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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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If the weapon is outlawed in states where the NFL plays then Tanne has to be suspended by the commissioner.

That RB from Boston College maybe better than Hyde =... Although I do like Ohio State pedigree better than BC

As i said when the whole GM search began. All the big names or hot names of the moment are either declining to be interviewed or consider the GM job.

Who really wants to come to the Dolphins to be a puppet and report to DawnJoe. Doesnt Ross understand that a GM needs the flexibility to select his own people to make the blueprint he sets out to work.

We have seen all this before. Guys like Harbaugh and Fisher decline to coach this team because they see how dysfunctional this franchise really is. What do we get as a result?. Joe Philbin. Not the first or second choice, but the 3rd or 4th or 5th. This is not how a franchise becomes successful.

Until Ross sells this team or finally realizes that a strong GM with full power runs this team. We will continue to miss the playoffs, let alone wont sniff super bowl sunday. The misery continues

I don't think the Commish can suspend his wife. I could be wrong though.

No one cares about the Super Bowl anymore anyway.
Quick: who won the super bowl 4 years ago?


If the weapon is outlawed in states where the NFL plays then Tanne has to be suspended by the commissioner.

Posted by: ExposingTheFraud | January 16, 2014 at 02:43 PM
then the phinz will start off with 4 wins in a row next season

that's exactly my point rage. wheeler and ellerbe are not as talented as burnett and dansby! I'm sure if they were still here they would put up the same numbers on a consistent basis. Don't tell me wheeler is a decent run/pass defender coz he stinks. always at the wrong point of attack, never seems to be close to the catcher or who ever has the ball, always has to chase the defender down 10-15 yards after the catch etc.... I like ellerbe because he shows potential but maybe he needs to be coached up by someone else? i dunno but it's was frustrating to see wheeler on the field majority of the time....

Posted by: rage | January 16, 2014 at 02:27 PM

Rage, Here's why I think this draft would make so much sense for our needs:
2014 Mock

1. Cyrus Kouandijio LT Alabama
2. Carlos Hyde RB Ohio St
3. AJ McCarron QB Alabama
4. Kelcy Quarles DT S. Carolina

As I said, Kouandjio makes sense simply because I believe he's "great value" @ #19. Carlos Hyde brings the physicality to our run game we sorely lack. We would also have a bigger more physical pass protector in him.

McCarron, because thus far, I'm not 100% sold Tannehill is little more than a "caretaker" that can not hit the "deepball". McCarron's proven he's at least a "caretaker" who can also hit the deepball.

Plus, I consider it an ABSOLUTE steal to get a 3 Time Nat' Championship qb in the 3RD RD.

Quarles, if we can get him in the 4th, on for sure passing downs we can sub him for Soliai and have he and Odrick rushing the passer. Giving us far greater "inside pressure" on opposing qb's. Scouting reports are "a little down" on his run stop ability but with 9.5 sacks we can use him right away on passing downs.

He can develop his run stop game over the course of a few season. But should have a presence in the inside pass rush game right away.

According to Bleacher Report it was Tanne's rifle in the car.
I don't care one way or another but if it were Wallace's wife or Pouncey's wife or Wake's wife then this would be a much bigger story wouldn't it?

ETF, hahaha, come on man. They were in FLORIDA, FLORIDA .. the state where you are legally entitled to shoot a man if he approaches your vehicle and you deem him a risk to your safety...

kiper has him going first rd

Posted by: dusty bottoms | January 16, 2014 at 02:33 PM

Dusty, if our gm doesn't believe Hyde will be available after the 1st rd, then our focus should be on Ben Tate in fa. Our current rb's are horrible pass protectors. Just one is more horrible than the other.

Therefore if Hyde is not going to be available, I prefer signing a vet rb already versed in "pass protection. Last thing we need is another "young rb" not up to speed in pass protection.

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Sam, no thanks on McCarron - guy's a stiff - as limited as Ken Dorsey or Danny Weurrfel. Just ebcause u win in college doesn't mean u win in the pros ... different game...

And does the effort your #1 pick put in the bowl game concern you about being our guy?

Me, I'm not concluding on anyone until closer to End of march but there won't be any qbs on my board...

I would replace Wheeler(olb) with Jordan at olb. Replace Ellerbee at mlb in 2015 only if he has a subpar 2014. Then this way we can afford to replace him with a high quality 1st rd pick.

