Before I dive into this piece, I must once again state my personal belief that the government should not be involved in private businesses by giving them subsidies, and the Miami Dolphins are a private business.
With that being said, that's not how the world works. Unfortunately, due to the NFL's desire to have the public help pay for stadiums everywhere and Ross' desire to play the NFL's game, if Miami (and the state of Florida) doesn't help out the Dolphins with public subsidies, it's fairly likely that the Dolphins will be on their way out of South Florida.
Do I believe the team will be moving any time soon? Not at all, actually. It might take years, but a deal will get done for the Dolphins to either stay in Miami-Dade County and play in a renovated Sun Life Stadium, or even move to a brand new stadium in Broward or Palm Beach County.
It just might take a while; politics can move awfully slow.
But how can South Florida ensure that the Dolphins stay for the long haul? How can they ensure that they don't lose the Dolphins to Los Angeles or whichever city might be interested in offering Stephen Ross (or whomever Stephen Ross sells the team to) a football palace designed for kings?
The reality is, South Florida isn't the one to worry about here—it actually has to be a state-wide effort.
Fairly difficult to accomplish when the state has two other competing NFL teams that I'm sure would love to expand their fan base deeper in the state with the Dolphins out.
It was in the State's House of Representatives where the bill was killed.
It wasn't killed by being voted down, but the fact that Speaker of The House Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) didn't bring the issue for a vote before the legislative session ended tells me that it wouldn't have fared well had it been bought to vote (usually they'll push votes through that they feel will pass).
Now that's not to say South Florida isn't out of the woods yet. When I say South Florida isn't who to worry about, I was talking about the Miami-Dade County government, who did strike a deal for the renovations that was dependent on not only the State passing the plan, but also the voters in a referendum that would get cancelled after the plan was killed in the State House.
As for the referendum, that's where it likely would've died, as according to early voting, 57 percent of the votes that came in were against the new bed tax that would've funded the project (Per The Miami Herald).
The state's failure to act saved the Dolphins' face and allowed them to regroup. With that in mind, in order to keep the Dolphins in South Florida, competition needs to be the name of the game.
Yes, the best way for the Miami Dolphins to remain the Miami Dolphins is if Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach both compete and collaborate for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have already suggested that anything is a possibility, with Palm Beach County being specifically mentioned as a possibility after Dolphins' president Mike Dee was asked about it. Of course, Palm Beach County hasn't offered anything of that sort (not counting Don King's offer), nor has Broward County. But if both counties do jump into the competition to host the Dolphins, it should at the very least perk up some ears in Tallahassee to let them know there's a demand for the Miami Dolphins to remain in South Florida.
Once the Dolphins pick a stadium site, however, lawmakers from each of the three counties must vote together as one in favor of the subsidies that the Dolphins want in order to get the deal done.
The rest has to come from the fans, but we'll get to them after we talk about what the Miami Dolphins have to do—win.
Winning is the panacea that can obscure even the greatest of government thefts. The Marlins deal is unpopular today, but if they were a 100-win juggernaut cruising to a World Series title, would anyone other than the likes of Norman Braman be up in arms over the deal?
We've also seen this case in action in the Miami Heat. Their history of four Eastern Conference Championships, two NBA Championships (possibly three after tonight), really does a good job of obscuring the fact that not only have they not paid rent at the American Airlines Arena since it opened, but that they are themselves asking for more money from the government.
If the Dolphins win, any stadium deal they receive will be looked at more like the Heat's: largely ignored despite the fact that it, too, is robbery.
So the Dolphins will have to win, especially in the next two seasons. During those seasons, new proposals can and likely will be made by the Dolphins and by Miami-Dade County (and likely the other counties).
The target date: 2016. Why three years from now? Because in 2014 there will be a new legislature in Tallahassee and possibly even a new governor. The Dolphins will have to attempt to win them over. If they can get the state to vote on the issue again in 2015 in order to put a vote to the public in 2016—giving the public and the legislature time to pick through an agreement with a fine comb—it will allow the Dolphins to be perceived as better citizens, making it more likely that they will see a vote.
Winning in the next two to three years also helps their perceptions, especially when you consider that 2016 will have two very important state-wide elections that will get voters out to the polls: the Presidential primaries in March and the general election in November.
March is the date to go after if you're the Dolphins. It will be just a month after the Super Bowl, and considering that both the Republican and Democrat primaries in 2016 are expected to be highly competitive, will see a high turnout.
If the Dolphins are playing in late January in 2016, this should help them immensely, and save them money as they wouldn't have to pay for an election like they did the last time.
But the key for that to work is for the Dolphins to play in January in 2016, meaning they will need to win in the next three years. With the roster put together by Jeff Ireland and the progression of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins should be able to do that.
Will the Dolphins remain in South Florida Long-Term?
So in the end, this wasn't so much about what South Florida could do for the Dolphins, but rather what the Dolphins could do for South Florida. As bad as this sounds, winning is the answer, and neither you nor me could do that.
The most hardcore fiscal conservatives will still vote against any Dolphins stadium subsidy, and that's to be expected, much like those who honestly believe that the stadium creates jobs will vote for it no matter what. But winning is what will win over the undecided voters who will likely only look at it from the perspective of, "I don't want to lose this team."
Of course, the preferred route is simple for the Dolphins: stay in South Florida, and pay for it yourself! Joe Robbie did it, you can too, Stephen Ross!
Be sure to checkout Thomas' Dolphins Central Podcast, which still has had yet to discuss the stadium issue. However this week, he does discuss the Dolphins in relation to the Buffalo Bills with guests Chris Trapasso of Bleacher Report, and Del Reid, founder of BillsMafia.com. Next week's show will feature a mailbag, so if you have any questions about the Dolphins for Thomas, be sure to ask them to the Dolphins Central Twitter feed, @DolphinsCentral. Click here for the episode!