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60 posts from January 2014

January 31, 2014

Salguero a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has asked me to serve as one of 50 selectors that will vote to determine the Hall of Fame class of 2014 on Saturday.

I will serve as an alternate in place of former Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope, who is not present at this year's Super Bowl and wil not be at the meeting to determine which of the 17 finalists becomes part of the new class of inductees. Pope has been South Florida's representative to the Hall of Fame ever since I can remember.

A determination on a permanent South Florida rep will be made in the months following Super Bowl and I will be considered for that high honor. Regardless, I feel privileged to be among the few who have ever gone behind the so-called curtain to see and participate in the process of electing a HOF class.

There are 17 finalists whose HOF status will be decided Saturday.

K Morten Andersen: Played 25 seasons and was the most prolific scorer in NFL history when he retired. Was in seven Pro Bowls and at his retirement was first in games played, most points scored (2,544), most consecutive games scoring (360), most FGs attempted (709), most FGs made (565), most FGs of 50 or more yards in a career (40) and most FGs of 50 or more yards for a season (40).

RB Jerome Bettis: Played 13 seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Was chosen to six Por Bowls. Gained 13,662 yards over his career, which was fifth on the all-time list at the time of his retirement. Had eight 1,000-yard seasons. Averaged 3.9 yards per rush. Was comeback player of the year in 1995.

LB Derrick Brooks: Never missed a game during his 14-year career. Names NFL's defensive player of the year in 2002. Was Pro Bowl selection 11 times and All-Pro six times. Had three interception returns for TDs in 2002, second most ever for a season. Retired Tampa Bay's all-time leader in tackles for a career (2,196) and a game (23). Was part of the 2000s all-decade team. Was the Walter Payton man of the year in 2000.

WR Tim Brown: Played 17 seasons. Starting in 1993 Brown recorded nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He had 10 seasons of 75 or more catches. Was on the 1990s all decade team. Selected to the Pro Bowl nine times. Caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards with 100 TDs. Aslo had three punt return TDs and one KO return TD. Led the NFL in pass receiving in 1997 and kickoff returning in 1988.

Owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.: Purchased the San Francisco 49ers in 1977. Team went 2-14 two consecutive seasons before DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh in 1979. Walsh draft Joe Montana. San Francisco won the Super Bowl in 1982. Under DeBartolo team claimed 13 division titles, 16 playoff appearances, went to the NFC title game 10 times and won five Super Bowls, including in '84, '88, '89 and '94. Franchise had NFL's best winning percentage in the 1980s and 1990s.

Coach Tony Dungy: After serving as defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Minnesota he took over as head coach in Tampa. The Bucs had 12 double-digit loss seasons in previous 13 years but Dungy's team was 10-6 in his second year. Took Bucs to the playoffs four times in six seasons in Tampa. He then coached Indianapolis for seven years and won double-digit number of games every season. He won the Super Bowl XLI over Chicago. He was 139-69 in the regular season; was 9-10 in the postseason (2-4 with Tampa Bay).

LB Kevin Greene: Had double-digit sack seasons 10 times in a 15-year career. Won the NFL sack title twice, in 1994 and 1996. Was a member of the 1990 all decade team. Was selected to the Pro Bowl five times. Finished career with 160 sacks in 228 games.

P Ray Guy: First punter ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft when he was pick No. 23 in 1973. Played 14 seasons and averaged more than 40 yards per punt in 13 of his 14 seasons. Had 1,049 punts and had only three blocked. Led the NFL in punting three times and finished second three times. Was selected to seven Pro Bowls.

DE: Charles Haley: Only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls. Led the 49ers in sacks in each of his first six seasons. Amassed 100.5 sacks in 169 games. Was named to five Pro Bowls. Had double-digit sack seasons six times.

WR Marvin Harrison: Caught 1,102 passes in 190 career games. Finished with 14,580 receiving yards and 128 TDs. Caugh 100 or more passes four consecutive seasons from 1999-2002. Was a member of the 2000s all decade team. Was selected to eight Pro Bowls. Led the NFL in receiving yards in 1999 and 2002 and led the NFL in catches in 2000 and 2002.

DE Claude Humphrey: Was NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1968. Credited with 122 career sacks in 171 career games (although the sack statistic did not become official until after he retired). Was selected to six Pro Bowls.

OT Walter Jones: Selected to nine Pro Bowls in 12 seasons. Part of the 2000s all decade team. Was an AP All Pro selection four times. Considered the best LT of his day.

S John Lynch: Selected to nine Pro Bowls in 15 seasons. Had 26 interceptions in 224 games. Also collected 13 sacks in his career. Finished with 973 tackles, third most in Tampa Bay history at the time of his retirement.

WR Andre Reed: Selected to the Pro Bowl seven times in a 15-year career. His 951 career catches was third in NFL history at the time of his retirement. Had 13 seasons with 50-plus receptions, exceeded only by Jerry Rice at the time of his retirement. Finished wtih 13,198 yards and 87 TDs in 234 games.

G Will Shields: Never missed a game during his 14-year career. Had a string of 12 consecutive Pro Bowl berths. Member of the 2000s all-decade team. Walter Man of the Year award in 2003.

DE Michael Strahan: Collected 141.5 sacks in 216 career games. Was selected to seven Pro Bowls. Won the sack titles in 2001 and 2003. Set the record for most sacks in a season with 22.5 in 2001. Selected to the 2000s all decade team.

CB Aeneas Williams: Played cornerback first 12 seasons of his career and moved to safety final two seasons. Was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times as a cornerback and once as a safety. Finished with 55 career interceptions in 211 games. Was second in NFL history, at the time of his retirement, with nine interceptions returned for touchdowns. Led the NFL in interceptions in 1991 and 1994. 

January 30, 2014

Free agency issues first entree on Hickey plate

These are fascinating times to be a Dolphins observer. (Maybe not so fascinating to be a fan because you find yourself cringing a lot, but you get the drift). The team is starting anew, at least with a new general manager. And that GM, Dennis Hickey, has to hit the ground running because the free agency period begins in earnest March 11.

(Teams will be allowed to enter into negotiations with the agents for pending unrestricted free agents on March 8 but contracts cannot be signed until 4 p.m. on March 11).

So by that time, Hickey needs to have his Ps and Qs straight on what Dolphins pending UFAs he wants to keep and which he'll let enter the market.

It's a big decision because the Dolphins have 18 players out of contract for 2014. Of those 11 are UFAs. And of those, seven were starters.

Eight.

The eight starters?

Cornerback Brent Grimes, cornerback Nolan Carroll, safety Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Randy Starks, defensive tackle Paul Soliai, right tackle Tyson Clabo, right guard John Jerry and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

You can argue that both Soliai and Starks are not starters because Jared Odrick was in the mix for multiple games, but I think anyone would agree Soliai and Starks are starter caliber. Also, tight end Dustin keller, an UFA for 2014, was a starter when he blew out a knee in the preseason but I'm not counting him as a starter because he obviously did not fill that spot in 2013. Also, Richie Incognito, another 2014 UFA, was a starter for much of last season but was suspended thus is not considered a starter here. He will not return to the Dolphins by order of owner Stephen Ross.

Welcome to the Dolphins, Dennis! Your entire starting offensive line save center Mike Pouncey is hitting free agency. Three quarters of your starting defensive backfield is also hitting free agency.

Handle it.

Oh, and while you're at it, two outstanding starting-caliber defensive tackles are possibly hitting free agency. You almost definitely cannot sign both because, well, that would require a huge salary cap commitment. Neither are going to come cheap because aside form being good, marketable players who'll be in demand, both Starks and Soliai went through 2013 somewhat peeved they didn't get a contract extension. So they're not going to give the Dolphins a huge discount -- certainly Starks is not. Soliai may come cheaper because he loves South Florida and really, really doesn't want to leave.
But his agent, David Canter, will try to make it as hard as possible for Soliai to accept a hometown discount by drumming up as much interest for his client as he can because, well, he also was peeved an extension wasn't done in 2013.

And then there's the issue of Brent Grimes. He's not only a starting cornerback but your best starting cornerback. He went to the Pro Bowl. He loves South Florida. But he also is not going to accept the $5 million per year deal he took on a prove-it basis in 2013.

Grimes stayed healthy and played well after missing all of 2012 with an Achilles' injury. So now he wants to get paid.

