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3 posts from January 9, 2014

January 09, 2014

Statements from Stephen Ross and Carl Peterson

Stephen Ross released a statement about the general manager search that begins on Friday. That search, by the way, will be done with the advise of longtime Ross friend Carl Peterson, who will not have a role with the team beyond that according to the Dolphins owner.

The statement from Ross:

“We will begin interviewing candidates for the General Manager position tomorrow.  It will be a thorough process with the goal of bringing the best person to help us build a team that will be a consistent winner. Carl Peterson will serve as an advisor to me on this search.  Carl and I have had a business relationship for almost 30 years dating back to the USFL and I have tremendous respect for his experience and judgment on team building and football operations. He will advise me on the search but he will not have a role with the Dolphins after the process is over.

"The new General Manager will have autonomous responsibility for the 53 man roster and selecting players during the draft and will report to me.  First and foremost, this person must have a passion for the game and demonstrated player evaluation expertise. They will need to be a person who is a collaborative team player that puts the organization first.  Regardless of reporting structure, the relationship between the General Manager and Coach Philbin must be one of trust, respect, and collaboration, and this will be an area we will look closely at during the process.  This individual also must be a person with integrity who is open-minded and creative.

Our media relations department will update you on the list of candidates when interviews are finalized.  Once the process is complete, I will make the final decision on who to hire.

Coach Philbin and his staff are continuing their offseason activities while conducting interviews for the offensive coordinator position. We are also working on our draft preparation, including our upcoming trip to the Senior Bowl as well as all of the other aspects of player evaluation and procurement.  At the end of this process, we will be a stronger organization with people working together to build a Championship team."

The statement from Carl Peterson:

“I’ve known Steve for a long time and I know that no one wants to bring a winner to Miami more than he does. I look forward to advising Steve through this search and I am confident that he will add an outstanding candidate with a proven track record in talent evaluation to the Dolphins.“

Previously you read that John Wooten had issues with the clarity of the Dolphins GM job. This statement has changed his mind.

"Everything is fine," he said. "Everything is great. No problem."

He is now encouraging minority candidates to interview.

Fritz Pollard: Minorities should wait to interview with Dolphins

The Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, the country's primary promoter of minority candidates for NFL front office and coaching jobs, is recommending that minority candidates not interview with the Dolphins for their general manager position until there is clarity from the team about what exactly the job entails.

Fritz Pollard Chairman John Wooten told The Herald's Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) there is no clarity about what kind of job the Dolphins are offering and if that job is just for a talent evaluator rather than a general manager who has all the authority that job entails, he couldn't endorse minorities interviewing.

"If it's just going to be a personnel guy, my opinion is our guys don't need to be going in and taking those interviews, " Wooten said. "I don't know if the new people Ross is interviewing are going to be true general managers."

The reason for the lack of clarity is two-fold:

First, the Dolphins have not stated and have declined to answer what kind of structure owner Stephen Ross wants for his football operations going forward. Secondly, in speaking to the NFL and the Dolphins, Wooten came away unclear what that job would entail.

Wooten is concerned the Dolphins are simply holding interviews for the "general manager" job that was offered to Jeff Ireland as a demotion before he departed the team. The club offered not to fire Ireland, but wanted to take away much of his decision-making power on personnel matters.

"Are you now going to have the same position that you're offering Jeff Ireland?" Wooten asked. "Then our guys need to stay where they are."

The Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation coordinates with minority candidates and teams so that teams can identify, interview, and ultimately hire the best available minority candidates.

The Dolphins have asked and received permission to interview Tennessee's Lake Dawson,  Marc Ross of the New York Giants, and Cleveland's Ray Farmer. They requested permission to interview Pittsburgh's Omar Khan. Green Bay personnel scout Alonzo Highsmith is also on the radar.

All are minority candidates. But rather than endorsing those interviews go forward as soon as possible, Wooten is tapping the brakes.

He described the situation as in a "holding pattern."

The three structure possibilities for the Dolphins

When it comes to the Dolphins search to replace Jeff Ireland the "what" is initially more important than the "who."

