BEREA, Ohio — For at least one day, the Cleveland Browns weren’t the talk of the NFL. The Miami Dolphins knocked them from the headlines Tuesday when the NFL dropped the hammer on the club for what Commissioner Roger Goodell called “unprecedented tampering.”
The Dolphins lost first and third-round draft picks over those violations, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his successor Bruce Beal have been suspended and fined.
But the Browns’ holiday has an expiration date. They will be firmly in the spotlight again once the next Deshaun Watson development drops. The league has until Thursday to decide whether to appeal Watson’s six-game suspension for what an independent investigator determined was sexual misconduct.
So the organization in general, and one intriguing staffer in particular, was wise to stay above the fray when it came to the Dolphins’ ugly situation.
More fallout from Miami Dolphins tampering scandal
Ex-coach Brian Flores brought Chad O’Shea with him from New England to Miami when Flores got the Dolphins’ head coaching job. According to Flores, Miami’s organizational misbehavior began not long after they arrived — including inappropriate recruiting overtures to Tom Brady by Ross.
A six-month investigation by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White found “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 postseason. 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.”
White also found that the Dolphins “again had impermissible communications with both Mr. Brady and his agent during and after the 2021 season,” and then again with then-Saints coach Sean Payton in early 2022. The Dolphins’ vision was to team up Brady and Payton in Miami.
They got neither, and thanks to Flores’ decision to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against Miami, the league, and other teams, the Dolphins’ scheme was made public.
Flores also alleged that Ross offered him $100,000 per loss during the Dolphins’ 2019 season in an effort to improve Miami’s draft position. However, White determined that “there are differing recollections about the wording, timing, and context [involving that specific allegation].
“However phrased, such a comment 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.”
Tua Tagovailoa, Chad O’Shea weigh in on Dolphins scandal
O’Shea lasted just one season in Miami, but it in retrospect was a consequential 12 months. He was a part of the organization when Ross’ overtures to Brady began, and when Ross allegedly made those comments to Flores about tanking.
White’s team conducted an exhaustive investigation, and so it’s only natural to think O’Shea was among the people they contacted. He no longer has any ties to Flores or the Dolphins, and is respected around the league for his decency.
But when O’Shea was asked specifically by PFN Wednesday if he spoke with investigators, and if he was surprised by their findings, he wisely decided to keep out of it.
“I have to be honest with you, I have so much on my plate here with the Cleveland Browns that my focus is just on the guys that I’m coaching,” O’Shea said. “Certainly we have a lot of challenges at our position right now, with having some guys that have increased opportunity. Trying to get them ready. Trying to do the best job I can for the offense as a coach. All my focus has truly been on this team and the player I coach.”
Hundreds of miles to the South, Tagovailoa had to answer questions of his own. We now know definitively that the Dolphins twice in three months tried to replace him with a veteran — first Watson at the 2021 trade deadline, and then Brady the following offseason.
When asked what those organizational actions said about his standing with the team, Tagovailoa responded:
“I remember I came in 2020, so whatever happened in 2019, I can’t even speak on that. I was here in 2020 and I’m still here. I’m blessed to be here. If it has to do with support from the team, I think the team’s all-in with me and all the guys we have now.”
This surely won’t be the last time Tua is asked about this topic. Worlds will collide next week when the Dolphins and Buccaneers hold joint practices in Tampa, and then in the fall when the Dolphins host the Browns.