The problem is Grimes will be 31 in July and most teams do not offer four- or five-year deals to corners on the long side of 30. Are you going to do that with Grimes?

What's that, you say? Franchise tag?

That might be your only recourse. It would lock up Grimes for another year while the Dolphins young cornerbacks (Jamar Taylor and Will Davis) either prove they have it or don't have it. But it's going to cost.

The 2013 franchise tag for a cornerback was $10.6 million. That's quite a chunk. Yes, the Dolphins will approximately $35 million in salary cap room if you include the carryover. But are you ready to use roughly one-third of that room on one player?

We're sure you'll figure it out.

Miami's unrestricted free agents

DT Randy Starks

DT Paul Soliai

CB Brent Grimes

CB Nolan Carroll

G Richie Incognito

TE Dustin Keller

RT Tyson Clabo

FS Chris Clemons

G John Jerry

LT Bryant Mckinnie

LB Austin Spitler

WR Marlon Moore

Miami's restricted free agents

CB R.J Stanford

G Danny Watkins

OT Will Yeatman

QB Pat Devlin

Miami's exclusive rights free agents

WR Armon Binns

LB Jonathan Freeny

 

 

 

January 29, 2014

News and opinion on Jonathan Martin interview

First the news, although in this case there is precious little: In his interview with NBC, Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin claims when he became uncomfortable with what appears to be verbal abuse he told coaches "above me" of his discomfort but "didn't get into specifics because you're not supposed to quote unquote snitch on your teammates."

That suggests Martin told Dolphins offensive line Jim Turner of something going on but obviously was not specific.

Martin also confirmed he never talked to head coach Joe Philbin about his issue, which has been reported here multiple times and Philbin has claimed throughout.

"There was persistent comments of a racial nature, aggressive sexual comments related to my sister and my mother,'' Martin told Dungy in the interview, portions of which aired on NBC's TODAY Wednesday morning. "I’ve spoken to my former teammates in other locker rooms across the NFL and I asked them, does this stuff go on? Is this normal rooking hazing? The consensus was, this is not normal."

Martin claimed he had no issues with pranks (perhaps because he participated in those and pulled them on other teammates also) but said the verbal abuse was "personal."

 "I have no problem with the normal hazing that you see in the NFL," Martin said. "'Get a haircut,' stuff like that, little pranks. The personal attacking nature, I don’t think there’s any place for that."

That's it. That's the news. The full interview with NBC's Tony Dungy will be aired on NBC Network's PFT at 6:30 Wednesday.

Now my opinion ...

At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, Jon Martin, your weak act is officially old. Go away. Just do what you did best as an offensive lineman on the field and back away. Just do what you did when you left your teammates unexpectedly during the season and simply disappear.

Every single step taken by you in this saga feels manufactured and authored by a lawyer as a step toward a suit. And that makes sense because you definitely have gotten excellent legal advice from your family and the lawyer you added to represent you in this matter. And I, for one, would be surprised if your legal team isn't preparing a suit.

The dramatic throwing down of your lunch tray and departure? No other teammate did that when you were among the players standing up and leaving them alone at a lunch table. So the fact you chose that harmless act to make your departure statement seems contrived now.

Seeking medical help? Please tell us where exactly? Please provide the details of what you were treated for? Because it seems you had some issues you're not eager to share. Furthermore, my understanding of classic ambulance chaser strategy is he or she demands you get "medical treatment" so your coming lawsuit can show damage, thus giving the legal action more bite. Give details, please.

The well-timed and slow leaks of allegations of wrong-doing, all of them done anonymously by your camp? Classic. They slimed the parties you intended be slimed and it was done with plausible deniability that you had nothing to do with it. It's brilliant, actually, using a media hungry for a story to feed the narrative of Martin as victim. You did it through the national media, of course, because you wanted to get your "story" out to as many as possible as quickly as possible. But you also wanted to use that vehicle because the national media wasn't going to question your motives. The national media wasn't going to form an opinion that is politically incorrect. And the national media wasn't in the locker room the week before you left when you were stewing and clearly unhappy about getting moved from left tackle to right tackle -- which in hindsight seems like another reason you left the team.

And now this NBC interview? Timed, coincidentally of course, during Super Bowl week. It is the NFL's biggest attention grabbing week of the year. And so that's the week you pick to go public with your first interview. Because that's the week it will get noticed most.

Well, this interview so far, is a dud, big guy.

The most hurtful thing you can point to as reprehensible behavior by the Dolphins is verbal abuse. So where's the "physical attack" your lawyer claimed happened? Why not give details to that? Where's the evidence of code reds?

You mean to tell me the full extent of the "bullying" your camp has alleged comes down to a pattern of mean texts sent and mean and unfeeling insults uttered by your teammates about your race or your mom or your sister?

Are you 11 years old?

You went to Stanford. You know how to communicate. Why didn't you take your tormentors aside and tell them in no uncertain terms the verbal abuse had to stop? Why didn't you tell your head coach, who definitely would have stopped the abuse and done so in-house so as to not embarrass you, your teammates or the organization? And failing that, why didn't you make an open show of one of the abusers in a full-on locker room takedown that would have definitely gotten everyone's attention -- including your coaches -- and screamed something had to change?

(Sorry people, but sometimes a man has to be a man and defend himself and his honor with whatever tools are available. Yes, flight is one of those tools, but that one pretty much sealed Martin's fate in Miami. He'll never play on that team again. He had to know that.)

Another thing:

Please Tony Dungy, you're a nice man and a Christian. So where is your discernment in all this, my brother? So far this interview shows no moment where you ask Martin why at the height of his frustration he didn't simply get face to face with whomever was tormenting him and do what men have done since David faced down Goliath -- they stand up for themselves.

No, NBC would probably frown upon this line of questioning because it would fly counter to the politically correct demasculinization of men in the 21st century. But if Martin's response to the abuse was always to grin and bear it, or even join in the abuse of others to be part of the group, that speaks poorly of the abusers, no doubt, but it also shows how weak Martin is in a den of Alpha males.

Dungy, by the way, is part of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross's committee that will look into establishing a code of conduct in the locker room. That the Dolphins need such a committee speaks poorly of the coaching staff because it is their job to establish that code and make it clear to players in no uncertain terms. Discpline on the field is born off the field, folks.

Dungy should be removed from this committee because he no longer seems impartial.

One more thing:

None of this gets Richie Incognito off the hook. He's a meathead. He displays all the signs of a bully -- loud, obnoxious at times, demanding attention. He will not be and should not be in any future Dolphins locker room. His abuse of Martin and perhaps others within the Dolphins organization is reprehensible. And his text messages? Who talks like that? But because he's something of a bully, he can be stopped dead in his tracks.

Early in training camp in 2013 he started calling another reporter a "nerd." One day as I'm standing in the middle of the locker room, he walks by and starts joking about me looking like I was lifting weights (which I don't) and then started speaking gibberish as if in mocking Spanish.

I asked Incognito politely, but firmly and seriously to stop. "Just stop."

He did. Never again.

The prepared messages from Ross, Hickey

The Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey as their general manager on Sunday. He found out right after he got out of church.

And he, owner Stephen Ross and the rest of organization had two days to prepare for the press conference they held on Tuesday. That gave everyone time to get away from the idea of saying Hickey was the best man for the job because, well, he was the third man offered the job. It gave Ross time to figure out how to explain why he made a change in parting ways with Jeff Ireland and why he picked Hickey. Obviously he wasn't going to say he picked Hickey because he believed him the best candidate because, again, the organization offered the job to others.

And Ross also had time to explain the so-called structure issue that alienated multiple candidates although not Hickey.

What follows is the prepared statements from Ross and Hickey. This was their message unfiltered. It was edited by the Dolpins for mistakes -- such as when Ross said Hickey worked eight years with the Bucs when it was really 18.