Dion Jordan must be able to take the starting olb position from Wheeler this season. If not, that dreaded "b-word"(bust) will begin to come screaming to the surface.

If Hyde goes in the first. Maybe the best player in the draft will be there in the 2nd Round TRE MASON

You guys are talking about who were picking in the draft when we have no idea on who are GM will be.

No GM's wanna come here and be part of Philbin's sinking ship.

Im guessing we draft a bunch of lifeless zombies to infuse talent to the roster.

When does Philbin and Co. start scouting the cemetaries

I'm with you, loso. Wheeler stinks on ice. I can honestly believe that everyone on this blog thinks the same as us.

Rdubs I wouldn't mind Tre Mason if we had a vet fa pick up who's really good at pass protecting. Just that it scares me adding another "young rb" to the roster that doesn't protect well.

Pass protecting is usually the last skill young backs pick up right away. Mason runs with nice power for his, but, he isn't a very big rb, going about 205 to 210lbs. f he doesn't master "pass protect technique" right away, nfl lb's will eat him alive on blitzes.

Some of the safeties and cb's would too. So, sucks we have no consistent pass protectors from the rb position on our entire roster right now.

Posted by: ExposingTheFraud | January 16, 2014 at 02:49 PM

Easy there, ETF. Just trying to get a giggle outta ya.


Wheeler is a guy who plays his best ball when its a contract year. He did that in oakland after a so so career in Indy. Once he got fat on South Florida dollars he became lazy and disinterested. Dansby did the same when he came to Miami. He went back to arizona on his one yr incentive deal and played himself into another big contract this offseason.

Wheeler is a typical average player who shines when its time to be paid

Where's the guards Sam?. We going with Jerry and Garner?? Oh and what about Clabo? You good with him?

The QB and DT would be a luxury pick imo. We have Starks, Soliai, and Odrick. Need to sign at least two of them and draft a DT for depth in later rds.

Of course signing a LT in free agency would open that 1st rd pick up for a stud in any of the need areas.

I would go with a guard and tackle fairly high in the draft and try to get one of each in free agency.

Posted by: dolfan29 | January 16, 2014 at 03:02 PM

When we had a gm, didn't matter who we liked in the draft anyway. The gm never chose them.

Mocking is not about who we think our gm will pick. It's about who we, the fans, would like to see picked. HUGE difference.

Not overly enthused by this body of work.
Don't know and won't pretend to know but the gurus that Ross had surrounded himself with better be providing good advice otherwise he's looking at further dwindling in attendance.

Sam i am

Yes i understand what it means to think of mock drafts. It a fun thing to do and passes the time until the actual draft shows up.

Im just surprised more fans arnt talking about the lack of GM's that wish to come here and shop for the groceries.

However speaking of the draft. This whole draft should be about the offensive line and nothing more.

Posted by: Dolfan Rick | January 16, 2014 at 03:12 PM

No way in heaven and earth do I believe we can adequately address all of our needs in a single offseason. If you believe this, that bridge is still for sale.

I believe tio get to where we need to be, as a winning franchise, this has to be a 2yr "QUALITY PLAN". We can throw sh...t at the wall and try to address EVERYTHING. But, with this approached, it will be nearly impossible to address all of our needs in "HIGH QUALITY".

This "throw sheet to wall and hope something sticks approach" has to end if we're ever to become a "QUALITY" football team. I see this as a 2014 and 2015 plan to SUCCESSFULLY address this.

uuuhhh...due to prior decisions, I'm thinking that he's looking at that in any event!

Once considered the place to be as far as NFL jobs were considered. I think its safe to say the Miami Dolphins have become the worst landing spot in the NFL. Even up and coming GM's wont touch this franchise now.

I stick with my fins until the day i die, but how can a fan of this team have faith things will change when top NFL people wont even consider coming here

People will come here because Ross' money talks.

The Fins need to use rhe draft and FA to plug holes now. Given all draft picks are developmental players, some are more developed than others and while they will make mistakes early, coaching and experience will turn the tide. I think this years draft and early FA has to focus on o-line.

Agree with whomever posted that Jordan needs to challenge Wheeler if its the Fins intent to play him eclusively at LB. Before they go that route they need to codify whether or not they will run a 4/3 or 3/4 as the base package. If they go 4/3 Jenkins should be pushing Wheeler towards the bench. In a 3/4...the same.

