Greg Cote: Why has Brady skated for role in Dolphins tampering and does he have a future in Miami?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returned to practice Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, after an excused absence for personal reasons. - Jefferee Woo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

As if fate was out to prove it had a sense of humor, the Miami Dolphins open their preseason schedule this week at Tamper Bay. Wait, did I say Tamper Bay? Sorry, Freud.

The onset of exhibition games follow maybe the most exciting, scandalous, tumultuous offseason in club history. The Dolphins have spent most of the past two decades being duller than a beige wall — the antithesis of the ‘70s glory years and the explosive star power of the Marino era.. They have been anything but dull in the buildup to this season.

On the field the Fins have gone all-in with a big-pricetag free agency and the costly megatrade for star receiver Tyreek Hill, who is so fast he switches off the bedroom light and is under the covers before the room goes dark. “The Cheetah” also brings needed personality, as does new coach Mike McDaniel, a gust of welcome fresh air contrasted to the funereal demeanor of previous coach Brian Flores.

Hopes are way up there, legit, for a third consecutive winning season and a playoff spot.

Off the field? Derailment. A train wreck of dysfunction with hapless owner Stephen Ross at the wheel.

The firing of Flores and in turn his lawsuit against the NFL and Dolphins for racism, allegations that included Ross advocated losing intentionally for better draft position. The report detailing how very close Miami actually came to trading for disgraced quarterback Deshaun Watson. And then of course the Dolphins losing first- and third-round draft picks in a tampering scandal that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called “unprecedented” as Ross went hell-bent after G.O.A.T. QB Tom Brady and star coach Sean Payton despite both, um, being under contract with other teams.

Ross got fined $1.5 million and temporarily suspended from the team, which is why he won’t be in Tamper Bay this Saturday unless possibly disguised in a false nose and glasses. Ross’ lieutenant and presumptive owner-in-waiting Bruce Beal also was implicated in the the skullduggery and fined $500,000.

Meanwhile Tua Tagovailoa enters Year 3 of being disrespected and embarrassed by his team owner as Ross worked behind his back to improperly woo Brady, then go after Watson, then make another run at Brady. Someday, Tagovailoa will write a book. I’d pre-order it right now.

All of this leads to the exhibition opener at Tamper, where Brady of course unretired during the offseason and is back to lead the Buccaneers despite having just turned 45.

The NFL found the infatuated Ross tampered with Brady both in 2019 while still with New England and later with the Bucs. Flores in his lawsuit included a meeting on a boat in which Ross and the coach were to meet, clandestine, with an unnamed star quarterback that later was reported to be Brady.

Flores refused to be party to the tampering, ruining both Ross’ scheme and their relationship.

So two questions, both unanswered, arise from the scandal that has both damaged Ross’ reputation and his team with costly penalties:

1) Why is Brady skating scot-free through all of this? Does it not take two to tamper?

Ross was found out and it hard. Brady? It’s as if he was never a part of it. Even though Flores’ claim of a yacht meeting, later reports it was with Brady and the NFL’s tampering findings all seem to substantiate that Brady was a willing participant.

Heck, Brady, who is building a home in Miami and has partied at the Kentucky Derby with his friend Beal, could even have initiated this whole Dolphins gambit.

Has the NFL investigated that? Do the Buccaneers not care that the face of their franchise might have been a participant in wooing with another club while under contract with the Bucs?

2) Is there any possibility that, despite it all, Brady might still have a future in Miami as a part- owner when his Bucs contact expires after this coming season? Or even as Miami’s quarterback at age 46? The latter question would seem laugh-out-loud preposterous if asked about anybody except the bionic Brady.

The two questions are as-yet unanswerable.

On the first, there is little incentive for the NFL and none for Tamper Bay to try to criminalize Brady’s role in a scheme that clearly finds Ross most at fault. None of which means Brady bears zero guilt for being what seems a willing participant in the Ross/Beal overtures.

On the second question, it is hard to believe the NFL might yet approve a future part-ownership role in Miami for Brady in the wake of the tampering penalties. It is not nearly as hard to believe that the Ross/Beal regime, if it survives all this tumult and taint, might not still want him involved. That seems likely, even.

The Dolphins and Bucs will stage joint practices up there this Wednesday and Thursday — Brady on the same field as Miami, so close yet so far.

The idea Brady could be Miami’s quarterback in a year, at 46 — even that does not seem beyond the pale of Ross’ costly infatuation.

Tua Tagovailoa could have a great year, be embraced by Dolfans, make the Pro Bowl and lead Miami to its first playoff win in 21 seasons, but if Brady is out there, who trusts Ross to not finally claim the prize he has spent so much of his time and reputation to win? Anybody? Anybody at all?

© Miami Herald