If Flores doesn’t coach the Dolphins with such a sense of competitive honor in 2019, if he doesn’t urge the Dolphins to win five of their last nine games to finish 5-11, Ross certainly looks guilty for having offered a bribe for his team to tank. Thanks to Flores’ efforts, the league was unable or unwilling to conclude that Ross’ organization had outright pitched games. Still, it turns out Flores was telling the truth about his despicable ex-boss when he made the searing accusation that Ross offered him $100,000 a loss. “There are different memories about wording, timing and context,” the league said in a statement. But apparently Ross said so, or something close to it.
That Flores coached to win despite his owner’s pressure and duplicity, somehow managed to make something competitive from a singularly barren roster of talent – not a single player won as much as one vote for the all-pro team – that’s all that allowed NFL investigator Mary Jo White to generously conclude that Ross didn’t actually submarine his own team .
NFL suspends, fines Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, strips team of two draft picks
Instead, the league just suspended Ross and fined him $1.5 million on Tuesday for tampering, for being a traitor and cheat who tried to steal talent from other teams with a lineup. other unethical behavior — violations of “unprecedented scope and severity” for a landlord, according to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement.
Remember the work Flores did in the aftermath, even though Ross was an accomplice? On the Sunday before Christmas, Flores urged his team to a 38-35 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime, a game that meant absolutely nothing except that Flores did something for his guys. A week later, Flores led the Dolphins to that unthinkable New England Patriots upset, 27-24, only to deny them a playoff bye. You remember ? Remember who the Dolphins had in what ridiculously passed for a backfield that day? Patrick Laird, the undrafted free agent whose nickname was “the Intern”, because that’s what everyone on the team thought he was, as opposed to a running back.
Recall that Ryan Fitzpatrick beat Tom Brady, even as Ross – through an intermediary – played foot massage with Brady in “numerous and detailed” secret communications in clear violation of league rules, trying to fuck his Hamptons and Palm Beach neighbor Robert Kraft?
Imagine how it must have felt for Flores to have Ross whispering in his ear the whole time, urging him to tamper with Brady and insinuating how much the owner would like it if somehow they were losing enough games to improve their draft position.
According to the league, Ross “has repeatedly expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take precedence over the team’s win-loss record.” Ross told Flores. He told Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel. He told general manager Chris Grier and senior vice president Brandon Shore. And he said it “several times”. He said it often enough, and in a way that worried Flores so much, that the coach felt compelled to document it in a written memo to senior staff, eventually forcing Ross to take him down, at least with him.
“I am grateful that the NFL investigator has found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross to be true,” Flores said in a statement Tuesday. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator downplayed Mr. Ross’ offers and pressure on the tank games, particularly when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to the leaders of the Dolphins documenting my serious concerns about this.”
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The league – with extraordinary charity – discovered that Ross had not explicitly “ordered” Flores to lose games. He interpreted that hundred thousand dollar dump and win games remark as a joke. “However worded, such comment was not intended or considered to be a serious offer,” the league decided.
Still, it’s clear how dangerous Ross’ verbal pressure was. The Sports Bribery Act makes it an offense “to influence, in any way, by the corruption of a sports contest”. What if Ross’ remarks had been directed at a coach with a little less iron in him than Flores? What if Ross had really influenced him?
“An owner or senior manager should understand the weight of their words and the risk that a comment will be taken seriously and implemented, even if that is not the intention or expectation,” Goodell said.
The only reason it didn’t look like a serious offer was because Flores didn’t take it up and instead coached the team with virtuous insubordination. “Mr. Ross’ comments did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to winning and the Dolphins competed to win every game,” Goodell said in the statement. “Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comments on the relative importance of the draft position to affect his commitment to winning throughout the season.”
Ross’ statement in response to punishment was in itself misleading. In a stunning double-talk, he claimed he was “exonerated” by the investigation and only accepted the penalty so the Dolphins could advance, although he strongly disagreed with the “findings and punishment”. He went out of his way to call Flores’ accusations “malicious and defamatory.” Even now, Ross doesn’t understand. He does not acknowledge that Flores actually protected him by participating wholeheartedly. Without Flores, Ross would have been totally exposed.