Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has often acted like a drunken sailor navigating a ship through rough seas over the past few seasons while pursuing critical pieces for his franchise. He knows and has researched the charted course, but getting to the desired destination becomes an unnecessary adventure.

We saw this just over a year ago when he courted Jim Harbaugh, while leaving Tony Sparano dangling. The failed ploy left Ross looking incompetent, and Sparano rightfully feeling as though his superiors had little confidence in his ability. Ross then swung and missed again in his coaching search this year when the carousel was spinning, and Jeff Fisher wouldn’t hop off in South Beach.

The eventual dismissal of Sparano was drawn out far too long after the Dolphins lost their first seven games of 2011, looking dismal and disorganized when three of those losses came by less than a field goal. Combined those mistakes prompted the spread of a fragile psyche throughout the fan base and perhaps the locker room and front office, a feeling that will grow with another whiff this time during their courtship of Peyton Manning.

Finding a definitive consensus on Manning is difficult as his rockstar free agency tour continues. But here’s the closest we’re able to come on Monday morning: Denver and Arizona are now the front runners, and although they’re still in it, Miami is falling behind.

That’s why today the Dolphins’ pursuit has reached its tipping point. As Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says, the Dolphins should reach out to Manning today and seek a definitive answer now. If that answer isn’t the one they’re looking for, so be it. Move on, and make sure that Matt Flynn doesn’t escape your grasp tomorrow, which would be an even more crippling blow with Joe Philbin, Flynn’s former offensive coordinator in Green Bay, now in place as Miami’s head coach.

However, a meeting between Manning and Miami’s brass still seems likely. And’s Jeff Darlington writes that when that meeting happens, there’s no excuse for not staging the kind of lavish scene fit for a player that a franchise sees as the final piece of its Super Bowl puzzle.

I get Denver’s advantage of putting Manning in front of two friends cut from the same cloth, John Fox and John Elway. I realize Manning is golfing buddies with Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt.

So what?

This is the time when the Dolphins need to get creative — a time when all three men need to call in every South Florida favor they have. Get Don Shula and Dan Marino to the training facility as soon as possible. Put them at the entrance, waiting to shake Manning’s hand as soon as he crosses the threshold.

On some level it’s sad that it’s come to this for Miami. But it’ll be even worse if Miami makes that push, and losses out on another major offseason catch.

And the rest…

  • I listen to an unhealthy amount of sports talk radio, or at least I did until recently selling my car and joining the commuting drones riding the people’s limousine (public transit). So I know the cadence and proper levels of insanity required to be a crazy radio caller, and a man known only as Taron gave one of the best reactions ever during the 12-hour period following the trade that essentially put Robert Griffin III in Washington. [Hogs Haven]
  • More RG3 fun: “I screamed it at the dinner table, ‘We got RG3!’ Then [my best friend] and I just went straight to the bar and started taking shots.” After consuming that alcohol this man called the Redskins’ ticket office and immediately signed on for season tickets in 2012. Griffin won’t officially become a Redskin for six more weeks, and there’s already a steady flow of cash into Dan Snyder’s pocket book. [Washington Post]
  • It’s free agency eve, with teams set to spend frivolously on glittering gifts and coal tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET. The cap breakdown shows that Cincinnati has the most room to play with. [PFT]
  • There’s absurd contract incentives, and then there’s the $10 million escalator in Mark Sanchez’s new contract that he’ll only reach if he wins four Super Bowls. Yes, four. [Andrew Brandt]
  • The Titans could still make a strong play for Manning. Team owner Bud Adams contacted Manning’s agent, and he told Jim Wyatt that the four-time MVP is “the man I want. Period.” [The Tennessean]
  • Cowboys fans should hope that Manning signs with Denver so that as many QB-needy teams as possible are ahead of Dallas in the draft. [Blogging the Boys]
  • ESPN has started to record Jon Gruden’s “QB Camp,” the grill sessions in which Gruden sits in a room with a handful of elite quarterback prospects and either raises or lowers their draft stock in a conveniently edited half-hour TV segment. Sitting down with Gruden is a big deal, and Andrew Luck called it a “rite of passage”. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Randy Moss will be receiving passes from Jim Harbaugh today during his workout in San Francisco, which gave Jed York his moment to be a funny guy. [Jed York on Twitter]
  • Greg Jennings was at SXSW Interactive to talk about fantasy football, and eat fish with Kobayashi. [Total Packers]