What is it about scandals and controversies that seem to suck us in? Is it based on us being a product of a TMZ generation, or is our base enjoyment of such infamous events what gave rise to the current TMZ-ization of everything?
Scandals and controversies seem to be the first thing that grab our attention, and when you pair them with the NFL, our attention is only magnified. We want to look away because the focus should be on what happens on the field and nothing else. At times it's pretty difficult not to, as evidenced by the mere existence of this slideshow, which itself is a Dolphins-centric version of this great slideshow by Matt Miselis published less than a week ago.
So what are the top scandals in Miami Dolphins history? Miselis makes the case for the Ricky Williams melodrama, which probably got the most national attention out of any due to when it occurred (smack dab in the middle of the internet age but a few years before the social media phenomenon gained steam), who was involved (a very prominent running back that had already won a Heisman Trophy and led the NFL in rushing one season), and overall length of said scandal (which started with Ricky's 2004 retirement and lasted until season one of the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano-era in 2008).
But is it the biggest scandal in Dolphins history? Far from it, which shouldn't surprise you. There's a place for it on this list and it will be talked about, but here is a ranking of the other big Miami Dolphins' scandals and controversies from the almost 50-year existence of the team, based off of the notoriety of the scandal, whether it involved criminal actions, and exactly how newsworthy they were.
I'll probably have to field questions about leaving these off the list, but there are reasons I did.
Nothing illegal happened, it's between Dan and his family.
Considering another game I have on this list, I'm sure a lot of you will make an argument for this one as well. However, as against the rules as it was, Miami did win the war in the end as it wound up eliminating the Patriots from the playoffs later that season.
To me the controversy is in the fact that Joe Robbie didn't pay these players their market value at the time. He didn't think the players would jump to the World Football League, and he simply didn't have to per NFL rules of the time.
I've never been one to attack someone for getting a raise if at all possible, and since it wasn't in Miami (or the NFL for that matter), I can't blame these gentlemen for doing so.
It was a figurehead job and nothing more.
With his butt-slap heard round the world, it's topical again. However, the case itself really doesn't deserve mention on this list due to the brevity of his career in Miami (at least Lawrence Phillips played two games for the Dolphins).
See that video? Barring a miracle, none of that is going to happen.
Yes, a current controversy kicks off our list, as it involves everything we love about football: politics, money and a discussion on how to best use taxpayer money.
Of course, I'm talking about the Sun Life Stadium renovations story that for right now is the 10th biggest controversy on the list, yet still has enough life to move up further depending on how this ends.
We'll go back to January of 2013 for this story, when Stephen Ross unveiled his plans for a renovated Sun Life Stadium that included a canopy covering the seats, seats being moved closer to the field, game lights for HDTV broadcasts. It also came idea that Sun Life Stadium wouldn't just become the premier NFL stadium capable of hosting Super Bowls, but a power house International Soccer Stadium that would host soccer tournaments, and even a few World Cup games should the World Cup ever come back to the United States.
The price tag was to be roughly $400 million, with the Dolphins covering at least half of it. In order to raise the money though, a sales-tax rebate and an increase in the hotel bed tax in Miami-Dade County was proposed.
The deal passed locally in South Florida despite the lingering stink of the Marlins Stadium debacle, which would wind up at the time costing the Mayor of Miami-Dade County and many county commissioners their jobs. This time around, it wouldn't just be in Miami-Dade County where political support was needed, but also from the State of Florida, where the sales tax rebate and bed tax were debated.
The result: a loss for the Dolphins. To make it more embarassing, the referendum wasn't even brought to vote in the House, being struck down by State Rep Steve Weatherford. That's where the fun really began.
First, the public referendum that was to take place in Miami-Dade County was cancelled. The elections were being paid for by the Dolphins, but they would not receive their money back from it.
Secondly came an almost embarrassing game of he-said/she-said initiated by the Miami Dolphins, who had this to say about Weatherford (via The Sun-Sentinel):
"Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong.
"I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker's decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come."
