The NFL announced the findings of its investigation into the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, and they did not look pretty for the organization. The team and its owner, Stephen Ross, have been found guilty of tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton in an attempt to get both of them to join the team.
As a result, the team has been stripped of two draft picks. It will lose its first-round selection in 2023, as well as a third-rounder in 2024. Additionally, Ross has been suspended until mid-October and will have to pay a $1.5 million fine.
According to an NFL press release, its investigation focused on two subjects:
(1) whether the Dolphins violated League rules prohibiting tampering with a player and a coach under contract to other clubs; and (2) whether, during the 2019 season, the Dolphins intentionally lost games to improve the club’s draft position in the 2020 draft, and whether Dolphins’ Chairman and Managing General Partner Mr. Stephen Ross offered Head Coach Brian Flores financial incentives or otherwise encouraged him to lose games.
While the team was cleared of the second accusation, it was found guilty of the first.
According to the league, the tampering with Tom Brady started as early as August 2019 when he was still a member of the New England Patriots:
1. The Dolphins had impermissible communications with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019-20, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots. Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and post-season. These numerous and detailed discussions were conducted by Mr. Beal, who in turn kept Mr. Ross and other Dolphins executives informed of his discussions with Mr. Brady.
Brady was set to enter unrestricted free agency after the 2019 season, and he indeed ended up leaving the Patriots after two decades and six Super Bowl wins. He did not end up in Miami, however, and instead signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That did not stop the Dolphins from still pursuing him.
They again were in contact with Brady and his agent, Don Yee, during and after the 2021 season. The focus of the discussions was the future Hall of Famer possibly becoming a partner in the franchise and serving as an executive or maybe even playing for the Dolphins.
Brady briefly retired during the 2021 offseason, but announced a comeback just five weeks later. He remains under contract with the Buccaneers and enters 2022 as their starting quarterback.
Furthermore, the Dolphins were involved in conversation with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton who at that point had not yet announced his retirement. The Saints did not give any consent for him or his agent, the very same Don Yee, to speak with Miami.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” league commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”
The Dolphins are no strangers to losing draft picks for tampering. Back in 1970, they were found guilty for tampering with head coach Don Shula prior to hiring him. Their first-round draft choice the following year was subsequently awarded to Shula’s former team, the Baltimore Colts.