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A look at Dolphins GM candidate Brian Xanders

People I've been talking to about Dolphins GM candidate Brian Xanders generally have positive things to say about him: He's experienced. He knows the ins and outs of the NFL rules for player acquisition, salary cap, and other personnel matters to the point he served as John Elway's tutor on the topic -- obviously they didn't cover faxing. And he apparently dabbles in the idea of using a sort of sabermetrics to speed information gathering on players, something Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is certain to appreciate because he enjoys being confused by such things.

[Update: Three NFL people and two others who apparently read this post either texted me or emailed me to say Xanders is not all that. The pushback was so overwhelming that I decided to add this update. Anyway, I was told other scouts don't think very highly of Xanders' ability to pick players. And as for his experience, they say he has none actually picking players. So there is that. I was also told Xanders fits Ross in that he's calm and very willing to play nice with others. A more balanced outlook.]

Xanders completed his interview with the Dolphins on Wednesday. He was the sixth candidate to interview. But immediately he stands out because he is the first candidate for Dolphins GM who has been an NFL GM before.

Xanders was the Denver Broncos GM from 2009-2012. He was the team's assistant GM in 2008.

It's unclear how much personnel say Xanders truly had in Denver. He didn't have final say under coach Josh McDaniels. And he certainly didn't have it after McDaniels was fired and the Broncos hired John Elway. But he was obviously a resource.

After Xanders was fired from the Broncos after the 2012, the Denver Post recapped his time with the team and what personnel decisions were made under his watch. Here it is:


Draft: Xanders’ first in Denver, was one to forget. The Broncos used their two first-round picks to select running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive end Robert Ayers, neither of whom have lived up to first-round billing. But it was the second round of that draft that was particularly poor. None of three players drafted in that round, cornerback Alphonso Smith, safety Darcel McBath or tight end Richard Quinn, was on the roster in 2012.

ree agency: The first free-agent class of the McDaniels-Xanders era was a big one, and included veterans such as safety Brian Dawkins, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, cornerback Andre Goodman, running back Correll Buckhalter and longsnapper Lonie Paxton.

Trades: Xanders helped orchestrate the blockbuster trade that sent quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago. The Broncos received two first-round picks, a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton in exchange for a fifth-rounder and Cutler, who began feuding with McDaniels shortly after the new coach was hired.


Draft: The Broncos made a splash in the first round of the draft by making two trades down and two trades up and ultimately winding up with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas at No. 22 and quarterback Tim Tebow at No. 25. The Broncos also drafted starters Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Decker in the second day of the draft.

Free agency: The Broncos’ big free agent signings were defensive tackles Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green, who both received big-money contracts. Green, who had $3.25 million guaranteed in his contract, did not make the 53-man roster. Bannan was released in a cost-saving move in 2011 before re-joining the team this year. Later, the Broncos signed defensive end Elvis Dumervil and guard Chris Kuper to contract extensions.

Trade: The Broncos traded troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Miami for two second-round draft picks. The other notable trade of the offseason came when Denver shipped fan-favorite running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn. Quinn never took a regular-season snap for the Broncos.


Draft: With the highest pick in team history, Denver drafted linebacker Von Miller at No.2, and he was an immediate star. The Broncos drafted three other players who started in 2011 — safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, and right tackle Orlando Franklin.

Free agency: The biggest names in the Broncos’ post-lockout free agent class were running back Willis McGahee, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2011 and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, and defensive tackle, who suffered a season-ending injury in training camp.

Trades: The Broncos traded for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley in August, and he went on to start 13 games. The team was unable to re-sign Bunkley this spring. Denver also traded wide receiver Jabar Gaffney to Washington for defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, who did not make the team. In October, the Broncos traded unhappy wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to St. Louis for a fifth-round draft pick.


Draft: Denver traded out of the first round of the draft before selecting defensive tackle Derek Wolfe at No. 36 and quarterback Brock Osweiler at No. 57 in the second round. Denver drafted seven total players.

Free agency: Other than the Peyton Manning signing, Denver otherwise has been relatively quiet in free agency. The team signed veteran free agent Mike Adams and re-signed linebackers Joe Mays and Wesley Woodyard.

Trades: After Manning signed on as the team’s new starting quarterback, the Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks.

