Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores alleged owner Stephen Ross wanted the organization to “tank,” or lose games on purpose, during the 2019 campaign in hopes of getting a better draft position. The National Football League revealed Tuesday how they did not find any confirmation of that taking place.
The findings were released after an NFL investigation focused on whether the Dolphins violated tampering rules with a player under contract and whether Miami lost games on purpose. Both such allegations initially came to light in February in an extensive lawsuit by Flores.
“The Dolphins did not intentionally lose games during the 2019 season,” the league wrote in a statement. “Nor did anyone at the club, including Mr. (Stephen) Ross, instruct Coach Flores to do so. No witness contended otherwise. The Dolphins competed hard to win every game, including at the end of the season when they beat Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the 2020 draft.”
Miami, which finished the season 5-11 and fourth in the AFC East, selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Joe Burrow went No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“On a number of occasions during the 2019 season, Mr. Ross expressed his belief that the Dolphins’ position in the upcoming 2020 draft should take priority over the team’s win-loss record. These comments were made most frequently to Team President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, but were also
made to General Manager Chris Grier, Senior Vice President Brandon Shore and Coach Flores,” the league wrote. “These comments, which he took to be suggestions that he lose games, troubled Coach Flores and led him to express his concerns in writing to senior club executives, each of whom assured Coach Flores that everyone, including Mr. Ross, supported him in building a winning culture in Miami. After this, Mr. Ross no longer made any such comments to Coach Flores.”
Flores specifically alleged how Ross offered the head coach $100,000 to lose games. The NFL determined such a comment “was not intended or taken to be serious.”
While the Dolphins do benefit from the league’s findings in regards to tanking allegations, Miami received a hefty punishment for three different tampering situations. The Dolphins first tampered with Brady when the quarterback was with the New England Patriots in 2019 and did so again when the legendary signal-caller was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past season. Miami also tampered with Payton when he was under contract with the New Orleans Saints, prior to Payton announcing would step away from coaching.
The Dolphins were disciplined by forfeiting their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick. Ross will be fined $1.5 million and suspended through Oct. 17 and is not allowed to be present at the Dolphins’ facility. He also was removed from all NFL committees indefinitely. Bruce Beal, the organization’s vice chairman and the one who had conversations with Brady in 2019, will be fined $500,000 and is not allowed to attend league meetings this season.