I have taken the liberty to bold what I believe are the most important points:

(Stephen Ross statement) – “Thank you Jason and welcome everybody. I’m very happy to be here.  I know this is our first press conference of the year and I’m looking forward to a very successful year and it’s been an exciting first part of the year for us.  Probably looking for a general manager is probably one of the toughest jobs I’ve had because it really involves something that…it’s kind of hard to prepare yourself for. You’re interviewing people that really haven’t had the responsibility you’re asking them to have and so you’re looking to find somebody who’d be a perfect fit for an organization.  Before I started this search, I spoke to probably some of top successful General Manager (and asked), what characteristics do you really look for in the general manager as opposed to naming names and all that.  But, how do you find the right person?  And the words that came out of his mouth, 'You have to find somebody who can be joined at the hip with your head coach. Somebody who puts the team and the organization first and can be totally compatible with the head coach and let the head coach be the representative of the team to the public.  With you have to find evaluation skills.  That’s obviously is finding personnel and everybody has evaluated players, but how do you really determine when someone else has made the picks how good evaluation skills that person has.  That makes it really difficult.  Obviously, you want someone with real passion for football and having a lot of integrity. ' So that was really the characteristics we were looking for and I’m really happy today to say that I really feel that we have found the person with all four of those characteristics.  Dennis Hickey has spent 18 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting at the bottom of the personnel department and rising to be the Director of Player Personnel.  We spent a lot of time talking to him.  Getting his thoughts.  Kind of determining if he would have that compatibility with the Coach (Joe Philbin), because to me that was the most important thing.  You all know we made change and the reason we made the change wasn’t because I didn’t think highly of Jeff.  Because I have a lot of confidence in Jeff.  He was a good friend, but we needed to have harmony within the organization.  We had to think as one organization where everybody had respect for each other.  That operates in the same mindset at all times in all situations.  So we started our search, I was joined by Carl Peterson and also Matt Higgins and Tom Garfinkel, our CEO, as well as with Dawn Aponte. Everybody really looked at the organization first to try to decide what would be the best.  Dennis Hickey, as I said, has performed that task.  That’s where he started and I think his knowledge and his dedication and is willing to work and spend the time, I thought was a perfect fit for the Miami Dolphins.  In terms of what the organization will be, Dennis will be the General Manager.  He will be responsible for the 53-man roster and he will work with the rest of the organization.  Dawn Aponte will be reporting to him and assisting with him in making this organization or working Coach Philbin to bring the Miami Dolphins back to the prominence that we all want.  I know if anybody at all who wants to see them win more than I do and provide whatever resources are necessary for this organization to regain its past.  With that let me introduce Dennis and then we’ll have a few questions after.”

(Dennis Hickey statement) – “Thank you Mr. Ross.  I’m truly honored and count it as privilege to be named the General Manager of the Miami Dolphins.  It was a thorough process.  Challenging process.  But it was key for me as I went through the process, I wanted to get a feel for just the level of commitment to bringing a championship back to Miami and through every interaction that I had with Stephen and through the whole interview process I found a person that was totally dedicated to committing whatever resources needed to bring a championship team back to Miami.  Just I was impressed with his knowledge.  We had numerous conversations and his knowledge of not only of his own team but also my team and players and we had one interchange where he was asking me about the high school achievements of one of the players we drafted and I was very impressed with that knowledge and just a passion and just his commitment in know that he will commit whatever resources that we need to make us a winner.  Also want to thank the Glazer family and the Buccaneer organizations. Spent 18 years, almost half my life as part of that organization and through it all, even though I was with the same organization all those 18 years, worked under several different head coaches, several different GM’s and was truly blessed to learn from some great men and great football minds and great people -- starting with Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Coach Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano in addition to the General Managers that I’ve worked under, Rich McKay, Bruce Allen, and Mark Dominik.  Again, I took it upon myself as a young scout to just be a sponge.  There was so much knowledge in the building that I always wanted to look and learn and not only learn from successes but learn from failures and continue to hone my craft not only as an evaluator but also with the thought of eventually becoming a GM and how I would detail my processes that would lead to good decisions. I was truly blessed to be in the Bucs organization and also have a good relationship with Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. I only worked under them for a couple of weeks before this opportunity presented itself.  I’m also blessed to have my family here.  The scouting profession, like the coaching profession is very challenging and a lot sacrifices have to be made by the families.  I’m blessed to have a beautiful and lovely wife that’s a special person, that’s my soul mate, and really my guardian angel here on earth that has been with me and really helped me through this process.  Being patient for my opportunity.  The talented and beautiful daughter, Brianna, age 14 who will always be daddy’s little girl.  Then my son, what I call my mini me, Barrett.  Upon learning that I accepted the job we were leaving church.  We were in my wife’s minivan and got the call from Mr. Ross and Coach Philbin and the excitement and he’s like okay, when do I get my jersey?  So we made sure that drove down to the local sporting goods and got him his (Ryan) Tannehill jersey. They’re a part of, a big part of me and I’m so thankful for their support throughout the years.  I’m also thankful for my mom and my dad who passed away a couple of years ago and just the foundation they laid for me, making me the person that I am.   Appreciate my two brothers.  As I had an antidote as we talked with a lot of staff over at the stadium today that they taught me competitive nature at an early age.  Two older brothers, we competed about everything and that kind of drove the competitive nature that drove me to want to play sports and when I was done playing sports to get in the sports profession.  I think as a competitive environment as there is in the world and just excited to be part of that.  My brothers, Bart and Brett, they’re both very successful in their endeavors and they’re a big part of shaping who I am.”

“You know as we went through this process there were so many things that as I did my research on the Dolphins organization and the past and the present and the future it struck my first time in the building I was let through and seen, you know all the pictures of the Dolphin greats.  Because that’s the one thing about this organization.  It has a very proud past.  History of not only good players but great players.  Not only great players but legendary players.  Not only good coaches but great coaches.  Not only great coaches but legendary coaches.  Not only good teams but great teams.  Not only great teams but legendary teams.  And just the excitement to join in that organization and embracing all of the great names and seeing the pictures of Dan Marino, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas.  Just knowing the rich tradition that has come before me and come before our future team because I think it’s so important that as our players, that they embrace the greatness that has been part of this organization and that was a huge part of my draw to the organization. That’s my personal commitment is to return and build a, continue to build a team along side Coach Philbin that is a team that our passionate fan base can be proud of on the field.  That’s successful on the field but also that our community can be proud of off the field.  And that can bring, look I’m about winning.  Okay.  My competitive nature as they asked me, ‘What is it about you that separates you’ and that’s competitive nature.  I no longer play.  My competitive outlet is scouting, evaluating players, being innovative, looking at different things, different ways to approach team building that can be better than the other 31 teams.  It starts with unified vision, detailed proven processes and surrounding yourself with as many talented people as you can.  That’s the goal and that was the other draw of the Dolphins organization.  I had come to know Coach Philbin, just as an area scout in the Midwest going through Iowa and as an area scout you watch a lot of practices, you see how coaches interact and the ones that develop and develop players and teach are always the ones that kind of stood out and I always felt that Coach Philbin was one of those and as I followed his career it was no surprise to me that he continued to climb the ladder, had success at every point.  And that was a big draw to the Dolphins organization for me was the opportunity to work a long side Coach Philbin with commonality as I went through the interview process and kind of laid out a vision of who I am.  My beliefs, my core beliefs, my philosophy.  What I believe in, an organization of trust and integrity.  A group of passionate people that will work hard, that will use innovative methods to become a winner and as we sat there it was kind of like, yes, this fits.  As I came back and talked to my wife I said it went great.  I feel like we’re already on the same page and our philosophies are the same and we just want to build a winner and do it together, collectively and there’s no magic pill to building a championship team.  I was fortunate in my time in Tampa to watch a championship team being built and it took the entire organization working together and it was a process.  And it was built one decision at a time.  That’s going to be the same way it is here but the goal is to be a winner and to win championships.  One of the other draws to the organization and why I felt it was a fit for me was I thought it had a good nucleus of young players that I felt could develop into a championship quality roster.  And so I was excited about that.  I was excited about the people.  As I interacted with them over the last couple of days and I’m actually in the building and working with the people, all of my impressions have been confirmed.  Just the talent, as I sat down with Dawn Aponte and went through out salary cap structure and again that was another appealing, the salary cap flexibility under her direction and her command of the salary cap.  I was fortunate to participate in a GM Symposium over the summer at the Wharton School of Business and she presented on a couple of different salary cap topics and I was always impressed on her knowledge of the cap,  her abilities to work numbers and also just her, the presence and ability to work together with people.  So all those things were draws at every point.  I just felt it was a perfect fit for me.  It was a perfect fit for my family and I felt it was place that I could come in and through good decision making, one decision at a time that we could build a winner.  A sustained championship team here in Miami and that’s why I took the job.  That’s why I’m hearing, like I said, every day since it’s been just complete confirmation of all my thoughts.  As I have interacted more with Tom Garfinkel, Matt Higgins, Stephen Ross, with the PR, the strength coach, Darren Krein, the medical staff, Kevin O’Neill.  Even the assistants, Anne (Rodriguez), coaches assistant, who’s been here 35 years.  To interact with her and just see everything fit.  My own personal assistant Annie (Berger), everything, I see an organization that has the foundation, that has the people and has the vision to become a championship organization and that’s my personal commitment to play my part.  To be that compliment to all the talent that’s already been assembled here and the staff not only with the nucleus of players but also the people in the front office and just continue to work, roll up my sleeves and I’m just anxious to get to work and that process has already started.  I came in on Monday and we’ve had meetings with the medical staff, we had meetings with our personnel departments, meetings with the coaches and continue to get to know the roster better.  I have a knowledge of the roster.  We played you guys, we played us twice, we played us twice and so I have knowledge of the roster but you don’t really know the roster fully until you get in the building, get to know the coaches, get to know the players on a more intimate level and so I’m anxious to get to do that and I just know that the commitment from Mr. Ross is there for the resources for us to build a championship team.  I know the team is in place.   People that can complement and work together under a unified vision to bring the championship back to Miami.  This is a passionate fan base.  Every time I’ve been to a Miami Dolphin game when we played you guys you just notice the passion because it’s a passion based on history and success and I don’t take the charge of being the General Manager lightly and you know building that champion that our passionate fan base deserves and that this city deserves and that South Florida deserves.”

