« The Peyton Manning interview in South Florida | Main | Marino not recruiting, advising Manning unless asked »

Philbin address to alumni shows attempt to balance building through the draft and Peyton Manning chase

As the Dolphins and other NFL teams chase Peyton Manning they recognize adding a potentially great player who is nearly 36-years old could improve the team dramatically, yes, but also could add to the roster a player fully formed by another team's culture, one who already established his philosophies and techniques while working elsewhere.

That can be a dilemma for some teams. It is apparently something of a dilemma for Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. You see, Philbin formed his philosophy on team-building with the Green Bay Packers in recent years and the Green Bay way is to build almost exclusively through the draft.

The Packers have not signed a free agent in two offseasons and Philbin believes, at least in part, that's the right way to do it. Yet, his team is chasing Manning, arguably the biggest NFL free agent in years.

Philbin addressed that dilemma on Wednesday evening when he met with an invited group of Dolphins alumni. The Dolphins invited their former players to the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) and had Philbin and his staff meet and greet with them.

"I was extremely impressed," defensive end Jeff Cross said this morning on my radio show, Armando and Perkins. "I had the opportunity to ask [Philbin] what about the draft stuck out for him, if anything. And he went on to say, I'm trying to summerize, he pointed out that in his entire time in Green Bay on offense, no single free agent wound up ever being a starter for them.

"So they are big advocates of drafting players and developing them. He actually said that good healthy players, the chances of good players being healthy and being allowed to become free agents is very minimal in the National Football League."

Former free safety Louis Oliver was also at the event and got the same message from Philbin.

"He was talking about his vision and his vision is he wants to build players from within, you know, draft and cultivate our own players as opposed to bringing in players from the outside," said Oliver, who immediately recognized the irony because of the Manning chase.

"But I think a guy like Peyton Manning puts you in such a dilemma because of what he can do and what he can bring to your team and organization. We're stuck right now with the question of building from the ground up or bringing people in and plugging them in right away because you know what you're getting."

Regardless of whether Philbin likes or dislikes the idea of filling his quarterback need with a free agent rather than a draft pick, he is clearly accepting of the fact the Manning chase is going to be the way the club will initially try to address the quarterback position.

"He finished his little talk with us with a little Q&A," Cross said. "And before anyone asked the first question, he jokingly addressed the Peyton Manning issue. He said there's going to be a Peyton Manning fund you guys can contribute to on the way out the door. So yeah, there seems to be a little disconnect between that and his personal philosophy on free agency."

Obviously, the Manning derby is the one everyone is focused upon now. But Philbin's stated philosophy seems more at odds with the idea of adding potential free agents that have been tied to Manning.

Yes, the Dolphins seem comfortable with Manning because he's a signature addition. But would their desire to add through the draft affect a decision on signing Reggie Wayne? Or Jeff Saturday? Those guys are considered Manning security blankets.

Do they fall in under the Manning umbrella or does the team's desire to add talent primarily through the draft excluse those aging veterans?

Cross said Philbin also shared with the alumni his view of Miami's personnel needs going forward.

"He feels the offensive line certainly has to be be better," Cross said. "He went on to say the pass-rush has to be better. And if we're going to beat New England, we have to have defensive backs that can cover their receivers. I thought that was extremely insightful as to where things might be headed in the next couple of months."

The Dolphins, by the way, have been very active lately getting both Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland in the community and interacting with not only their alumni but fans. Ireland, for example, held a conference call with season ticket holders earlier this week.

Tonight, both will be at Sun Life Stadium as guest auctioneers in the "Ultimate Sports Auction," an event that will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Cross and nearly a dozen other sports celebrities will be at the event. Philbin has also visited local newspapers and spoken to various business groups.

At no time, however, was he quite so transparent as how he was with the former Dolphins players.