It's been more than a half-decade since Stephen Ross purchased the Miami Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga, and it seems as if slowly but steadily, Ross has finally turned around the franchise. Heading into the 2015 season, everything feels very new-car-smell around the team, and it all comes directly from Ross' hard work.
Dolphins fans might have doubted him at first, but it seems as if some of us owe Mr. Ross an apology — he's provided the team, and this city, everything he promised when he introduced himself. Though the Fins have yet to deliver on the most important part of the equation — winning football games — it's clear the team is set up for success in the long-term.
The two-year, $425 million stadium renovation project Ross approved last year still has a year to go, but even as it sits incomplete, Sun Life Stadium appears reborn. The replacement of those 65,326 familiar faded-orange seats represents so much more than just a new look for the place in which the Dolphins and Hurricanes will play this season — it represents the progress Ross has made as an owner. Like the renovations, turning a team stuck in mediocrity is a multiple-year process. Ross had a vision and has seen that vision come to fruition.
No longer in the midst of controversy or the butt of jokes, the Miami Dolphins appear to be on the come-up. Locally, Dolphins fans are no longer paying money to fly planes asking for the dismissal of a team employee; they are buying tickets. The team announced recently that it has sold all 47,000 of its season tickets, further showing that the remodeling of the stadium is running parallel with a rise in fans' expectations. It's a new era of Miami Dolphins football, and people want to be there when it all changes.
Ross has rejuvenated the stadium and the Miami Dolphins fan base heading into this season, something both desperately needed. Just as Ross hired the right people to remodel his stadium, it seems he's hired the right people to rebuild the team too. New executive VP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum has shown he's not afraid to be bold, general manager Dennis Hickey has proven capable of identifying talent, and president and CEO Tom Garfinkel has been a breath of fresh air for a fan base accustomed to having its opinions and desires ignored.
Ross — as much as he was doubted when it all came together — seems to have assembled a roomful of classy people who are capable of being elite at their respective jobs; that's not something you could have said about the Dolphins organization 24 months ago. Gone are the days of chasing possible coaches or players around the globe on a private jet; Ross has the people and players he believes can get the job done right here in Miami.
On the field, the Dolphins have assembled one of their most likable teams in recent memory. We want to root for these players, from franchise QB Ryan Tannehill to Uber driver AJ Francis. In the past, the roster seemed to be filled with players we rooted for but never truly liked. It seems as if the vibe around this Dolphins team is much looser, filled with swag rather than unjustified cockiness.
This Sunday, when the Dolphins play the Washington Redskins in D.C., fans will get their first glimpse of what they feel the future of Miami Dolphins football looks like. The team's motto during the past few seasons has been #StrongerTogether, but this is the first season it has felt as if the fans have bought into that belief.
Nothing has been proven on the field yet, but Dolphins fans must give credit where credit is due off the field: Stephen Ross has done an A-plus job of bringing football back to life in South Florida.