Owner defends Dolphins offseason

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When a couple dozen protesters showed up outside the Miami Dolphins complex last week, team owner Stephen Ross took notice.

So he called two of them, asking what the team could do better.

"We all have one thing in common," Ross said. "We all want to see a winning football team."

And while speaking at the NFL owners meetings on Monday, Ross said he believes the Dolphins are getting better, even after trying in vain to land quarterback Peyton Manning earlier this offseason, along with past coaching candidates such as Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher, who both spurned Miami as well.

Those have been the three highest-profile known pursuits Ross has made since taking over the Dolphins, and he said he isn't deterred by going 0 for 3.

"I'll do it again and again," Ross said. "I'm going to be bold. You know what -- you don't lose for trying. And if I can find the right guy, I'm going to be bold in getting him. I can't worry about losing. Because nothing ventured is nothing gained."

Ross made a big change late last season, firing Tony Sparano and eventually bringing in former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to take over. Ross raved about Philbin on Monday, saying he's already "better than I thought."

The Dolphins made little secret about their interest in Manning, the four-time NFL MVP who was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts and became the highest-profile free agent on the market this offseason. Ross even met with Archie Manning, Peyton's father, in December about the notion, and the Dolphins were one of the teams on Manning's list of candidates before he ultimately chose to sign a $96 million, five-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

With Manning gone, the Dolphins also talked with Alex Smith, then wound up signing David Garrard, who will presumably be Matt Moore's backup entering the season. The Dolphins won six of Moore's final nine starts last season, after starting the year 0-7.

"I'm very excited about Matt Moore," Ross said. "People, we got so many people who really liked what Matt Moore did last year. I think as he got more experience, the team got better. That's a good place to start with. And if we can continue that, that'd be great. There's a lot of good personnel on that team."

One big name that became available after Manning chose Denver was Tim Tebow, who was eventually traded to the New York Jets. Ross said Miami was not in any contention to land Tebow.

"In talking to the coach, he didn't really fit our system. You're not going to bring someone in just to sell seats," Ross said. "Therefore, we kind of dismissed that early on because the coach has an idea where he wants to take this team and how it's going to perform and get players who can really fit in that system. And Tim Tebow didn't fit in that system."

Ross also defended embattled general manager Jeff Ireland, who in turn spoke highly of Moore.

"I don't have any second thoughts on trying to address the quarterback position," Ireland said. "I've made it very clear that the quarterback position needs to play better for us to have the ultimate success. ... A lot is to be said about Matt Moore and what he was able to accomplish last year."

The Dolphins traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago earlier this offseason, another move Ross defended.

"That's history," Ross said. "We want to go on. We wish him the best. That's really behind us. It was a trade. He wasn't cut. And we think we got fair value and we think the football team is better for it."

Ross and Ireland both lauded the "passion" of the smattering of fans -- some of whom wearing grocery bags over their heads -- that turned out for the impromptu protest last week. Ross said after talking with them, he understands their urgency to win, and hopes they understand his.

He said the nucleus of the Dolphins is solid, and acknowledged that there's plenty of work left to be done.

"Let me tell you: Money will never be an issue for us becoming a winning football team. That I can tell you right now," Ross said. "We have to live with the limitations of the cap, the salary cap, as all teams do. So sometimes you lose players. But I think we have a lot of players expiring and we have to make sure we don't make stupid mistakes by signing players that have big names and big salary bonuses that are really going to impact the cap."