I don't mean to diminish the identity of the person who will fill the job. The "who" is important. But what job is that person going to be doing? What role will that person have within the Dolphins football structure? Most importantly, what kind of power will that person have?

Once owner Stephen Ross, who plans to speak to the media at some point soon, makes clear what his vision for the job is, then we'll know who is best suited for the job.

Ross and the Dolphins have really only three choices for that open role because they have three directions they can go in establishing their club structure. Those are:

The strong general manager, the weak general manager and the talent evaluator. Allow me to show you what each role entails ...

The strong general manager: This person is hired with the autonomy (power) to make multiple key decisions. He can bring in his own personnel staff, including assistants and scouts. He does not answer to anyone else in the organization other than owner Stephen Ross. And he has the power to fire coach Joe Philbin -- if not immediately, then after one year of evaluation. 

I'm not a big fan of what Ross has done the last two change cycles he's put the Dolphins through. He fired Tony Sparano in 2011 but kept general manager Jeff Ireland. That forced him to miss out on proven coaches, including Jeff Fisher, because they wanted to bring their own GM they were comfortable working with them. This year, he fired Ireland but kept coach Joe Philbin. So, once again, it is possible Ross will miss out on the best or most proven strong GM candidates because they might like the option of hiring their own coach to work with.

Instead of sprinting into organizational changes the Dolphins have had to limp on one leg because Ross handicaps the process by limiting his field of interested candidates. Oh, the list of candidates may not seem limited initially, particularly in the GM search, because no one comes in with demands of full autonomy. But once the Dolphins show interest in a particular outstanding candidate, he might back out if he demands full autonomy and Ross isn't able to grant it.

The weak general manager: This person is titled as the GM but his power is limited. He may have final say over personnel in the draft and free agency but that is probably limited to him needing a consensus with his coaches, particularly Philbin. He has no authority over Philbin or executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte and therefore cannot keep or get rid of either one -- regardless of whether he'd like to do that upon his hiring or after one year. He probably wouldn't answer to either of them but instead answer directly to Ross just like they do.

Under this structure, Ross would have the weak GM running personnel and answering only to him. Philbin runs the coaching staff and answers only to him. And Aponte runs the remaining portion of football administration -- the player budgeting, contract negotiations, league matters, other legal matters like getting Richie Incognito off after he assaults a female golf course volunteer during a team event ... and the always important editing of the winning locker room video with the hopes of hiding the fact Philbin was reading from an index card.

(Not kidding).

I'd say the Dolphins had a weak general manager in Ireland. He didn't have the ability to hire or fire either Philbin or Aponte -- and that was proven when he unsuccessfully tried to have Aponte fired in 2012. But even Ireland had more power than probably an incoming weak GM would have in that he made the final call on not only the draft and free agency, but also the roster. I would not be suprised if Philbin gets final call on the roster going forward.

The talent evaluator: This person may or may not carry the title of general manager but it would be something of a misnomer. He'd be a glorified scout. He'd be only a talent evaluator and that's what I'm calling him going forward. He'd lead the setting up of the draft board. He'd make suggestions of which players to draft and which free agents to sign or discard. But he would have no final say on, well, anything. He wouldn't have the overriding final call on pulling the draft-day trigger. He wouldn't have the ability to hire or fire anyone, least of all DawnJoe. He'd have to get consensus to do practically everything outside of giving his opinion on talent.

In this scenario, the Dolphins might have Aponte as the GM with the ability to hire and fire this talent evaluator. Or they'd possibly have a football czar -- someone like Carl Peterson or Eric Mangini -- over the organization. Philbin, Aponte and the talent evaluator would be under the football czar who would be under Ross. Current assistant GM Brian Gaine has been mentioned as an internal candidate for the open position. He'd be a fit in this talent evaluator job.

By the way, if this is the one that is actually open, the Dolphins will have a difficult time attracting top-flight talent. The best and brightest simply want more power than this neutered version of a sort-of GM.

So which of these jobs is the one that should be open? I have an opinion. But as I've already thrown 935 words at you, I'll leave that for another post.