So clearly there were bombs. But there were highlights. The 2010-2011 drafts produced the most starts (155) and playing time (more than 12,000 snaps) of any NFL team.

Xanders is said to have unearthed cornerback Chris Harris, who was an undrafted free agent.

Xanders is currently Detroit's senior personnel executive under Martin Mayhew. Xanders was hired by the Lions in January 2013 and one of his responsibilities was to develop an internal scouting database to help the team better process information during the draft. 

So what does Xanders look for when he scouts?

"We're looking for guys with football instincts, which is wide vision, anticipation, savvy angles, quick recognition of what's going on," Xanders told Fox Sports Florida in 2012. "What instincts and speed lead to is production. If you have that and some athleticism and strength, you tie it all together and all you have to have is some competitive toughness. You get a productive player.

"And off the field, we grade a player in four different areas. Injury and durability, and that's just a function of how they made it through college. Number two is mental and learning. The third thing is personal character, the dependability, the leadership, the off-field issues or no issues, and then their family. The fourth is football character, which is effort, work ethic, passion for football. It all blends into this scouting process."


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Sign him up before Marc Ross or Ray Farmer. Great credentials, winning mentality and won't take any shite from DawnJoe.

Well written entry, regardless.

Every article is coloured, isn't that good journalism.

Mando is all in for replacing the dead weight around here.

B.Gaine will end up with the job, comes much cheaper and the Aponte&Philbin can bully him lol my bad I meant they can easily keep him in check !!

Why Ross has so much faith in Philbin, I'll never understand, same reason he re-hired Sporano and kept Ireland for so long.

If after two years your coach is regressing stats wise and you loses your last two games to miss out on a playoff spot against two losing clubs then, how the hell do you kepp your job. Ross hasn't learned anything since he has been the owner here.

Im begining to wonder if Ross even gives a rats if we build a winner or not ? He makes some moves to restore a glimmer of hope, only to keep a rotten core at this club. The DawnJoe effect really eats away at the chance to progress, keeping all Shermans guys, like Taylor and Turner is a joke really, I mean come on what is the real agenda here ?

philbi and aponte will favor a weaker GM candidate. they don't want to lose any control they now possess.

Maybe the machine should run the dolphins

Person of interest hmmmmmm

The Philbin/Aponte relationship remains problematic IMO. While I certainly understand the concerns voiced by others on this blog regarding a powerful all decision making GM, I can see a coach/GM partenership, but when you throw in a third wheel like Aponte into the decision making matrix, I can where potential GMs may shy away. This is not a knock on whether or not a woman is in the mix so lets just put that to rest. The issue is having a capologist potentially having control over personnel decisions outside of contract impacts. That said given that Ross signed checks for a $100M or so and some of those players have not produced a good ROI may given Ross pause to allow GM to have absolute final say. To some extent that makes sense. At this point any GM hired may be coming in for this draft and FA evalutions and then spend the season reevaluting the roster. This is where Aponte and the GM may produce a keep/no keep list based on performance and potential cap hits. There are numerous scenarios that can play out; however if the Philbin/Aponte partnership can go directly to the owner while keeping the GM out of the loop it may only attreact candidates who want to just GM on their resume for subsequent interviews. Like we have read and know the NFL is a tight knit organization and one where other owners and advisors to owners understand that given the management structure of front offices, a precieved weak GM may not be as bad as his current track record may indicate. Plus they also know a bad GM, overbearing types thatare also out there. Interesting times!

Anyone will be a HUGE upgrade to Ireland.

Posted by: J T SANDER | January 16, 2014 at 06:18 AM


How is Aponte/Philbin a problem. Perhaps for a myopic person but the only issue is if Aponte and Philbin are having an affair and that's Mrs. Philbin's problem. Lazor was open minded enough to listen and take the job. Gamble does not realize the reason a team goes after another GM is to help with personnel and stability; so why would a team like the Patriots or Steelers go after him or employ him. He needs to realize that teams with personnel problems and stability issues are the teams that will employ his services to help turn their franchise around. Gamble did not listen to give himself the opportunity at doing what he is skilled at and moreover make a lot of money doing it. Ross is not going away guys and why should he. He wants a winner and only the naive will not listen and take advantage.


Ross does not want to give power to one person. He defined the position so all would know. Ireland had all the power and look what happened. Huizenga gave all the power to Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban and Bill Parcells and look what happened. They took the money and ran. A new structure was needed......

