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Stephen Ross, Dolphins present unified stance on QB situation

ATLANTA -- Among the first few to arrive Monday in Atlanta for the league's spring meeting, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross looked, at least based on his superficial demeanor, like a man who has been here before.

That makes good sense, of course, since he has. It's been four years since the New York real estate mogul became an NFL owner -- a span of time that might feel more like a decade to both his fan base and, really, the man himself.

Ross climbed from a black luxury limousine at the valet entrance of the Westin Buckhead, a rare occasion in which he was flanked by no one except the man who grabbed his bags. The owner then jumped into a quick interview with the NFL Network.

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"I don't think they're going to rush (Ryan Tannehill) into anything," said Ross, asked simply about life with Tannehill on his roster. "He's going to have to win the starting job. I think Matt Moore will probably be the starter, and I wish him the best."

I'm guessing, as soon as the clip aired, Dolphins fans had a similar opinion about the sentiment: Why would this man (the owner) at this time (in May) be making predictions about Miami's quarterback depth chart that includes two veterans (David Garrard and Moore) before a competition has had a chance to play out?

In other words, did Ross just make another ill-advised move?

The truth is, aside from the harmless damage control that'll need to be done by either general manager Jeff Ireland or coach Joe Philbin as it pertains to Garrard, Ross' sentiment might have been the smartest move -- whether deliberate or not -- he's made to date. In fact, it might even be one more base hit in a decent stretch of momentum that's working in Miami's favor.

"If Matt Moore develops, so be it," Ross continued during his response to a follow-up question about his expectations for when Tannehill will get on the field. "We want a franchise quarterback."

You say Ross should mind his own business and not get in the way of Philbin or Ireland? Well, then, you might also have been among those who criticized the Dolphins when misinformed reports surfaced that Ross was trying to force Ireland -- who needed not be forced based on his own affections -- into drafting Tannehill last month.

If you still believe the latter (you shouldn't), then it would make sense that Ross also would be willing to apply pressure to the coaching staff to make sure Tannehill gets on the field as soon as possible. His latest comments squash any possibility of that well before anyone can create such a conspiracy theory.

Some might rather Ross just keep quiet. But silence -- and a lack of explanation for the actions of the organization -- has in some cases created the perceptions that currently exist about the Dolphins.

Now, Ross is on the record while using words that you'll actually believe: He's willing to be patient with Tannehill. So patient, in fact, that he expects to see Moore on Week 1. And Ross sent that message -- whether deliberate or not -- in a context that's harmless to everything and everyone except Garrard's feelings.

Think about it. If Tannehill does indeed win quarterback competition during training camp, a competition that will (and should) be decided by Philbin, Ross isn't going to complain at all. Instead, he'll embrace the notion that his coach believes the future has arrived sooner than he thought it would. He'll cross his fingers that everything continues to go according to the expedited plan.

And if Garrard gets a chip on his shoulder based on the owner's comments, so what? Philbin and Ireland quietly can keep Garrard on their side, distancing themselves from Ross' belief, while creating even more motivation for the quarterback during camp.

So although there might still be a collective inclination to cringe at everything that comes from Ross' mouth when it pertains to football business, it's OK to open your eyes and relax your shoulders. This wasn't one of those moments.

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Instead, this was an instance in which an owner actually sounded like an owner, like a person who has a clear and vested interest in the most important position on the field.

That's not to say another day won't soon come when Ross' words create a few minor headaches for those who are forced to deal with the wake they leave, but it is to say he is learning, one month at a time, how this football ownership thing works.

When Ross arrived at the Westin on Monday, he looked like a man who has been here before. Quite honestly, he sounded like one, too.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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