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5 posts from January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014

Dolphins announce three interviews of the day

The Dolphins today interviewed Jason Licht, Omar Khan and Brian Gaine for their vacant general manager job, the club announced.

You already know about Licht. As I told you earlier he is the Arizona Cardinals vice president of player personnel. I tweeted about Khan earler today as well:

 

Khan is interesting because unlike the other names that have either been released or leaked, he is not necessarily a talent evaluator. Yes, he has some talent evaluation experience. But the whole league knows Kevin Colbert is the man behind the Steelers talent evaluation.

Khan has at times assisted Colbert but his expertise is the cap and dealing with the league. He is a close and trusted advisor to the Rooney family, which owns the Steelers.

So why is the fact Khan is fluent in Spanish important? It is not lost on Stephen Ross that the Dolphins have a major public relations issue with their fans locally. It is not lost on Ross that Khan, despite the fact he's not from South Florida, could connect with some of those South Floridians as the majority of residents in Miami-Dade are Spanish speakers.

Gaine is the in-house candidate. He is considered a strong candidate because of his familiarity with the Dolphins and the roster. He has a good working relationship with both coach Joe Philbin and executive vice president for football administration Dawn Aponte.

My concern with Gaine?

While he is obviously not Jeff Ireland, he's been here for what transpired during the Jeff Ireland era. So if 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and 8-8 wasn't good enough to keep one guy employed why is it good enough to promote another?

Perhaps Gaine can convince Ross that his ideas were different than Ireland's.

I will say this: In 2003 the Miami Dolphins, under then owner Wayne Huizenga, conducted a national search for a general manager. Among the men they interviewed were Ted Thompson and Jerry Reese. Neither got the job. The job was given to in-house candidate Rick Spielman.

Two years later Spielman was fired. Thompson went on to win a Super Bowl as Green Bay's general manager and Reese went on to win two Super Bowls as the New York Giants general manager.

I'm not saying Gaine is Spielman. I'm saying the Dolphins need to be very careful.

One more thing: The Dolphins will take as long as this process requires but would, in a perfect world, like to have a GM in place in time for the Senior Bowl. Senior Bowl bowl practices start January 20. At the rate of three interviews per day, it is easily possible the Dolphins can have a GM in place by late next week.

Dolphins finally contact Eagles about Tom Gamble

The first name to come out as a Dolphins target was Tom Gamble. Understandable. He's got a great resume. But his name had faded a bit in recent days as the Dolphins asked for and received permission to interview other candidates.

Until now ...

The Dolphins have asked permission to interview the Eagles vice president of player personnel, according to multiple sources. The Eagles have confirmed is and are granting permission.

And I'm told Gamble would very much like the opportunity to interview.

None of this changes the fact Ray Farmer continues to be the leading candidate for the job. But as I told you previously the leading candidate does not always land the job because interviews can change the dynamics of everything.

I also reported previously Arizona's Jason Licht is interviewing today.

Here's some interesting background on Gamble: His pedigree under Bill Polian and in San Francisco is impressive. The reason he left the 49ers and returned to his hometown of Philadelphia is because he wanted to be closer to his father Harry Gamble, who happens to be the former president of the Eagles.

The elder Gamble is sick now but that is not expected to tie his son to Philly over the longterm.

The man Harry Gamble worked for in the Eagles organization?Club owner Norman Braman.

Braman, a South Florida car sales magnate, loves the Gamble family. He knows Tom Gamble very well.

Why is that a thing? Well, Braman also happens to be the chief opposition to Stephen Ross as the Dolphins owner has been seeking public funds to upgrade Sun Life Stadium. Braman has defeated Ross at practically every turn on this matter.

Although I doubt Ross has thought about this, I know that Gamble working for the Dolphins would force Braman to think long and hard about continuing to oppose a measure if it even indirectly hurts Tom Gamble.

Obviously, this is not a reason to hire a GM. That person should be hired on merits of finding talent first and foremost. But does this help Gamble? It could.

Dolphins interviewing Jason Licht today

The Dolphins made no secret of the fact they were starting their general manager searches today (Friday, for the drunk among you). They did not say specifically who they were interviewing today.

(Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he would release the names of the candidates interviewed -- probably on a daily basis as the interviews happen).

Well the first interview is Arizona vice president of player personnel Jason Licht, according to multiple NFL source.

Does the name sound familiar? It could.

Licht is a former Dolphins scouting assistant (1995) and offensive quality control coach (1996). He's been a college and national scout for the New England Patriots and then became the assistant director of player personnel -- a total Patriots run from 1999-2003.

After stints in Philadelphia and Arizona, Licht went back to New England to be the director of pro personnel. He had that job from 2009-11.

In 2012, Licht went back to Arizona to become the director of player personnel and is now the vice president of player personnel.

As you know, it's hard to pinpoint who drafted or signed whom. Take all that with a grain of salt when people get blamed or get credit on that front. But I know Licht in his interview today can say this:

You, the Miami Dolphins, last year cut a big salaried but underperforming Karlos Dansby. We, the Arizona Cardinals, signed him for a relatively cheap deal and he had a monster year.

Dolphins leading GM candidate: Ray Farmer

Whenever an NFL team begins a coach or general manager search the term "leading candidate" invariably gets thrown around by insiders and the media. And often times the "leading candidate" doesn't land the job because the interview process can change the dynamics.

But sometimes the leading candidate is really the only candidate. Consider Miami's hiring of Jimmy Johnson and even Tony Sparano as coaches years ago. Consider Washington's hiring of Jay Gruden on Thursday.