Meh. Doesn't sound horrible, but doesn't sound like a personnel genius either.

You cannot blame a highly regarded and sought after GM candidate for passing up an interview with Miami given the stated structure as reported. Everyone reports to Ross? About what? So GM sees a player who he wants and Philbin doesn't want said player, Ross is going to make the decision? Afterall, that is what Armando reported ... nobody has a final word over anyone else, it all must funnel through Ross. If that is the truth (and yes, I am skeptical that it's that matter of fact) then you aren't even giving the GM autonomy to make a final player decision in draft or free agency (within confines of the cap situation, obviously).

Obviously the GM needs to work with the HC and no worthwhile GM would bypass that relationship with regularity. But the GM and HC cannot be running to Ross for a decision when there is disagreement on who is the better player for the situation. Again, assuming that organizational structure, you'd be hiring a GM yes man. A more experienced and/or regarded candidate, like Gamble, is NOT going to be interested in that type of situation.

I still find it hard to believe that the structure would be laid out exactly as Salguero reported, even with Ross at the helm. But, that's what he "reported" and seeing how there have been outside reports on candidates confused and concerned by the organizational structure, it would appear that it is at least somewhat set up as reported by Mr. Salguero.
I think it's reasonable to believe that only someone looking for a first GM opportunity of a second chance is likely to take the position with the structure that has been reported. That doesn't mean Miami cannot land a talented candidate, but it may decrease his chances of success, depending ultimately on his working relationship with the HC and belief in the HC's system. Personally, given the two as choices, I'd take a shot on Farmer before Xanders but that's my gut as much as anything and ultimately, the decision doesn't impact my life in any way. It's only football and I'm just a regular Joe-opinionated fan, not a zealot who lives vicariously through the game and players and lives or dies by the results.

Yo ProMichael are hybrid ou nuts dude ? Thix roster Is garbage first of all, 2.nd the new G.M. should have say what coaches he should nave. Ross is an Idiot when it comes to football matters. He maybe a real estate tycoon but as an nfl owner he is a clueless a**clown and Philbin&Aponte will make sure they'll have an excellent chance to draft J.Winston 5/7/15 the #1 overall pick in the draft hopefully we don't pick a lineman no offense J.Long !!

Well put,Grier. I was an over the top fan at one point in my life until I finally realized it's just a game. Heck in 1974 when we lost to the Raiders on a pure lucky pass by Ken Stabler and missed our fourth straight trip to the Super Bowl,I was sick,really sick!It was then that I woke up to the fact that no matter how big of a fan I was,there was nothing I could control,not then and certainly not now. I have bled auqua and orange most of my life,and I will always be a fan of the Dolphins like I have been since 1966. Power house teams come and go. Look at the Cowboys,Steelers,Bills,etc. We are not the only team in todays NFL that has suffered for years in mediocrity. It's just harder on us fans that once knew what it was like to have a championship caliber team.

Mace Taggert,

He might be clueless regarding the NFL but he is setting up a structure in reaction to Ireland and the other failures to turn around the franchise. The roster is controlled by the GM and coaches by Philbin. Cap by the admin VP Aponte. Ross is going out of the box because of a guy like Ireland who had all the control and screwed up. The team was the laughing stock the season before last at WR's, this season the OL was horrific because of Ireland....go figure it out if you were a billionaire would you give control to screw ups and celebrity NFL guys who take the money and run.

This resume reads identical to Ireland: Abismal in the draft, poor with trades... + this guy picked Teblow 200 picks too soon at 25.

Look I am sure Xanders is a nice guy. He has solid experience as a GM and worked for a good team in the Broncos. But his track record looks a lot like 50/50 to me. Sounds pretty similar to Ireland in terms of his 50/50 track record and some of the things 'he is looking for.'

I look at KC's run on talent while Farmer was there. I see a better track record with up to 8 Pro Bowlers selected. I kind of like his resume and I think it would be good to actually bring some diversity to the front office with a young black GC. I think he deserves a shot at GC and I think the Fins should give it to him.

hummmm...this bum sounds worse than Ireland drafting

well, at least Lazor said it will keep the offense intact..so Go, GOGO

all this smells like $hit

Maybe Ross will sell the Fins in a couple of years and we can get back on track. As long as Ross is the owner we will be mediocre at best. Its obvious no one with "the right stuff" agrees with Ross philosophy. It's not gonna change on yet another rebuild. What a joke my beloved Dolphins have become.