Weatherford would then answer back (via The Palm Beach Post):
“At no point during the process were any promises made to hear the Dolphins Stadium bill on the House floor,” Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, said in a statement. “It’s no coincidence that we haven’t heard about this so-called commitment until after the bill died.”
Ironically, getting the bill struck down by the Florida State house might be the best thing to happen to any plans on renovating Sun Life Stadium. The early returns from the public referendum prior to it getting taken off the ballot after being rejected by the State showed that 57 percent of early voters voted no on the new bed tax proposed to renovate the stadium.
It's much easier to sell the renovations down the road when you can make it look like political infighting in the House of Representatives killed it than it would be if it was killed by the voters themselves.
What will this all mean for the future? We're going to have to wait and see. South Florida already lost out on Super Bowl L and Super Bowl LI because of the plan's failure, but give this one two years with the possibility of either Broward or Palm Beach County possibly jumping into the fray to host a New Dolphins Stadium (with the Dolphins already stating that Palm Beach was an option), a new House, Senate and possibly Governor coming to Tallahassee in 2014, and the one thing that would get the people on the side of a new stadium: winning.
Yes, it's winning that will get the Dolphins a new Stadium. The Miami Heat have had yet to pay rent on the American Airlines Arena, yet there's no public outrage with them for failing to do so. If the Dolphins win plenty in the next two years, then along side a new government in Tallahassee, their chances at getting either Sun Life Stadium renovations or a new stadium somewhere in South Florida will increase by leaps and bounds.
However if that doesn't happen, the threat of relocation could still loom over the franchise. Either way, this controversial issue is far from being over as of today.
In the 1982 AFC Championship game, the Miami Dolphins came out victorious over the New York Jets 14-0 thanks to Jets' quarterback Richard Todd throwing five interceptions, including the one seen in the video to A.J. Duhe that was returned for a touchdown.
On the surface (and to Dolphins fans), there was nothing controversial about this. The better team won the game thanks to a superior defense to punch a trip to the Super Bowl. What makes this even better was the fact that this victory came over the New York Jets.
But the controversy came from then-Jets head coach Walt Michaels, who was upset prior to the game with Don Shula and the Dolphins' decision to not cover the Orange Bowl field.
Saying the field conditions were less than ideal is a huge understatement, as a January rain storm pummeled South Florida both the day before and the morning of the game. This resulted in a muddy field that had the side-effect of neutralizing the speed that the Jets had on offense.
"The only thing I know is the rules," Michaels when he spoke to the media after the game, via The New York Times, later adding, "I can't understand it."
According to NFL rules, a game must be played under the best possible field conditions, which would've been the case had the Dolphins had a tarp to cover the field. They didn't, allowing the field to become muddy, hence the nickname given to the game, "The Mud Bowl."
While this would've been a Dolphins problem at Sun Life Stadium, at the Orange Bowl it was a totally different situation. The City of Miami is ultimately responsible for the maintenance of the stadium, meaning it was their responsibility to provide a tarp.
It did not, but ultimately the Dolphins and Don Shula were blamed, with some conspiracy theorists even suggesting that Don Shula ensured that they did it on purpose. (You'll see them in the comments of video of the game on YouTube, with all other conspiracy theorists.)
Try to imagine a world where Micky Arison doesn't attempt to hire Pat Riley to coach the Miami Heat in 1995.
In this world, Riley likely continues coaching the Knicks, possibly even manages to win a title for them at some point, with Riley remaining in New York to this day after putting together the Big 3 at Madison Square Garden, a team lauded for being so selfless because they all gave up big money to play on the biggest stage and bring New York the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2012, with the possibility of the Knicks winning it all in 2013.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Heat are in the lottery once again, while Downtown Miami's newest club has just opened right off of Biscayne Bay.
We were saved from that due to Arison breaking NBA tampering rules, but Arison wasn't even the first owner in South Florida to accomplish this, as 25 years earlier, Joe Robbie did the same thing with Don Shula.
