Dolphins RB Coach Says Stephen Ross' Tanking Comments Were Never Shared with Players

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 3, 2022

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Miami Dolphins running backs coach Eric Studesville told reporters Wednesday that any directive or belief that the team should tank from owner Stephen Ross never made it into the locker room in 2019.

"From the top down, [the goal was] to win football games and prepare and get ready to go—that's how it's always been," he said. "That's how I think this game is right. That's what we do, that's what I owe the game, every time we get a chance to compete, we do our best. There was never anything other than that expressed to us or to me."

"That's just not how we're wired," he added. "None of that was ever shared."

In the lawsuit former head coach Brian Flores filed against the NFL and a number of its teams, including the Dolphins, alleging racist hiring practices, he accused Ross of offering him up to $100,000 per loss in the 2019 season in an effort to tank for a better draft pick.

He also said that general manager Chris Grier said Ross was "mad" that the team's late-season wins were "compromising [the team's] draft position," per ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacque.

The NFL investigation into Ross and the Dolphins did not find evidence of intentionally losing during the 2019 season, though it did find that the owner "made comments to team president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, general manager Chris Grier, senior vice president Brandon Shore and Flores that the team's draft position should take priority over winning games."

As for the accusation that Flores was offered $100,000 per loss, the NFL found "differing recollections about the wording, timing and context" and concluded that it was "not intended or taken to be a serious offer, nor was the subject pursued in any respect by Mr. Ross or anyone else at the club."

"I am thankful that the NFL's investigator found my factual allegations against Ross are true," Flores said in a statement after the NFL's ruling. "At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross' offers and pressure to tank games especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time which the investigator has in her possession.

"While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of 'unprecedented scope and severity,' Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence."

However, as a part of its overall investigation into the Dolphins, the league did fine Ross $1.5 million and suspend him for six games, took away a 2023 first-rounder and 2024 third-rounder and banned vice chairman/limited partner Bruce Beal from any league meetings for the entirety of the 2022 season for making "impermissible contact" with quarterback Tom Brady and former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton while they were employed with other teams.

Flores, 41, was fired by the Dolphins in January after going 24-25 across three seasons as the team's head coach. He was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers to serve as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach this offseason.


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