The Bronco's became a formidable opponent only after they hired a great QB, with a great QB the Dolphins have 5 more wins in 2013, I don't care what anybody says. That's the reality

id still beg gamble for an interview. if not id go farmer


Im not a Philbin fan. Dawn Aponte has forged close bonds with Philbin and writes his cards for the team speeches etc, Im not fine with that.

Ross has imposed a condition that the new GM keeps Philbin. Iam sure though that another losing or non-playoff season will see Philbin out the door. The new OC may feel uneasy knowing that a new HC, may well replace him as OC, it all gets very complicated.

The other senario is that Ross wants fire Philbin, but keep Aponte. Therefore he feels bad about cutting ties with the DawnJoe.

For me the GM should be the head man and answer old to the owner. From the HC down should be recruited by the GM, this way he gets his people in the building. Philbins personality may not blend well with most of the GM candidates and Im sure that the position of HC comes up during the interviews. I hope to hell that Philbin doesn't have any input in the interviews, or Aponte for that matter.

The DawnJoe alliance is two people covering up for each others short-comings. Philbin covered up for Sherman but was forced to can him by Ross, what a joke, the owner has to beg the HC to fire a pathetic OC. Now we are stuck with tuner and Taylor, two lame ducks on the coat tails of the Philbin duck.

marco,they both have input

LOL and the QB the Broncos hired wouldn't even interview with Ross, he and Jeff had to run Manning down. What a joke.

how can a defense get fired up in the 4th quarter when they know THill never scores in the 4th quarter. 8 straight games without a 4th quarter TD, plus no TD's in the last 2 games against last place teams. The defense is always tired because they are always on the field, 3 and outs killed this team, as well as all the other QB failures

THill and Sherman belong together

OWTH....Get ready for much of the same....

it will be the same till philbins gone after the season

promichael, I'm with you. If there's anything we can assume that Ross can do correctly, it's find the right people and organizational style he needs. He didn't set up companies worth billions and keep them running by mistake.

I also agree that he is being reactive to his experience with Ireland. That's not a bad thing, IMHO. Shows that he's learning. He didn't hire Ireland but gave him every opportunity during the 4 years that Ireland was in charge. Jeff just couldn't cut it. That's an indictment of Ireland, not Ross.

It will be better when Ross is gone and a real rebuild gets under way.

billcale his buisness and the nfl huge difference

I use to look forward to the draft when JJ was here. It's been a long time. Who the he!l picks Pat White in the 2nd round?? are you kidding me. The Parcells and Ireland experiment was a joke. and that joke since Wanstache continues

Whoever wrote that is a lesser writer than Our mando.

Fails to tell us what was acquired with the picks from trades. Example: the picks they got for Marshall. Who did they turn them into ?

yes LTF, unfortunately your right

Ross should have fired Ireland 2 years ago. But that's Ross a great business man I'm sure. But he sucks as a team owner and so did Wayne Huizenga. Neither know anything about football and it shows.

Posted by: Marco in London | January 16, 2014 at 08:27 AM
When a business structure breaks down you segment it. If your used to thinking in the box only then you will not accept what Ross is doing. Ross wants accountable people working for his franchise and not one Czar or GM with all the power. It's obvious from the way he is setting everything up. At the very least he will get a good talent acquisition guy like Farmer to come in, be open minded and not want to control everything. The Miami Dolphins have been there and done that. Johnson, Saban, Parcells, Ireland...What happened! The new OC seems like a guy who can help Tannehill and provide the offense with some creative direction and not be predictable like last season.

promichael, I'm with you. If there's anything we can assume that Ross can do correctly, it's find the right people and organizational style he needs. He didn't set up companies worth billions and keep them running by mistake.
I also agree that he is being reactive to his experience with Ireland. That's not a bad thing, IMHO. Shows that he's learning. He didn't hire Ireland but gave him every opportunity during the 4 years that Ireland was in charge. Jeff just couldn't cut it. That's an indictment of Ireland, not Ross.
Posted by: billcale | January 16, 2014 at 08:36 AM

All the owners are billionaires that have set up empires, that doesn't mean to say they will automatically have success in the NFL. History will show you since the cap, the amount of money the owners have as individuals has nothing to do with football IQ.