One year after Shula's first (and disastrous) visit to Miami, he was approached by Joe Robbie, owner of the struggling AFL franchise the Miami Dolphins. The offer included a salary worth $70,000 per season (in 1970s money), the title of vice president of football operations and partial ownership in the club.
Shula took the deal, which is where the controversy started as he was still under contract to the Baltimore Colts. Prior to the NFL-AFL merger, such a deal could happen with the NFL unable to do anything since the Colts were in the NFL but the Dolphins were in the AFL. But with the merger, not only where both under the same league umbrella, but would also coincidentally wind up in the same division, meaning not only was the NFL able to punish the Dolphins for tampering (by awarding Baltimore Miami's 1971 first round pick), but the two teams got to face off twice a year in what was for the first two years after the move a heated rivalry.
From 1970 until 1974, the Colts and the Dolphins were the only two teams to win the AFC East. They also both represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in each of the seasons from 1970-73, with the Colts winning Super Bowl V and the Dolphins winning Super VII and VIII.
This also led to the Miami Dolphins becoming a box office success. Prior to the Shula hiring, the Dolphins had gone 15-39-2 and in 1969 their average attendance came in at 32,335. In Shula's first season with the team, the average would increase to 64,305 per game, then continue rising from there.
Had the Dolphins not hired Shula and continued to struggle, odds are they wouldn't be the Miami Dolphins past at least the 1970s. Without the Miami Dolphins, professional sports likely doesn't take hold in South Florida, possibly leading to the scenario highlighted at the top of the page, as the NBA likely wouldn't have tried to see if Miami would work, nor would Major League Baseball or the NHL.
You can't write an article about Dolphins' controversies without bringing up either Ricky Williams' magical journey or Nick Saban.
This wasn't outright theft of a coach, so you couldn't call this karma for Joe Robbie stealing Don Shula from the Colts either. It was a coach who, through his agent, made himself available for a position, then was offered the position and took it.
All while denying that there had been any contact about the position, then flat-out stating to the media that he would not take said position when asked about it.
In the long run, Saban has no reason to regret leaving the Dolphins. He's already built up a legacy in Alabama that rivals that of Bear Bryant. Two SEC Championships, three National Championships and an 68-13 record since joining Alabama pretty much ensure of that.
But we're not talking about Saban's legacy, but about the controversy surrounding the move. It is said that winning cures everything, and Saban has won. That's why when his legacy is brought up outside of South Florida, his time with the Dolphins and how he left Miami is barely brought up.
Compare that to former Louisville, Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino, whose legacy has become that of a liar not only for leaving Louisville and the Atlanta Falcons after saying that he wouldn't (in the case of the Falcons, Petrino left to take the Arkansas job during the season), but has had some personal problems that are the reason he is no longer coaching in Division I football or the NFL.
But the move was very controversial at the time, which is a severe understatement. In two seasons with the Dolphins, Saban went 15-17 and did manage to have a winning season in his first year. Had there been a year three of the Saban era, would anything have changed, or would Saban had gone 1-15 as well, resulting in his firing?
I doubt the Dolphins go 1-15 with Saban there, especially when you consider that the reason this is still controversial among Dolphins fans and Saban is hated is simply because he is a good football coach. Sure 15-17 doesn't look too impressive, but one change in the quarterback he chose might have completely changed that.
Jeff Ireland has had a pretty good offseason in my eyes, with only one move that I really disagreed with.
I know this because I haven't written up my annual "Why Jeff Ireland Must Be Fired" article yet, nor have I taken any shots at him since September.
That doesn't mean he doesn't deserve his own slide though, as his legal name could still be "Controversial Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland" based off of his past with this team.
And since this is a historical piece that has already highlighted the shady circumstances that brought Don Shula to Miami, the shady circumstances under which Nick Saban left Miami, and will cover other Dolphins scandals from as early as the 70's, he fits here.