 

January 28, 2014

Ross has idea of NFL scandal report contents

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross today confirmed the NFL report on the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin workplace harrasment scandal will come out after the Super Bowl and he believes he knows some of the contents of the report.

"The report will be released after the Super Bowl," Ross said. "I have an idea what will be in it. I've been in communication with the NFL. I've spoken with [NFL investigator} Ted Wells who is handling the investigation.

"I haven't seen the report. I don't know exactly it's conclusions. I believe based on my conversations that ... well, let's put it this way, I don' want to really speculate. When it comes out, we'll do what has to be done but we've already ... in my mind I know what direction we're going. Stay tuned."

The Dolphins seem aware of what direction they will have to go to answer the report and that raises the following possibilities:

Incognito will not return to the team. He is a free agent and will not be re-signed by the Dolphins. It's also unlikely Martin will return to the Dolphins.

"I don't believe so," Ross said about the return of the players. Then he changed course.

"Well, I can't say that. I retract that statement so therefore I can't say that. I never said that," he said.

Too late, he soon learned.

"It's been tweeted?" he asked. "One is a free agent by the way and the other is on our roster, we claim right to him."

The reason Ross doesn't want to say publicly Martin won't return to the Dolphins is because the Dolphins will try to trade him. If the Dolphins say he's not coming back, Martin's value will be lessened. Of course, the entire NFL knows Martin isn't going to return to a locker room full of players who didn't show any fondness for him for leaving them during the season.

It is possible Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner could be implicated in the report. Turner obviously had direct interaction with Martin and Incognito on a daily basis. And the Dolphins seem to be guarding against a Turner suspension or loss of some kind by the recent hiring of former Houston Texans OL coach John Benton.

As you may recall, Ross said he would visit Martin during his press conference first addressing the scandal. That visit has not happened.

Ross also named a hurrily assembled committee to make recommendations on setting up guidelines on the locker room and workplace culture for the Dolphins. That committee has not met nor scheduled a meeting.

Interestingly, Martin has done a sitdown interview with Tony Dungy on the matter and it will air tonight. The timing is not what the NFL wants. And Dungy is part of the Dolphins committee.

 

Dennis Hickey introduction live blog

The Dolphins will introduce new general manager Dennis Hickey at 4 p.m Tuesday. That calls for a live blog!

As I have not been here with you in a very long time and as there is a live event, I believe this would be a good time to share thoughts, analysis, opinions, insights as the new Dolphins GM makes his Dolphins debut.

I will be in the comments section for the start of the presser. Join me there.

January 27, 2014

Edwin Pope's Super Bowl streak to end

Former Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope, among only a handul of sportswriters in America who have covered every Super Bowl game, will not be attending or covering Super Bowl XLVIII in New York.

Pope, 85, had covered the previous 47 Super Bowls during a career in which he received numerous awards including the Red Smith Award. Pope has also been elected to the national sportswriters and sportscasters Hall of Fame.

No reason was given for Pope breaking his Super Bowl streak. Pope declined comment on not attending this year's Super Bowl. He was among a few hundred journalists who covered the First World Championship game AFL vs. NFL when it was played on January 15, 1967 -- Super Bowl I between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. And he was part of the weeklong coverage of every game since until this year's game.

This year Super Bowl XLVIII will be covered by approximately 5,000 journalists from all over the world.

Pope, the author of two books, began his journalism career at the age of 11 in his native Georgia and moved to the Miami to work for The Miami Herald in 1956. While currently retired, Pope has contributed occasional columns to the Herald since 2003.

The Miami Dolphins named the main football pressbox at Sun Life Stadium after Pope in 2010.

 

This Dolphins situation belongs completely to Ross

It's on Stephen Ross. All of it.

He hired this coach. He has hired this general manager. He has hired the Dolphins new President and CEO. All that stuff about inheriting people like Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano is out the window now. For the first time since he's owned the Dolphins, Ross actually owns the team of people that will take the Dolphins to heights or keep them at their current level of mediocrity and NFL irrelevance.

It is all on him.

And Ross is apparently quite comfortable with that because he obviously believes he's got the right people on the job. As I write in my column in The Herald today, Ross had plenty of chances to get rid of Jeff Ireland after 2011 when he jettisoned Sparano.

He didn't.

And at least one candidate for the general manager vacancy asked Ross to remake the team as a condition of being hired over the weekend. And Ross remained oddly loyal to his people, most notably Joe Philbin.

Do I agree with that loyalty?

No.

I think the owner's loyalty must be to the brand and his fans first and foremost and his coach and employees after that. And if someone isn't helping that brand, he or she is hurting that brand. I guess I ascribe to the Genghis Kahn school of NFL ownership.

And having graduated from that school summa cum laude I would now be looking around the room if I were Ross and figuring out who is helping my brand and who is diminishing it. And whoever is diminishing it gets pushed into the shadows.

So let's go through the exercise.

Carl Peterson: He is a longtime Ross advisor and confidant. He led in identifying and pushing of many of these candidates. But I'm looking at him sideways now because while he convinced Ross and others that Ray Farmer and Lake Dawson were quality GM candidates, he didn't seem to have much pull with either man. Farmer, named a finalist, didn't even take a second interview. Dawson, another finalist, took the interview but, as I detail here, didn't take the job. Nice work, Carl! Unless Peterson identified Dennis Hickey and Hickey turns into a stud of a GM, fake owner Salguero isn't feeling all this love for this trusted advisor going forward.

President and CEO Tom Garfinkel: I get the feeling he's going to be wielding a lot more power within the organization going forward, and I'm not thinking it'll be limited to the business side of the organization. Unlike Mike Dee before him who was not included in interviews for coaching candidates and thus couldn't save the process, Garfinkel was intimately involved in the search for the GM. His was apparently a stabilizing voice in the room. Yes, he is a strong Ross advocate. Obviously. But I have a feeling he sees the process was not pristine by any measure. He recognizes need for improvement.

Executive VP of football administration Dawn Aponte: I'm told many of the candidates came into their interviews wary of Aponte. Understandably, I might add. She reportedly had her issues with a GM in Cleveland. She definitely had her issues with GM Jeff Ireland in Miami. But once the candidates got to understanding Aponte's role, she sunk into the background. She was not the reason, at least not the primary reason, either Nick Caserio or Dawson declined the job. Now, fake owner Salguero would not have included her in the interview process at all because, as the Dolphins describe it, she will be answering to the GM on salary cap matters going forward. If that is true, what kind of backward set-up allows a subordinate to interview a potential supervisor? Strange.

Head coach Joe Philbin: He should be feeling pretty good about himself right now. Ross stuck with him. Showed loyalty to him. Is convinced he's the right guy to coach the team. He emerges with the most valuable of endorsements -- one proven by actions. But it should be understood that during interviews when Ross was asked by at least one candidate what he (the candidate) would be able to do after the 2014 season if the Dolphins didn't play well, the answer was not, "Joe Philbin is staying no matter what." The answer was, "We'll handle that situation if and when it arrives." So loyalty from the owner has to continue to be earned.

