, and the Dolphins owner came up in another part of this lawsuit as well.

Miami likely fielded the NFL’s worst roster in 2019, having gutted it at the start of a rebuild, but Flores went 5-11 to push the team’s 2020 draft slot down to No. 5. The Dolphins were connected to Tua Tagovailoa for over a year, but they had changed course and wanted Joe Burrow after his record-setting Heisman campaign. Instead, the Bengals landed the LSU superstar and rebuffed the Dolphins’ attempt to trade up from No. 5.

Flores also alleged Ross wanted Flores to recruit a “prominent quarterback” at the end of the 2019 season — before free agency, which would have violated the NFL’s tampering rules. This, per Flores, included a meeting on a yacht before the legal tampering period. When Flores refused to go through with this meeting, he claims he was met with “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.” The Dolphins cited collaboration issues as part of the reason they fired Flores last month.

The unnamed quarterback is believed to be Tom Brady, Ian Rapoport of reports (video link). The Dolphins were linked to Brady, whom Flores spent over a decade with in New England, but were not believed to be among the finalists for the future Hall of Fame passer by the time the tampering period began.

The Giants hired Brian Daboll over Flores, who called his interview process with the team “a sham” meant to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which mandates teams interview two minority candidates for HC positions. Flores, who spoke with the Giants before they hired GM Joe Schoen and later interviewed with Schoen and Co. in person, cites Bill Belichick texts about his pursuit of the job in his suit. In the messages, Belichick claimed that he had “Buffalo and NYG that you are their guy.” Flores’ former boss later texted his apologies for misunderstanding the situation. The suit claims Flores’ in-person meeting with the Giants came after they had already decided to hire Daboll, via the New York Post.

Flores also alleges members of the Broncos’ interview contingent, including former GM John Elway, arrived for his 2019 HC interview an hour late and hungover. The Broncos ended up hiring Vic Fangio to replace Vance Joseph that year, leading Flores to Miami. Calling Flores’ account “blatantly false,” the Broncos detailed their 2019 interview process with Flores (via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, on Twitter). The Dolphins and Giants have also rejected Flores’ claims.

Flores conducted a second interview with the Texans on Monday, and the Saints did go through with their interview Tuesday at the Senior Bowl,’s Mike Triplett tweets. This lawsuit certainly complicates Flores’ chances of landing a job this year. His suit against the NFL aims, among other matters, for the league to increase the number of Black coordinators, incentivize the hiring and retention of Black GMs, HCs and coordinators and provide transparency of the salaries attached to GMs, HCs and coordinators.

God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals,” Flores said. “In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”

The NFL called Flores’ claims meritless in a swiftly released statement. The league changed its Rooney Rule multiple times during Flores’ Miami tenure but currently features just one team employing a Black head coach. Two others — Washington and the Jets — employ minority HCs.

The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations,” the NFL said in a statement, via Rapoport (on Twitter). “Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”

Dolphins Were Prepared To Trade All Three 2020 First-Round Picks To Bengals For Joe Burrow

The Dolphins’ pursuit of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft was well-documented. Though the team was connected to Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa for much of the 2019 season — Tank For Tua, anyone? — Joe Burrow‘s transcendent 2019 performance with LSU and Tagovailoa’s injury troubles made Burrow the top-ranked QB in his class on big boards across the NFL.

The rebuilding Miami outfit was supposed to be bad enough to secure 2020’s No. 1 pick — and, by extension, Burrow — without having to make a trade, but a surprising 5-4 finish to the 2019 season resulted in the club landing the No. 5 overall selection (and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk posits, then-head coach Brian Flores‘ refusal to heed owner Stephen Ross‘ alleged mandate to tank may have marked the beginning of the rift that eventually led to Flores’ dismissal this year). The Bengals, meanwhile, stumbled into the top pick and found themselves in pole position for Burrow.

Still armed with three first-round choices (Nos. 5, 18, and 26) thanks to myriad transactions emblematic of a rebuilding club, the Dolphins did their best to acquire the No. 1 pick from Cincinnati. That gambit included trying to prise the No. 3 overall pick from the Lions, which Miami intended to trade to the Bengals, along with its own No. 5 selection, in exchange for the No. 1 choice.

While acquiring the No. 3 pick without giving up the No. 5 always seemed like a longshot, Ian Rapoport of wrote this morning that the ‘Fins were willing to give up all three of their own first-rounders — and potentially more — to jump up to No. 1 and nab Burrow. However, Bengals brass had no interest in entertaining any offers, regardless of how tempting they might have been, and quickly rebuffed Miami’s overtures.

In hindsight, it’s hard to argue with that decision (though Florio faults Ross for not calling Bengals owner Mike Brown directly to make a pitch while also faulting Brown for not even listening to what the Dolphins were putting on the table). Burrow rebounded from a torn ACL that cut his rookie season short and enjoyed a tremendous sophomore campaign, leading the league in completion percentage (70.4%) and yards per attempt (8.9) despite being sacked a league-high 51 times. Most importantly, of course, is the fact that he has his team on the brink of its first Super Bowl appearance since 1989.

Although it’s possible to envision a scenario in which the Bengals acquired Miami’s three first-rounders and still made their current postseason run — perhaps with Justin Herbert, selected by the Chargers with 2020’s No. 6 overall pick, under center — Burrow’s success has Bengals fans perfectly content with the way things worked out. The Dolphins, meanwhile, ended up with Tagovailoa after all, and are hopeful that whomever they hire as their new head coach will help him find the consistent professional success that has thus far eluded him.