At first, I was going to talk about the Dez Bryant incident. If you need a refresher course, here it is courtesy of a Dez Bryant interview conducted by Michael Silva of Yahoo! Sports back in 2010:
“They asked me if my mom’s a prostitute,” Bryant says, an account that was confirmed by Wells, who attended the meeting. “No, my mom is not a prostitute. I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it. I got a lot of questions like that: Does she still do drugs? I sat and answered all of them.”
It would later be revealed by Silva himself that the high-level executive that asked such a question was our buddy Jeff.
Considering all of the fears of what Manti Te'o would be asked in the run up to this year's draft, apparently Ireland didn't ask Te'o the question everyone dreaded he'd be asked. So kudos to Jeff for some progress there.
The interesting thing is that this came out after Ireland's first impressive offseason in 2010, when he acquired Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall via trades and free agency. It wound up tainting the offseason, which was further tainted by his failure to acquire Steelers safety Ryan Clark, at the time a free agent.
The Dolphins were actually favorites at one point to sign Clark, who decided to stay with the Steelers. Most times when players go back to their former teams, they comment on how it felt like home and they couldn't imagine themselves leaving once they thought about it, and Clark said plenty of that citing the lifestyle of living in Pittsburgh as well, then two years later after Matt Flynn left Miami without a contract and signed with Seattle while Peyton Manning decided not to sign with the Dolphins, Clark added that no one wanted to play for the Dolphins, saying, according to USA Today:
"No one! To believe I almost went there but it was easy decision not to. ... It's my honest opinion. Not a good guy making decisions ... Done w talk of the Dolphins. Good luck to their team. Their are some good men working hard to win games ON the field. ... After having so much interaction w Phins fans today I am even more excited that I was blessed to stay in Pittsburgh. God knew better than me"
Of course only a year later one of Clark's teammates would sign with the Dolphins, along with a host of other players. Did Jeff Ireland change his tune? Based off of an interaction with a fan last September during Miami's home opener, one would think no (in fairness, a lot of people, including myself, might respond the same way, and what the fan said was a bit out of line), and considering Miami usually won out due to outspending the competition this offseason, there is still questions about this.
What there isn't a question about is how controversial the Jeff Ireland era has been, but thus far thanks to his last two drafts (2012 was underrated and 2013 thus far looks to be a great class) and his free agent signing spree (each of the signings made perfect sense), it looks like he's turning this around.
However I have no problem taking my words back if 2013 turns out to be a disappointing season.
This is the spot for Ricky Williams' journey in the list of controversies, not No. 1.
Was it controversial? Most definitely, but finding four that were more controversial was actually pretty easy to do.
Long story short, Ricky Williams retired during training camp in 2004 after testing positive for marijuana for a third time, which would've resulted in a four-game suspension.
During his one-year retirement, Ricky was sued by the Dolphins (who'd win the case), but used his off-time to study holistic medicine. He'd come back in 2005 and despite missing four games due to the suspension for the failed drug test, he had a fairly decent year running for 743 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry in 12 games played.
However another failed drug test in 2006 would result in Williams being suspended for that season, followed by another failed drug test during the 2007 offseason that complicated his chances for reinstatement.
However Ricky would be reinstated in October of 2007, and made his return in a Monday Night Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The comeback lasted all of six carries for 15 yards as Williams suffered a torn pectoral muscle after a freak accident during the game which saw Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons step on his right shoulder.
Really Williams' 2007 reinstatement was the end of the controversy, as he would come back in 2008 and go on to play three more productive seasons for the Dolphins, which included his first ever trip to the postseason in 2008. In his final three years with the Dolphins Williams was a model citizen and team leader.
Looking back on the first retirement, Williams has claimed that he had no regrets about it as it gave him the opportunity to find himself.
Despite that, at the time of Williams' retirement, he was looked at by fans and teammates as a quitter, especially considering when he made his announcement (at the start of training camp). The Dolphins would finish 2004 at 4-12, with then-head coach Dave Wannstedt leaving halfway through the season.
Speaking as a Dolphins fan, if it took Ricky Williams retiring to find himself to fire Dave Wannstedt, I'm glad it happened. Even at the time it happened, I somewhat understood why Williams felt he wanted to retire, and have always been one of his staunchest defenders even while he was the most hated man in Miami.