Assistant GM Brian Gaine: This one has to hurt. Gaine was the only finalist who was not offered the job. I'm told he is considering his options and future, including leaving the organization. Hickey will make a call on trying to keep him or not. Look, would fake owner Salguero have hired Gaine as GM? No. He's been a leader in the personnel regime that was just fired. But does fake owner Salguero try to move heaven and Earth to try to keep Gaine? To make Gaine feel whole? To convince Hickey to keep Gaine? You betcha. Brian Gaine is a quality person. He's a good personnel man. He helps the brand. And that should keep him with the Dolphins if the owner is trying to keep good people.

January 26, 2014

Dolphins fire back on idea of structure problems

When Stephen Ross outlined the characteristics he wanted in his next general manager, high on the list was he wanted someone who would collaborate with coach Joe Philbin in helping the franchise move toward better days.

The reason the Dolphins general manager today is Dennis Hickey and neither Nick Caserio nor Lake Dawson is because Hickey met that criteria. And both Caserio and Dawson weren't prepared to keep Philbin as Miami's coach thus did not meet the criteria.

A team source is telling me Caserio, who was highly impressive in his interviews on Friday and Saturday, wanted to become the Dolphins general manager and then start by cleaning house throughout the organization. He wanted to hire a new head coach.

Dawson was willing to keep Philbin for a time -- probably the 2014 season -- but eventually wanted the ability to keep or dismiss Philbin after the season was over.

That was the problem both men had with the Dolphins structure.

And it was a problem because both men were told by owner Stephen Ross he is completely committed to Philbin as the Dolphins head coach this year and beyond. 

The Dolphins are pushing back hard on the idea Miami's GM will have to share power on the roster with Philbin. An NFL source told me earlier today Dawson didn't like the idea that Philbin would have some say -- not full say, but some say -- on the 53-man roster.

The issue, the Dolphins say, came up in practically every single interview including finalist interviews. Each candidate was asked what he would do if he and Philbin disagree on a decision over a player or the 53-man roster.

Some candidates said they would go with the player they want anyway. Some candidates said they would try to convince Philbin to join their opinion but would not take the player if no consensus could be reached. Another candidate said he would move on to another player because he figured Philbin would ultimately not play someone he didn't initially like.

But none of those answers were wrong because, the team repeated to me strongly, the general manager has the final say over the draft, free agency, and the 53-man roster.

Dennis Hickey will have final say over the draft, free agency and the 53-man roster.

The general manager can overrule Philbin on those matters.

The general manager reports only to Ross.

"It's up to Dennis," a club source insisted.

The one thing not up to Hickey will be having a say over Philbin's future. On that, only Ross has that say. And clearly right now he's committed to the head coach.

Source: Hickey was not long for the Bucs

The Dolphins will undoubtedly tell you they got their man when they formally introduce Dennis Hickey as their new general manager.

But that will illustrate the adage of one man's trash being another man's treasure because a source close to new Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht tells me Licht was going to fire Hickey from his job as the Tampa Bay director of player personnel.

Hickey was with the Bucs 18 seasons, the last three as the director of player personnel. But he was not a candidate when Tampa Bay conducted a general manager search earlier this month and while he might have been retained through the May draft by the Bucs had he not gotten the Miami job, Hickey was headed out the door.

This, by the way, is not to cast aspersions on Hickey. The NFL is about networking and comfort level. It is common for a new GM or coach to clean house of the former things and bring in his own people once he's hired.

Licht apparently planned to do this.

Now the question is how much Hickey will do that in Miami now that he's running the personnel department?  

Dolphins hire Dennis Hickey as GM

The Dolphins have hired Tampa Bay director of player personnel Dennis Hickey as their new GM, according to a league source.

Hickey accepted the job this morning after multiple people turned down the offer, according to a source who decliend to say which people. It is known Nick Caserio turned down the job on Saturday.

[Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Lake Dawson also turned down the job. The Tennessean is reporting Dawson released a statement saying he turned it down because "the details of the offer didn't align with my vision. I turned it down because the offer wasn't an ideal fit for my family and me."]

Hickey succeeds Jeff Ireland, who mutually agreed with the team to leave after serving as GM since 2008. Interestingly, Hickey gets this shot despite not interviewing with Tampa Bay, the team he's worked for 18 years, when that team looked for a GM this offseason.

Hickey worked 18 seasons with the Buccaneers, three as the director of player personnel, Dennis Hickey has helped lead the Buccaneers to four division titles and one Super Bowl championship during his 16-year tenure.

Hickey, who spent six seasons as director of college scouting prior to his promotion in 2011, is responsible for coordinating a staff of area scouts and managing the compilation of information on college players which has proven to be invaluable during the Buccaneers draft process. In addition to these duties, he also oversees the Pro Personnel Department, which evaluates all pro leagues, free agents and trade prospects.

Working side-by-side with General Manager Mark Dominik, Hickey helped oversee this year’s blockbuster offseason, including the signing of Pro Bowl S Dashon Goldson and trading for All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, the 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year and widely considered the premier talent at his position. These moves come on the heels of a successful 2012 offseason, which saw the Buccaneers signing WR Vincent Jackson, who recorded career-highs in receptions and receiving yards, earning his a trip to the Pro Bowl, third of his career. The Buccaneers also managed to lure two-time Pro Bowl G away from division-rival New Orleans.

In addition to the touted free agents, Hickey and Dominik have worked together to draft premium talent. Despite having traded their 2013 first-round selection for Revis, the team still managed to get CB Johnthan Banks, the winner of the 2012 Jim Thorpe award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football. In 2012, Dominik and Hickey chose a highly regarded draft class, with S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David all being named to the PFW/PFWA All-Rookie Team. Martin was also selected to go the Pro Bowl, along with Jackson and 2010 first-round selection Gerald McCoy.

[Update: The Dolphins had four finalists for the job. The only one that was not offered the job was in-house candidate and assistant general manager Brian Gaine. It is unclear whether Gaine will remain with the team long term, although one source says that is unlikely and that he will eventually leave because he recognizes he has no shot at advancement within the Dolphins organization.]

The 2011 draft brought several new building blocks to Tampa Bay, starting with DE Adrian Clayborn, selected 20th overall. Clayborn started in all 16 games and recorded 54 tackles, a team-leading 7.5 sacks, 26 quarterback pressures, four TFL and three forced fumbles. DE Da’Quan Bowers, considered a steal in the second round, futher bolstered the defensive line, and finished the season as a starter. Third-round selection LB Mason Foster provided great production, recording statistics in every major defensive category with a team-leading 126 tackles, four TFL, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback pressures, one interception, two passes defensied, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Foster also led all NFL rookies in tackles.

In 2010, Hickey was instrumental in bringing in a draft class that proved itself on the field during its rookie season, where seven of the nine picks recorded at least one start, with the draft class recording a total of 49 starts on the season. In fact, WR Mike Williams, a fourth-round selection, started all 16 games his rookie season, leading all rookie receivers in the league in receptions (65, second on the team), yards (964, first on the team), and receiving touchdowns (11, single-season team record). Williams was a finalist for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and finished second in voting for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

In addition to the draft class, Hickey has helped find and bring many undrafted gems to Tampa Bay throughout the years, including RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount, an undrafted rookie free agent acquired off waivers from Tennessee in 2010, became just the second undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to record a 1,000+-yard season when he finished with 1,007 yards, despite starting only seven games, and was nominated for the NFL’s Rookie of the Week award on five occasions. Other notable Buccaneers Hickey has helped in attaining include DL Michael Bennett, WR Preston Parker, T Demar Dotson and C/G Ted Larsen.

With Hickey’s assistance, the 2009 draft was highlighted by the addition of first-round selection QB Josh Freeman. Freeman led all rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage (54.5) while setting Buccaneer rookie records in touchdown passes (10) and passing yards (1,855) despite starting in just nine games. The third round of 2009’s draft produced DT Roy Miller who proved to be a solid contributor along the defensive line. Miller finished the season tied for third among defensive linemen with 54 tackles while adding two sacks. Perhaps the steal of the draft came in the seventh round with the selection of WR Sammie Stroughter. Stroughter ranked third on the team with 31 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown while adding a kickoff return for a touchdown.