Dolphins Request Permission To Interview Bills OC Brian Daboll

Brian Daboll is emerging as a popular name for head coaching vacancies. Following news that the Bears requested permission to interview the Bills OC, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Dolphins also requested permission to interview Daboll.

[RELATED: Dolphins Fire HC Brian Flores]

The move would reunite Daboll with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played under Daboll when the two were at Alabama. Since Daboll’s one-year stint as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, he’s served in the same role with the Bills. Following an inconsistent first season in the role, the Bills offense has been among the top-10(ish) units over the past three years. That includes a passing offense that ranked second in points scored in 2020 and third in points scored in 2021.

A Daboll hiring would also be a bit of a homecoming for the coach after he served as Miami’s offensive coordinator in 2011. Daboll has also served as OC with the Chiefs and Browns, and he’s worked on the coaching staffs for the Jets and Patriots.

While Daboll is a candidate, we know one person who will not be considered for the role. Many assumed that owner Stephen Ross, who is a major Michigan donor, would target Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. However, following reports that the Dolphins wouldn’t be pursuing the veteran coach, Ross confirmed the news to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“I’m not going to be the person to take Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan,” Ross said (Twitter link).

The Dolphins fired Brian Flores earlier today. The 40-year-old took over as the Fins’ HC in 2019, compiling an overall record of 24-25. A 10-6 finish last year was the cause of a great deal of optimism for the future for the team. However, Flores found himself on the hot seat following an early-season seven-game losing streak, but many pundits assumed he saved his job when the team turned things around and won seven-straight games. Ultimately, Flores was handed his walking papers.

Dolphins Fire HC Brian Flores

‘Black Monday’ has seen its first surprising move of the day. The Dolphins have fired Head Coach Brian Flores, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). 

Flores, 40, took over as the Fins’ HC in 2019, compiling an overall record of 24-25. A 10-6 finish last year was the cause of a great deal of optimism for the future for the team, as they just missed out on the playoffs and were set to hand over the quarterbacking reigns to 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.

2021 was a completely different story, however. After winning in Week 1, the team suffered seven straight losses and was seen as arguably the biggest disappointment in the league, given all the optimism heading into the season. In the midst of that skid, it was reported that Flores was on the hot seat. The mounting losses, along with a perceived lack of flexibility made some believe Flores wasn’t the most approachable of coaches.

Not long after, though, the team turned things around and won seven straight to get to 8-8 on the campaign. While they ultimately fell short of the playoffs with a 9-8 record, the fact that a potential tailspin turned into another winning season had many feeling Flores would be safe. Instead, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe reports that Owner Stephen Ross met with Flores on Monday before making the decision to fire him. He adds that the latter “didn’t always agree on key team decisions” with General Manager Chris Greer, but also that “there’s a widespread feeling of shock within the team”.

The Team Tweeted out a statement in which Ross said, “after evaluating where we are as an organization and what we need going forward to improve, I determined that key dynamics of our football organization weren’t functioning at a level I want it to be and felt that this decision was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins. I want to thank Brian for his hard work and wish him nothing but the best in the future”. Schefter adds that Greer is safe for the time being.

Miami joins Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Denver, Minnesota and Chicago as teams in need of a new head coach for 2022.

AFC East Notes: Watson, White, Pats

The much-discussed Deshaun Watson trade between the Dolphins and Texans never came to fruition, in part because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted Watson to settle the 22 civil suits that have been brought against him. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes, Ross also wanted to speak with Watson directly and requested permission to do so, but because there was no chance that Watson’s legal situation would be resolved by the November 2 trade deadline, there was no point in having a conversation just yet.

However, if Houston and Miami reopen talks this offseason, it seems that a sit-down between Ross and Watson will be necessary before a deal can be struck.

Now for more from the AFC East, starting with another item out of South Beach:

  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wonders if the Dolphins will consider parting ways with WR DeVante Parker this offseason. Though Parker has been effective when he has been on the field in 2021, he is now on IR and has played in just five games this year. Plus, the ‘Fins could save $6.2MM by making him a post-June 1 cut, though that would leave the club with even more work to do to address the receiving corps, as Will Fuller and Albert Wilson are not expected to be back. Jackson does believe Mack Hollins will be retained.
  • Jets QB Mike White, who led the club to a surprising win over the Bengals in Week 8 and who was playing well in New York’s Week 9 loss to the Colts before he was forced out with an early injury, is hugely popular in the Gang Green locker room, per Rich Cimini of White’s journey and attitude have earned the respect of his teammates and have energized the building, and as Cimini writes in a separate piece, the 2018 fifth-rounder may have already made himself a nice chunk of change. He is playing the 2021 season on a one-year, $850K contract, but he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. He should at least be in line for an original-round tender of $2.4MM, and he could force the Jets to tender him at the second-round level, which would net him $3.9MM.
  • It certainly didn’t create many headlines, but the Patriots plucked LB Calvin Munson off the Dolphins‘ practice squad several weeks ago. The 26-year-old has only seen action on special teams with his new club, but New England clearly thinks highly of him. Per Mike Reiss of, the Pats gave Munson a contract that runs though 2022 and that included a bit of a pay bump. A number of the Patriots’ off-ball linebackers are slated for free agency at the end of the year, so Munson could have a shot at more significant playing time next season.
  • Patriots DL Byron Cowart opened the season on the reserve/PUP list. Though he returned to practice in October, the 21-day window for activating him off the PUP list has expired, as veteran NFL writer Aaron Wilson tweets. As such, Cowart, who started 14 games last year, will be forced to miss the entire 2021 campaign.