Bill Gates would be the best owner in the world with that comparison. Ross has shown a poor football IQ in my opinion. The teams win loss record is all you need to look at since he cam here in 2008.

Hope Farmer gets the gig.

Make fun of sabermetrics all you want, yet, you and everyone else use them all the time. You know those PFF numbers that rate if a player was +1 or -1. QBR rating. All those are sabermetrics.

Good Post. And great insight on Xanders. He definitely sounds like the most experienced candidate to date.

Only 1 problem that I see with Xanders. He isn't a minority. But he is definitely the most qualified.

at least the Dolphins were respected enough to bring in Top tier execs when Huizenga was here. He made a huge mistake letting Wanstache take over for JJ. Wan destroyed Chicago. I was screaming from the roof tops not to have him as HC. Hard to believe it's just gone down hill from there.


Individually Aponte and Philbin are not a problem. If they have the owners ear with one voice and can keep the GM out of the loop, that is very problematic. It sets up a tattle tale mentallity within the rank structure where one person ultimately needs to make a decision. If the GM is to share power, then those swim lanes need to be clearly defined, i.e. personnel = GM/HC, contract negtiation/exisiting contracts, new adds, impacts of dead money = GM/Capologist, draft/FA evals = GM/HC and so on. In this three way scenario each has specific input in building the roster. In the end they should all be aligned moving forward. That said, if two can go right to the owner and blind side the third, the team ends up suffering as the internal management team dukes it. With a strong GM type the HC and cap specialist feed the GM data and player needs and the GM goes out and makes player acquisition decisions. So, yes how the relationship between Philbin and Aponte vis vie the GM is critical.

Xander's resume does not impress me. No one thought Tebow was a first rounder that year so that was a total draft bust and alot of experts criticized that pick when it was made. His drafts have not been very impressive. He does get kudos for screwing Ireland on the Marshall trade, but he was dealing with an un armed opponent.

Sorry Armando....

you lost me when I read that this was the guy who drafted Tebow.....

That is a MARK he should carry like a scarlet letter.....and I do NOT want this guy drafting the next big strong QB who can RUN....and who's throwing motion and accuracy had a SUPER STAR name like his...OUT of the NFL in 3 years...and that was with a playoff win.....


isn't the white man the minority these days??

ahhh yes wanny coach of our last playoff win

billcale his buisness and the nfl huge difference

Posted by: dusty bottoms | January 16, 2014 at 08:39 AM

Thanks for that dusty, exactly what I was about to respond before I read your post. NFL isn't development, it's a different animal. Not that Ross can't do it, but he's got to work at it and learn from his mistakes.

How has that worked out so far Pro? Oh maybe Ross needs more time....What a joke.

yeah anyone drafting tebow has problems, hopefully that was mcdaniels. did draft d thomas and decker.

My pick would still be Farmer.

Peterson also has a better relationship with Farmer.

Xanders sounds like he would make a better president than GM. Ireland was a better talent evaluator than this guy. And Dawn was a better Cap guru.


I think Xander beats Ireland when it comes to OL evaluation. I think thats what we really need now

ireland was complete garbage dashi

rdubs he drafted o franklin, after that he wasted a couple 2nd and 3rds on bad oline

I dont know Dusty, he also drafted Zane Beadles late and there o-line seems to be playing pretty well this year, even with all the injuries

beadles was a second rd pick

Posted by: J T SANDER | January 16, 2014 at 08:54 AM

You are creating a possible happening that has not occurred. What has occurred is that a power guy either leaves or screws up. We must deal with reality and not guess what may occur with a triad like the GM, Philbin and Aponte.

and he is a quality starter. What are we debating here?


I stand corrected!! I take that back right now. He found most the starters thru the Draft the last 3 years with the broncos. And found 6 starters for the lions in this years draft.

I actually like that he uses sabermetrics.

I say he serves better as president. Because he has a master in business management. And the NFL selected him to go to Stanford for some special GM program.

Peterson. Ross Senior Advisor
Xanders, President of Football Operations
Farmer, GM
Aponte, Cap & Contracts

That would be my ideal structure if Dashi was Señor Ross.

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