The 2008 draft produced CB Aqib Talib, who tied for first in the NFL among rookies with four interceptions, OL Jeremy Zuttah, who started at both guard positions, and LB Geno Hayes, who was a big contributor on special teams before moving into a starting role. The Buccaneers also procured talent through the signing of undrafted rookie free agents RB/KR Clifton Smith and CB Elbert Mack. Smith was selected to the 2009 AFC/NFC Pro Bowl as the kick returner and was named AP Second-Team All-Pro kick returner while Mack appeared in 15 games in the secondary and on special teams where he ranked fourth on the team with 12 special teams stops.

In 2007, Hickey helped assemble a draft class that included two rookies that were selected to the PFW/PFWA All-Rookie team in DE Gaines Adams, who led all NFL rookies with six sacks, and G Arron Sears, as well as standout FS Tanard Jackson, who started all 16 games for the Buccaneers. The 2006 draft produced four rookies who saw starting action in their first season, including G Davin Joseph, who has since developed into one of the NFL’s best guards while earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season.

From 1998-2009, Hickey worked as a college scout for the Buccaneers, during which time he oversaw all scouting efforts in the Midwestern states for the team. Hickey was a member of the Buccaneers first Super Bowl championship in 2002, a 48-21 victory against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Before assuming his role as a scout for Tampa Bay, Hickey spent the 1996-97 seasons as a pro personnel assistant in Tampa Bay’s scouting department. Prior to joining the Buccaneers, Hickey spent two years (1994-95) as an assistant coach at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas. At Blinn, he coached the defensive backs and was responsible for recruiting in the state of Texas.

Hickey played collegiately at Coffeyville Community College and was a three-year starter and captain at the University of Tulsa, where he was also named an academic All-American. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tulsa in 1994.

He and his wife, Stephanie, have one daughter, Breanna, and one son, Barrett. They live in Tampa.

Dolphins turned Caserio into Manchurian candidate

For two days -- on Friday and Saturday -- the Dolphins graciously and eagerly hosted Nick Caserio in interviews to fill their general manager job. The New England Patriots director of player personnel met with and glad-handed the people that are supposed to be the best and the brightest the Dolphins have, including owner Stephen Ross. And while the Miami hierarchy tried to learn about this candidate as they considered him for their opening, it now becomes quite clear they didn't learn nearly enough.

They didn't learn that even as they were becoming comfortable with Caserio, he wasn't getting quite so cozy with them.

They didn't know that as they were seeing him in the Dolphins future he wasn't sharing their vision and probably never really intended to be part of that future -- based on the fact, as the NFL Network reported Saturday night, no one with the rival Patriots organization believed Caserio was truly serious about leaving to Miami.

They didn't know that as they were opening themselves up to Caserio -- sharing whatever institutional proprietary insights one unveils in such meetings -- he was simply taking it in and getting ready to carry it back to mother New England.

And so when the Dolphins offered their latest candidate the job on Saturday all they actually did was empower a Manchurian candidate.

Caserio no only turned down the Dolphins but seemingly used them to get a raise or promotion in New England. He turned down Miami, as the Patriots thought he would the entire time, and dealt the Dolphins something of an embarrassing rejection.

(For those keeping count of Dolphins rejections during this search: At least four candidates turned down intial interview requests. One finalist turned down a second interview. And the Manchurian candidate turned down the job.)

What's next? Brian Gaine, who's worked for the Dolphins for six years under Jeff Ireland, is offered the job and he quits on the spot?

Yes, that's a joke. A bad one. It's called gallows humor.

And if you think this situation is not worthy of mocking consider the past month ...

Needing one win to make the playoffs the Dolphins get shut out by the division's last-place team then show an alarming amount of regression in getting spanked by a team they had utterly dominated only a few weeks before.

After meetings and negotiations and much flying on his helicopter, Ross decides he wants to demote general manager Jeff Ireland. Ross had to offer a demotion because he had told Ireland multiple times this season his job was safe -- including only days before proposing the demotion. So Ireland declines this wonderful offer and gets a seven-figure settlement to mutually agree to part ways with the Dolphins.

Then we find out Ireland and coach Joe Philbin and executive VP Dawn Aponte weren't playing nice together much of the season. Oh, Philbin and Aponte were on the same page, but they were squarely aligned against Ireland. Office politics come to life in the NFL.

Then Ross asked Philbin to do what everyone on the planet knew needed done and get rid of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman because the Miami offense was about as effective as a Band-Aid for treating a gunshot wound much of the season and particularly during the playoff push that fizzled. And Philbin resisted! He didn't want to fire his friend Sherman.

Obviously, someone convinced Philbin to pull the trigger or perhaps Sherman volunteered to go -- who knows and who cares. But the fact the head coach didn't see the problem about 5,498,396,992 other people saw speaks volumes.

Following so far? We haven't even gotten to the pratfalls of the current general manager search yet.

The Dolphins decided they're not going to interview the most experienced people. They didn't interview or even show nterest in Scott Pioli primarily because Carl Peterson, who is Ross's GM whisperer, hates Pioli for what the former Kansas City general manager said about Peterson and did in KC after Peterson was fired there years ago.

Peterson did, however, identify several men he was familiar and comfortable with and brought them in for interviews. Peterson brought in Ray Farmer and Lake Dawson and both were tapped as finalists.

But both did not interview because Farmer became the public face of misgivings about the Dolphins so many others around the NFL share privately: Farmer was uncomfortable with the Dolphins structure and some of the people in that structure.

So everyone else apparently sees something strange about having a general manager, head coach and executive VP answering to no one other than an owner who is absentee. Awesome, so the guy who isn't around decides who is right or wrong when things get sideways -- and for the Dolphins they seemingly always get sideways.

Many NFL people also see this job as one where the new GM is already the odd man out because the head coach and executive VP are already aligned and, by the way, that alliance helped usher out the last GM.

What was it Nick Saban would often say? "The best prediictor of future behavior is past behavior."

Ross, of course, probably doesn't recognize he has a problem. He had the problem in Janaury 2012 when he tried to hoist an unproven general manager on a proven coach and was surprised and disappointed when the proven coach -- Jeff Fisher -- didn't go for it. Fisher turned Ross down cold when he was offered the job.

So did Ross learn? Oh, yes he did, but not the way anyone with sense would hope.

Ross obviously understood that attempting to hoist an unproven coach on a proven GM would not fly this time. So rather than solve the problem on the front end by eliminating the unproven coach or offering a proven GM authority over the unproven coach, the owner went for this backended solution:

Let's hire an unproven GM who will accept the unproven coach. After all, it worked when he hired the unproven coach to go with our last unproven GM.

Genius!

What Ross obviously didn't count on is that his organization now has a reputation league-wide and it is not good, folks.

The team's repuation took a hit when Ross embarrassed himself during the Jim Harbaugh chase in 2011.

The team's reputation was cracking when Ross wanted to hire a superstar head coach in 2012 but Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden waved off overtures and Fisher turned down the job.

The Dolphins' reputation was already fractured when Peyton Manning wouldn't return their calls and the team had to beg Dan Marino to call Manning to ask please, please, please take a meeting with the team during his free agency derby.

And the Dolphins' reputation is totally broken now, as people most fans didn't even know weeks ago -- such as Farmer and now Caserio -- blow off Miami's best attempts to hire them.

Many people would say it's amazing Ross, a man who made a fortune in real estate, simply cannot close for the Dolphins. But it's not really unexpected. He's never going to land great people as long as he continues the habit of hiring inexperienced and unproven people and giving them contract extensions, promotions or his undying loyalty after they fail.

But don't worry. All is not lost.

Later today or tomorrow the Dolphins will hire a general manager. And, of course, he will be the man the Dolphins wanted all along, the right candidate.

Never mind that the team already tried to hire the Manchurian candidate.

January 25, 2014

Reports: Caserio offered Dolphins GM job (Staying in NE)

The Dolphins have offered their general manager job to Nick Caserio, according to a report by Washington, D.C. News4 anchor Dianna Marie Russini.

Yes, I know, the report is believable but its geography is a surprise. News4 covers neither the Dolphins, nor the Patriots and is not a national NFL media source.

If true, the Dolphins are making a push to strengthen themselves and at the same time weakening AFC East division rival New England.

If true, the point I've been making to you about Dolphins owner Stephen Ross falling in love with the last person he meets has a new illustration.

Russini is also reporting that Caserio has not accepted the offer and is mulling it over.

Update: Tom Curran of CSN New England is reporting that regardless of offer or not, "indications are Caserio is staying with the Patriots.