Nothing got more press than Williams when it came to the Dolphins in the 2000's, but to me for something to be controversial, it involves committing a real crime, whether it's domestic abuse, breaking and entering, drug dealing or my next slide, which details someone who somewhat filed a false police report and for 24 hours made his coaches, teammates and family worry themselves sick about him.
Does anyone remember Alfred Oglesby?
Here's a quick primer: Oglesby was a defensive end drafted by the Dolphins in the third round of the 1990 NFL draft. During his NFL career he would play for Miami from 1990-92, with the Green Bay Packers during the 1992 season, with the New York Jets from 1993-95, then ended his career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1995, finishing his career with a total of four sacks and a fumble recovery in 59 games.
Sadly, Oglesby would pass away in 2009, but his untimely death (he was 42), isn't what got him on this list.
Rather it was a stupid move, exacerbated by an even dumber move that would bring Alfred Oglesby to this list and to Miami Dolphins infamy.
In 1992, Oglesby was entering his fourth year with the team. As a veteran he was allowed to leave training camp when the day ended, and was spending the night with fellow 1990 draftee, Richmond Webb while he looked for an apartment in South Florida.
One night that season, Oglesby borrowed Webb's car for the night and attended a gentleman's club with a few of his teammates. While his teammates left the club before the team's curfew, Oglesby stayed and continued drinking with a friend of his, then went to his friend's house and had a few more drinks to end the night.
Oglesby would fall asleep at his friend's house, only to wake up the next morning and discover that his friend and Webb's car had disappeared. So then Oglesby promptly called coach Shula and explained the situation, followed by the Dolphins picking up Oglesby and bringing him to the team's training camp facilities which at the time were at St. Thomas University.
Oh, I forgot why I put Oglesby on this list: he made up a fake kidnapping story.
The Dolphins were first concerned about Oglesby when they found that the usually punctual defensive lineman was late for their 9:30 a.m. practice. Webb then told team officials that Oglesby never returned the night before with his car.
This led to the Dolphins calling the authorities, who promptly sent four detectives to the Dolphins' facilities to begin their investigation. The officers also revealed that they had found Webb's car unattended and locked in Liberty City at around 11am that morning, calling it "suspicious", while in the meantime no one had known where Oglesby was.
It would be at around 5:30pm when Oglesby called the Dolphins from a pay phone, telling the team where he was, then adding the story of him being kidnapped by two men in the parking lot after leaving the strip club, then was forced to drive nine miles out before he was let out of the car, claiming that he walked to the apartment complex where he called from throughout the night.
However after his interrogation, Oglesby told the truth—then gave his reason for the ruse (per The Sun Sentinel):
"I'm sorry about the first story," Oglesby said as dusk settled over the St. Thomas University parking lot. "I was a little afraid about dealing with coach Shula and I was caught in a bad situation. I just really panicked. I was real immature and I was afraid. I didn`t want to lose my job on the team. But it`s over. I`m very embarrassed."
The Dolphins and Oglesby would part ways later that preseason, and due to the acts, veterans were required to stay on the St. Thomas University campus during training camp (until the team moved to Nova Southeastern University the next season).
Ricky Williams was a walk in the park compared to two running backs brought in by Jimmy Johnson in the late-90's.
The first one we're going to feature is Lawrence Phillips, who was a Miami Dolphin for all of two games where he rushed for 44 yards on 18 carries.
Phillips already had a checkered past prior to signing with the Dolphins—and my apologies to checkers for making the comparison. His legal troubles started his senior year at Nebraska when he was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
After pleading no-contest to the charge, Phillips would be suspended from the Nebraska football program, but would come back later in the season, leading to a spectacular game in the Fiesta Bowl against Florida for the National Championship.
Phillips would then be drafted sixth by the St. Louis Rams, who even traded fan-favorite Jerome Bettis to the Steelers in order to make room for Phillips (even as a football decision this doesn't make sense when you consider that the two are different styles of running backs). While in St. Louis, Phillips dealt with more legal problems before being released halfway through the 1997 season.