Saying that, consider the name multiple sources are now telling The Herald is the Dolphins leading candidate to take the Dolphins GM job: Cleveland Browns assistant general manager Ray Farmer.

Remember the name.

Farmer has emerged as the search began Friday for two reasons:

He truly is a strong candidate with a strong background. Secondly, former Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson has joined the Dolphins search and is Stephen Ross's chief advisor in the process. Peterson is a 30-year friend and confidant to Stephen Ross. And Peterson loves Farmer.

Morever, Peterson is supremely confident in his ability to identify and hire prospective NFL general managers.

Four current or former NFL team general managers built their resumes as members of the Chiefs' front office under Peterson: Atlanta's Tom Dimitroff, Tampa Bay's Mark Dominik, Miami's Jeff Ireland, and Seattle's John Schneider. They obviously did not all succeed but, as Bill Parcels said, talent evaluation is not an exact science. National Football Scouting President Jeff Foster also was a Chiefs scout under Peterson.

And Ray Farmer was hired by Peterson in Kansas City in 2006 and worked there until 2012 as the director of pro personnel. It is interesting (and impressive) that even though Farmer was a Peterson hire, he was retained by new general manager Scott Pioli when he took over in KC in 2008.

Browns CEO Joe Banner described Farmer as “one of the up-and-coming stars in the NFL,” last September.

Farmer, 39, has a sociology degree from Duke. He's a former fourth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. His career as an NFL linebacker ended after three years when he suffered a knee injury.

Farmer served as an academic coordinator and recruiter at Duke from 1998-2001, then was hired as a scout by the Atlanta Falcons before joining Peterson and the Chiefs. He joined the Browns in 2013 under general manager Mike Lombardi.

 "I’ll be surprised if Ray’s not a GM in the next few years, which will be good and bad news for us," Browns owner Jimmy Haslem said during the 2013 NFL owner's meetings, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

DawnJoe should be included in GM interviews

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross laid out his outline or vision for the Dolphins looming general manager search on Thursday evening.

That search will try to identify the best and brightest mind that will help raise the Dolphins from their lingering mediocrity. That's got to be goal No. 1. Everyone agrees.

But goal No. 2 has to be finding a person who will be able to circumnavigate the kind of drama I've laid out for you in my column and this blog this week. He must find a way to make and maintain peace with head coach Joe Philbin and Executive VP Dawn Aponte.

(Jeff Ireland wasn't able to find that peace and look where that got him).

For Ross, who reads everything about his Dolphins and is aware of the well chronicled mess, finding someone who can mesh with DawnJoe is very important.

"Regardless of reporting structure, the relationship between the general manager and coach Philbin must be one of trust, respect, and collaboration," Ross said in his statement Thursday, "and this will be an area we will look closely at during the process."

Good idea. And here's another idea once Ross whittles down to some finalists:

Include DawnJoe in the interview process. If the new GM must mesh with DawnJoe then they should meet during the process so that both sides can vet, inspect, screen, assess, scrutinize, and evaluate the other.

Getting my drift?

The Dolphins have for whatever reasons fostered a circumstance whereby the past GM had clashes with two consecutive coaches -- Tony Sparano and Philbin. The Sparano vs. Ireland issue was Ross's fault, but that does not matter.

This cannot continue to happen.

The Dolphins cannot get it wrong on this issue again. So everyone involved should get to know each other before they get to work with each other.

Interestingly, the Dolphins are already hurting themselves somewhat in that the new GM may not be hired before the new offensive coordinator. Think of that. Yes, it is clear that Philbin has authority over the OC hire as his contract states. The GM has no real say in that hire.

But if you understand that one of the reasons Philbin and Ireland clashed is that Ireland didn't appreciate the work former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman did last year and was openly critical of it, then you understand the Dolphins are somewhat setting up another situation whereby the GM may not hold the OC in the highest regard.

Again, Ross wants people working together and signing kumbaya in harmony. But two of those people are being pulled in from disparate searches by different parties -- Ross and Carl Peterson searching for the GM and DawnJoe searching for the OC.

Shouldn't the new GM, who has no say over the hiring of the OC, at least get the courtesy of knowing him before that important member of the organization comes aboard? Isn't that what "collaboration" is kind of about? Just a thought.

The Dolphins promise to release the names of the GM candidates as they interview. We know some of those names already:

Browns assistant GM Ray Farmer, Tennesse VP of player personnel Lake Dawson, Pittsburgh director of football operations Omar Khan, Arizona VP of player personnel Jason Licht and Falcons director of player personnel Lionel Vital, Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross, and internal candidate Brian Gaine, the Dolphins assistant GM.

Notably missing from the confirmed list interviews so far?

Scott Pioli, who made his reputation as New England's personnel chief during their Super Bowl years and was the Chiefs GM until from 2009-2012.

Pioli makes a ton of sense. He is said to think highly of Philbin and is the son-in-law to Bill Parcells. Aponte is a Parcells disciple. 

The Dolphins also had not contacted Eagles VP of Player Personnel Tom Gamble as of Thursday evening. That's strange as well as Gamble is at least partly responsible for the talent the San Francisco 49ers and Eagles put on the field. Gamble was a Colts scout under Bill Polian from 1998-04, was with the 49ers from 2005-2012, most recently as the player personnel director, and then joined the Eagles in 2013.

Gamble is said to be a little rough around the edges. To that I say, if he can pick talent, I don't care if the guy has edges of an unsharpened serrated knife. A great evaluator is a great evaluator.