So, is it possible Caserio was made and offer and it wasn't good enough for whatever reasons. Or he wasn't offered the job, in which case he's staying with the Patriots.

Update 2: Ian Rappaport of the NFL Network is reporting that Caserio was indeed offered the job and has decided to stay with the New England Patriots.

Update 3: I have confirmed the reports are true. The Dolphins are not getting Caserio. The team is moving on.

Dolphins finished with three more secondary interviews

The Dolphins today confirmed they interviewed Lake Dawson, Nick Caserio and Dennis Hickey for the second time as they continue their search for a new general manager. The team interviewed in-house candidate Brian Gaine on Friday.

It's fair to believe these are the Dolphins four finalists.

The Dolphins next general manager will come from this group.

Caserio stayed in town Friday evening after interviewing in the morning and afternoon and got a second look today. Dawson and Hickey had their first interviews earlier and were brought in as finalists from Tennessee and Tampa Bay respectively.

The Dolphins are expected to pick a GM by Monday or Tuesday.

That means there will likely be a lot of soul searching and debating and discussing each candidate's strengths and weaknesses within the team's hierarchy on Sunday.

Ultimately, however, owner Stephen Ross will make this hire.

 

Nick Caserio might get second interview Saturday

It's going to be a busy day of finalists interviews for the Dolphins. And Patriots vice president of player personnel Nick Caserio might be one of those, according to Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Curran was told by a source that Caserio stayed in South Florida overnight after his interview Friday and was "going back tomorrow." But the source apparently was not clear whether he meant Caserio was going back for a finalist interview with the Dolphins or going back to Boston.

So, basically, Caserio might be a finalist. Or he might be nothing more than a tourist in a South Florida airport Saturday morning.

(My guess is he's a finalist, but that is only a hunch based on years of knowing how the Dolphins do business).

[Update: Caserio remained in South Florida and continued interviewing Saturday. It is unclear if this means he is a finalist or his initial interview continues.]

Tennessee vice president of football operations Lake Dawson was also scheduled to interview on Saturday.

Dolphins assistant general manager Brian Gaine, definitely a finalists, had his interview Friday afternoon and evening.

Cleveland assistant GM Ray Farmer, who was to be a finalist, turned down an opportunity to be considered any further.

It is interesting if Caserio has made the final cut because he was the last of the GM candidates to have a first-round interview. The Dolphins targeted Caserio early in their search but were not sure they would be able to get an interview with him until after the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs with a loss in the AFC Championship game.

Three things you must remember relative to the Caserio candidacy:

 1. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are not close. Indeed, "not close" can be said another way ... they do not like one another. It probably would please Ross to take one of Kraft's men. It probably would please Kraft to keep Ross from getting his guy.

Either way, the sound of a cash register could be ringing in Caserio's head.

2. There is something to be said for Caserio bringing the Bill Belichick system of player evaluation to the Dolphins. But that system has been with the Dolphins before. That system has roots in the Bill Parcells approach, which is in part what Jeff Ireland was using after Parcells departed in October 2010. And the Dolphins had a derivative of that system when Nick Saban was running the Dolphins as well.

3. Remember what I've told you multiple times about Ross since this process began: He often falls in love with the latest person he engages with. Caserio was Miami's final candidate Ross and his team interviewed in the first round of this process.

Just saying.

January 24, 2014

Gaine completes finalist interview, reminds of past

The Dolphins on Friday evening completed their second interview with their in-house candidate, assistant general manager Brian Gaine. Gaine is the first finalist interviewed for the job and more finalists interviews are on tap this weekend with Lake Dawson on Saturday.

And like many Dolphins fans, I am torn.

I have tons of respect for Gaine and have no questions about his professionalism and ability to one day run his own personnel department.

Gaine knows what makes a good football player. He knows if a lineman's punch is good, he knows if a running back runs behind his shoulder pads, he knows it all.

But I cannot get over two things:

Number One: A personnel man who Gaines worked with years ago (not Jeff Ireland) told me recently there is one thing Gaine has trouble answering one question when he breaks down a player: Can he play?

If that sounds simplistic to you, I understand because it sounded that way to me initially. But isn't the answer to the question -- Can he play? -- the bottom line? Isn't a general manager's job ultimately to make a call that seems simple on the surface but is really at the fundamental core of talent evaluation success?

Understand that when these men worked together, it wasn't Gaine's job to make any final calls. He didn't get to show he could make that decision but neither is that proof he couldn't.

So take one man's opinion for what it is: One man's opinion.

Number Two: I've seen this movie before. I've seen it multiple times in my two decades covering the Dolphins.

Exactly 10 years ago this very month, the Dolphins demoted coach Dave Wannstedt by taking away his final say on personnel decisions. That happened after Wannstedt drafted Jamar Fletcher ahead of Drew Brees and Eddie Moore ahead of Anquan Boldin.

Anyway, the Dolphins set off on an extensive and exhaustive search for a general manager. They interviewed in-house candidate Rick Spielman, Ted Thompson, Jerry Reese, Tim Ruskell, Randy Mueller, Phil Savage, and even Paul Warfield.

And when it was over, the Dolphins promoted Spielman.

"The candidates we interviewed were just outstanding. Everyone (who) came in, we were impressed with," then owner Wayne Huizenga said. "But also along the way we interviewed and met with Rick three different times. And during the interview time, we finally came to the conclusion that the person we have in-house is as good as, or better than, the people we were talking to.

"While I know it may not be the popular decision to make, I am convinced 1,000 percent that it's the right decision for the Miami Dolphins."

Well, Thompson went on to put together a Super Bowl team in Green Bay. Reese put together two Super Bowl teams with the New York Giants. Spielman was fired within two years -- but not before he gave up a fourth-round pick to move up one spot -- from 20 to 19 -- in the 2004 first round so he could pick Vernon Carey.

The New England Patriots selected Vince Wilfork two picks later.

Two University of Miami players. Spielman traded up to pick the wrong one.

That Spielman draft also yielded such all-time greats as Tony Pape, Tony Bua, and Will Poole.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, what does that have to do with today? That was a different ownership group, that was a different GM search, and Gaine is not Spielman).

Yes, peanut gallery, you've finally made some good points. And it is true Gaine and Spielman are not the same person.

But I'm scarred.

And a repeat of the same act, with different protagonists, has a term in the movie industry. It's called a remake. And remakes typically end the same way as the originals -- with the Dolphins picking a forgettable offensive lineman and the Patriots picking a difference-making defensive lineman. 

The bottom line is the mistakes Wannstedt made in the draft with Spielman at his side basically continued when Spielman was elevated. There was  a different person calling the shots, but the approach was sytematically the same, the kind of players the Dolphins went for were the same, how the Dolphins measured the critical factors they looked for in players was the same.

And so the results were, well, the same.

So if Gaine succeeds Ireland will everything be the same? Will the systematic approach be the same? Will the critical factors be measured the same way?

I am not saying they will be. I don't know.

But many fans grew tired of the past six seasons Ireland served as GM. They wanted him out. Gaine was under Ireland for six of those eight seasons. How much different will it be if he's promoted?

I do not know.

Dolphins interviewing Nick Caserio today

While the Dolphins have already identified at least two finalists for their general manager job, they are still doing first-round interviews with one candidate today:

Nick Caserio, the top personnel department man in the New England Patriots organization is on deck for this afternoon, according to a team source.

I told you earlier the Dolphins might do more interviews this week before doing their finalist interviews. It seems at the time they were working on getting permission to talk to Caserio.

The idea of interviewing Caserio for the first time, a day before finalist interviews begin, is not exactly the most elegant way to conduct business. The Dolphins recognize this. But they figure you cannot always look beautiful while winning.

Winning ugly is good.

And talking to Caserio is a win.

This is how this is going to work, as explained to me by the team:

Caserio, 38, will interview today and if he is impressive to the point where he belongs among the finalists, he will move to that group this weekend for a second interview. If he is not worthy, in the team's eyes, then the club will move to its finalists interviews without Caserio.

[Update: The Dolphins announced around 1:30 p.m. that Caserio's interview had been completed].

January 23, 2014

Humiliation: Browns say Farmer not interviewing second time

So let me get this straight ... The assistant general manager for the Cleveland Browns is informed he is a finalist for the general manager job with the Miami Dolphins and after getting through an initial interview that reportedly went well, he declines to take the second interview because he has doubts about the Dolphins' football structure?