Phillips was then signed by the Miami Dolphins, where he played two games before being released after assaulting a woman at a nightclub. He would plead no-contest to that charge as well and receive six months probation.
After the release from the Dolphins, Phillips was an NFL pariah before playing in NFL Europe for a season. From there he had an opportunity with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999, before being released.
Where is Lawrence Phillips now? In California State Prison. Phillips was arrested for running over three teenagers after a dispute over a pick-up football game. At the time of his arrest, Phillips was also wanted for his involvement in a domestic abuse incident.
Phillips would be found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He would then stand trial for his domestic abuse case, where he was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
It's gotten to be too often that you hear these words: "what a waste of talent."
In the case of Cecil Collins, you heard it plenty throughout his brief college and NFL careers.
Collins was drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Dolphins, partly due to issues that arose in college while he was attending LSU, then McNeese State.
Despite those issues, Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins still took a chance on him, and early on it looked promising as Collins played in eight games, rushing for 414 yards and two touchdowns on 131 attempts for an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
However Collins would be done in by a burglary charge, as he was arrested on December 16, 1999. Collins had broken into the home of a woman whom he had met at the gym and reportedly pestered about going out with him despite the fact that she was married prior to the incident. Collins would be convicted of the crime, then go on to serve 13 years of a 15-year sentence, being released earlier this year.
However upon returning to Louisiana, Collins would serve more time in jail as his December 1999 break-in with the Dolphins is a possible violation of his probation on an earlier burglary charge in Louisiana. The judge will make a decision on the case in July according to The Shreveport Times.
Just as quickly as a promising career began, it ended for Collins.
I'm sure most of you have forgotten about Alfred Oglesby, Lawrence Phillips and Cecil Collins and their controversial times with the Dolphins.
But there is no way you could forget Mercury Morris.
As long as there's one remaining undefeated team every season, you'll see Mercury Morris pop up. He even appeared during the Heat's 27-game winning streak earlier this year.
Outside of Dan Marino, he might actually be the most famous former Dolphin, and possibly the wizard as this Subaru ad I found while researching this piece seems to show Merc wearing an orange Dolphins uniform a good 30 years before they debuted.
So what's so controversial about Mercury Morris that he's not only on this list, but also at No. 1?
Well, the PSA he's featured in that I posted explains some of it as Morris at one time did have a problem with cocaine. He was even name checked by late former drug dealer John Roberts in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys.
Morris was arrested in 1982 for possession and trafficking of cocaine. This did come a good six years after his career ended, but was a black mark on the Dolphins considering that before then, former Dolphins Randy Crowder (father of another former Dolphin Channing Crowder) and Don Reese had also been arrested for selling cocaine.
While Morris never denied using cocaine during his trial, he always vehemently denied selling it and that the drug deal he was arrested for was a setup. He would still be convicted of the crime and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but just three and a half years later, Morris would get a new trial based off of evidence in his defense that at the time of his first trial was ruled inadmissible in court due to it being miscategorized as "hearsay", but would be admissible in a new trial.
Instead of going through a new trial, Morris would enter in a plea bargain where he was sentenced to the time he had already served.
Even if you think Morris is a bit obnoxious and grating at times, give him credit for this: he owned up to his drug problem and has remained clean ever since. Now he's working as a motivational speaker and seems to be doing pretty well for himself.
Now where can I find that sweet orange jersey that he wore in that Subaru ad? And while I know the jersey was colored orange because the Dolphins wouldn't allow him to wear his real jersey, why didn't the Dolphins think of an orange jersey back then?
Why not bring it out now?
Want to sound off on all-time Dolphins controversies? I'll read selected tweets and comments about the piece on the next Dolphins Central podcast, debuting next Wednesday. Be sure to check out this week's episode, featuring AFC East blogger Erik Frenz, available now. Follow Dolphins Central on Twitter, @DolphinsCentral for more Dolphins news and podcast information.