MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Every team in sports or business will at some point have to deal with issues that damage the reputation of said team/company. Most will come through it and recover. But as scandal after scandal and failure after failure keep piling up for the Miami Dolphins, how much more can the team’s reputation take?
Just in the last decade, the Dolphins have been hit by a plethora of scandals that would give problems to even the savviest of public relations departments.
In 2004, the Dolphins and the sports world were shocked when running back Ricky Williams, at that point in the prime of his career, suddenly retired from the team on the eve of training camp. The retirement centered around drug usage. Williams would return in 2005 and then be kicked out of the league in 2006 only to return again in 2007 and stay through 2010.
In 2006, the Dolphins were in the market for a quarterback. The team had the choice of two quarterbacks coming off bad injuries at the time: Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper. Brees wanted more money than the Fins wanted to give and Nick Saban, more on him in a minute, decided instead to go with Culpepper.
The decision was disastrous for the Dolphins and has haunted the team ever since. Culpepper was trying to return from tearing his ACL, PCL, and MCL in his knee. Culpepper was also coming off being involved in the Minnesota Vikings “love boat” scandal.
Culpepper played in just four games for the Dolphins in 2006 and threw for 929 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Culpepper clashed with Saban and eventually ended up on injured reserve that season.
Things really came off the wheels for the Dolphins at the end of the 2006 season.
Then-Dolphins head coach Nick Saban was rumored to be interested in the head coaching job at the University of Alabama that came open in late-November. Saban repeatedly said he wasn’t interested in the job going so far as to say these immortal words in South Florida sports history: “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
A few weeks later, Saban quit the Dolphins and left the area on a private jet bound for Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he was greeted like the second-coming of Jesus by Alabama fans.
The next year, the Dolphins truly became the punching bag of the NFL. The 2007 Dolphins were one of the worst teams in NFL history and finished the year with a 1-15 record. The season ended with the entire coaching staff, front office and many players being served with their walking papers.
In the following years, Bill Parcells took over and brought in Jeff Ireland as general manager and Tony Sparano as head coach. The decision would prove disastrous to bring in Parcells and Ireland. Parcells would eventually quit on the team and walk away with plenty of money and a job at ESPN.
Ireland became infamous when he asked then-draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.
Ireland and the Fins brought in Chad Johnson as a free agent before last season, hoping he would be the answer to a poor receiving corps. Johnson never played a regular season down for the team as he was cut in the preseason after getting arrested for headbutting his then-wife Evelyn Lozada.
Over the past year, the Dolphins tried to win a vote for a public-private partnership to make major renovations to Sun Life Stadium in hopes of attracting future Super Bowls and giving Dolphins fans a reason to come out to the game.
Despite the best efforts of the Fins, the effort died on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives when Speaker Will Weatherford refused to let the issue come up for a vote in his chamber.
Before the 2013 season started, the Dolphins had to deal with another player scandal. Center Mike Pouncey was photographed with his brother Maurkice wearing hats that said, “Free Hernandez,” in reference to Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder and other crimes in the offseason in Massachusetts. Pouncey was a teammate and friend of Hernandez at the University of Florida. Maurkice Pouncey, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, took his teams advice and apologized publicly for the incident.
Mike Pouncey and the Dolphins have never addressed the situation, nor apologized for the hats.
Then, there’s the ongoing saga between the team, guard Richie Incognito, and tackle Jonathan Martin. The saga has taken more twists and turns than a telenovela and with each passing hour, more details continue to pour out making all involved look bad in the public eye.
Even on Thursday, former quarterback Sage Rosenfels came out and called general manager Jeff Ireland the worst GM he ever played for during his NFL career.
The Dolphins are a storied franchise in NFL history. The team remains the only franchise to ever finish a season undefeated, including winning the Super Bowl. The franchise was coached for decades by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.
The Fins also had arguably one of the best pure passers in the history of the NFL, Dan Marino play his entire career in South Florida.
Dolphins fans have remained loyal to the team for decades, but even the most loyal fans have showed signs of wearing out under the more than a decade of scandals and failure. The Fins’ decline has coincided with the ascension of the Miami Heat to the sports stratosphere and the Fins have had a hard time filling the stadium and avoiding league mandated blackouts in recent years.
The Dolphins brand has taken a beating for more than a decade, so much so that for some sports fans…the only thing they know of the Dolphins is the line “Finkel is Einhorn…Einhorn is Finkel!”
Still, the one that can cure anything, especially in the world of sports, is winning.