Can this really be?

Is the Dolphins' reputation around the NFL so soiled that even people working for the Browns -- the Browns! -- don't want more money, more power, and a chance to run the Dolphins front office?

Somebody wake me, because this is a nightmare.

Let's retrace some footsteps because if this is, in fact, what's going on, we've already stepped in something foul.

Farmer interviewed for the Dolphins job January 11 and I reported the interview was very good. Obviously, it turns out, the interview did go well because a couple of days ago the Dolphins decided Farmer would be one of their finalists interviewing this weekend for a chance to become the successor to Jeff Ireland.

But a not-funny thing happened on the way to that prized finalist interview. Farmer began to have second thoughts. As I reported Thursday, Farmer started to waiver about whether or not he wanted to interview again with the Dolphins because he was feeling uncertain or uncomfortable with the Dolphins football structure.

Farmer talked to the Dolphins for at least five hours in that first interview. He came to that interview with the blessing of former boss Carl Peterson, who hired Farmer during his time with the Chiefs and is now the top advisor to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on this GM search. And after answering a bunch of questions and presumably asking some of his own, Farmer was still not sure he either understood or liked the Miami structure?

That's not all.

Was Farmer's concern so profound that even when the Fritz Pollard Alliance strongly recommended he take the follow-up interview so he could get his clarification, Farmer still declined?

Well, that's apparently exactly what happened as on Thursday afternoon, Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner told a group of huddled reporters that Farmer was staying with the Browns rather than interview again with the Dolphins, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Quentin Tarrantino at the height of a drug-induced inspiration could not make this stuff up.

So I have questions that frankly make me wonder about both Farmer and the Dolphins.

1. To Farmer, if you were still uncertain or uncomfortable with the Dolphins structure at the end of that initial interview, why didn't you say so then? Did this discomfort or uncertainty suddenly dawn on you or did you find out new things about the Dolphins in the days following the interview?

2. To Farmer, you worked under Peterson for years. Obviously Peterson thinks very highly you. So if you were uncertain or uncomfortable about the Dolphins structure, couldn't you just call Peterson and ask for clarity? Why the big public unveiling of this issue that makes neither the Dolphins nor you look good?

3. To the Dolphins, is the phrase, "Do you have any questions for us? Are you completely comfortable with where we are right now?" foreign? After all, that kind of covers everything. If Farmer felt any degree of discomfort near the end of his interview, that phrase would have definitely opened the door to the airing of that discomfort.

4. To the Dolphins, how could you not know Farmer had issues with your structure?

5. To the Dolphins, did you interview a candidate and then anoint him a finalist without any clue he doesn't think highly of what you are proposing as the job structure?

6. To the Dolphins, aren't you starting to get a clue that something is seriously wrong with, well, you? Look, when one candidate declines to interview, that's understandable. When two candidates decide your interview offer is not for them, that's kind of worrisome but not terribly. But four candidates declined to take even initial interviews with you and a fifth man, who was open minded enough to take the initial interview, decided that familiarity with you was a reason to stay away in the future.

It's not them, my dear Dolphins franchise, it's you!

It's not the media with an agenda. It's not tough luck. It's not the competition conspiring against you. It is you!

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, Dolphins sources insist it is not them. (On a couple of counts, such as the initial and incorrect Jason Licht story about him being offered the job and this evening's CYA suggestion by one national reporter that Lake Dawson didn't become a finalist until after Farmer had second thoughts, it is indeed the media).

The message I get from the Dolphins is that every candidate is made aware he will be reporting directly to owner Stephen Ross. Every candidate is aware he will not be under either coach Joe Philbin or executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte. Every candidate is aware he also will definitely not be over Philbin and probably not Aponte as well. Both Aponte and Philbin will answer to Ross.

Aponte, I am told, has no secret sinister plans to take over as undercover GM.

So where is the misunderstanding?

Are the Dolphins not relaying that message clearly? Is there a communication disconnect? Is the team, through sources, saying one thing to me and then another to candidates? I don't know for sure. I'm not in the interviews.

(Maybe the Dolphins should embed me this weekend for their own well being -- like the military embeds war correspondents. It protects them.). 

All I know is this is not the first humiliation the Dolphins suffer lately. It's starting to get really, really old when the Dave Wannstedt disaster is the good old days.

GM finalist Ray Farmer may not interview ... or may

Ray Farmer is a Dolphins general manager finalist but unlike most folks eager to take their second interviews for the job, Farmer is at this writing uncertain.

Farmer told me over the phone he is not certain whether he is going to take the interview or not. He told me a decision on the matter would be coming soon.

Meanwhile, John Wooten who runs the Fritz Pollard Alliance -- an organization dedicated to advance the cause of diversity within the NFL's coaching and executive ranks -- spoke to Farmer even as Farmer had me on hold. And Wooten tells me he is recommending to Farmer to absolutely interview with the Dolphins.

So what's the big problem?

Simple ...

"He has reservations about the structure of the Dolphins," Wooten said. "He's not certain who would be running things, whether it would be him or someone else. I told him the only way you can find out is to take the second interview and get the answer."

Wooten believes Farmer is strongy considering his recommendation.

This is highly problematic for the Dolphins because, obviously in Farmer's mind, they conducted an interview with a candidate so qualified as to be a finalist in their search for a new general manager ... and during that interview that took multiple hours, they did not clearly explain to Farmer what the job is exactly.

And if they explained it, Farmer still came away uncertain.

As Vince Lombardi once famously asked, "What the hell is going on out there?"

By the way, CBSSports.com and NFL Network already reported Farmer is not taking the interview. He was not so decisive with me on the phone.

I told him those are the reports out there and he declined comment. I told him it sounds like he's staying in Cleveland and he said, "I'm not saying that at all."

The Dolphins are interviewing finalists this weekend, as I reported Wednesday. Lake Dawson is also a Dolphins finalist, as I reported Thursday morning.

A second look at finalist possibilities

So who are the finalists?

Ever since my report saying the Dolphins will this weekend be interviewing the finalists for the vacant general manager job, the one thought on everyone's mind has been ... who are these guys?

Well, there seems to be much speculation and some confusion about that so allow me to dive in with my own speculation and confusion.

Late last night I was told by one NFL source two candidates who are definitely out are Pittsburgh's Omar Khan and Tennessee's Lake Dawson. Others reported the same thing. I don't care about them. That was wrong. I'm correcting me.

Khan is indeed out. Dawson, however, is in, multiple sources are telling me this morning. Dawson was always in. He is indeed a finalist for the job.

This ties closely with the fact Dawson had a good interview in Miami.

There are others and here is where the speculation begins:

I'm guessing Dolphins in-house candidate Brian Gaine will be a finalist. I have not been told this beyond doubt. But I do know the Dolphins recognize the respect Gaine has around the league. I know how he fits in being able to work with ownership, coach Joe Philbin and executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte.

One thing I must tell you about Gaine's candidacy that doesn't apply to any other is he's a known quantity. He has been in the Dolphins war room on draft day with owner Stephen Ross and Philbin so they know what he's like on that day. That's a view the Dolphins don't have on any other candidate.

The Dolphins also have his reports on players -- assuming he wrote some -- they can refer to. So I assume the Dolphins know with certainty how much Gaine hit and missed on players. They know whether he was truly a driving force in the chase for Cameron Wake, as has been reported, or not really.

(I was told that like everyone else in the building, Gaine was very much for getting Wake but expressed doubts about paying him the kind of guarantees the Dolphins paid him as someone jumping from the CFL).  

At any rate, my guess is Gaine will be a finalist.

I know others had great interviews with the Dolphins and I believe those resonated.

One of those is Cleveland's Ray Farmer. He was among the first candidates interviewed and I reported then he impressed in that interview.

Two things on Farmer:

He has a powerful ally in the room in that Carl Peterson, the former Kansas City Chiefs general manager and president and current Ross advisor, loves Farmer. Peterson hired Farmer in Kansas City. Peterson is intimately familiar with Farmer's abilities and potential and has passed those along to Ross.

One complaint I hear about Farmer is he's working for the Cleveland Browns. And if there is one franchise that is on the lips of NFL critics more than the Dolphins it's the Browns. So, readers continually ask me, why hire someone from the Browns?

Well, Farmer went to the Browns in 2013. He's been there one season.

I don't think you can blame the years of struggles the Browns have suffered on someone who has been in the organization one season.