Posted by: Sam I Am | January 16, 2014 at 03:19 PM


Well you saw what happened after this season. People got fired. My guess is the same will happen next year if 8-8 is not improved on.

So a 2 year plan may not be the best idea for some.

However speaking of the draft. This whole draft should be about the offensive line and nothing more.

Posted by: dolfan29 | January 16, 2014 at 03:18 PM

Come on man, we need 3-4 "QUALITY" starting olinemen. 1st and 2nd rd, you expect to find "TWO OF THEM". But 3rd rd and lower, is nearly a COMPLETE roll of the dice. See Dallas Thomas.

We have far more needs than oline only. So why blatant and callously piss "ALL" of our draft picks in the wind "HOPING" something sticks. That's very "UNWISE" use of draft picks.

This has to be spread out over 2 offseasons if we're ever to build a "HIGH QUALITY" football team to compete with "OTHER HIGH QUALITY" football teams. The approach you speak of is just fine and dandy if satisfied with 8-8 to 9-7 one and done wildcard playoff teams.

We could easily and perrenially become one of those. Is this what you seek?

My Phins mock draft:
Rd 1: A really good player Ireland would have overlooked.
Rds 2-7: See above.

Dolphan29, Dansby is going to get PAID then this year. Old boy was lights out. I wish he could have played like that in S FLA.
Oh well, Wheeler is probably done after this year, so what do you think? Jordan on the outside?

Noble King

3 up and coming GM's have declined interviews with the team so money didnt matter in this case. Around kleague circles, Ross is considered a bad owner who cant make decisions properly and determine what is the best direction for his franchise.

Nobody whos good or talented wants to be on board a sinking ship or one without direction.

With the cap space they have, the Phins better use FA to plug some holes - there are way too many just to fill via the draft, esp. the OL.

Anybody remember Richmond Webb and Keith Sims? Drafted 1st and 2nd rd in the 1990? draft.

Became perennial probowlers. It can be done. We have just forgotten for some reason.

Jeff Ireland maybe??

Well you saw what happened after this season. People got fired. My guess is the same will happen next year if 8-8 is not improved on.

So a 2 year plan may not be the best idea for some.

Posted by: Dolfan Rick | January 16, 2014 at 03:27 PM

Rick, IMO, 8-8 is fine if we're seeing "REAL PROGRESS IN AREA" we did not see last year. No way do all of our ills get quality addressed in 2014. Keyword being "QUALITY".

But we sure can throw sheet at the wall towards all of it. Then wait and see how much sticks.

When sheet is dry, none of sticks. When it's wet, eventually that which sticks slide to ground. For 2014, 8-8 with very visible progress is a great place to start.

Sam i am

What i seek is fixing the most glaring weakness on this team. Yes i believe we have other holes but the OLINE is so bad that the draft is a great place to start.

Im not saying it all gets fixed in one offseason. What i'd like to see is this team go OLINE the first three rounds. I look at other teams in how they built their lines and the draft is how they got it done.

Using Dallas Thomas as an example is a poor one as he was the only OLINE guy the fins drafted when the first rd is where the fins should have gone instead of Dion Jordan

Rdubs I wouldn't mind Tre Mason if we had a vet fa pick up who's really good at pass protecting. Just that it scares me adding another "young rb" to the roster that doesn't protect well.
Pass protecting is usually the last skill young backs pick up right away. Mason runs with nice power for his, but, he isn't a very big rb, going about 205 to 210lbs. f he doesn't master "pass protect technique" right away, nfl lb's will eat him alive on blitzes.
Some of the safeties and cb's would too. So, sucks we have no consistent pass protectors from the rb position on our entire roster right now.
Posted by: Sam I Am | January 16, 2014 at 03:10 PM

sam, we already have Tre Mason.... his name is Lamar Millar.

UPDATE: ok so there's that!??!! he sucks but at least he plays nice with others.


That is my point. Once Dansby signs for big money he will be just like he was in Miami. Overpaid and unproductive

Posted by: Sam I Am | January 16, 2014 at 03:35 PM


I hear what your saying about seeing progress. Believe it or not I think we are making some though.

Just not on the o-line. It is getting much easier at least from a fans stand point to see the holes that need to be plugged. The way I see it with two solid free agents and 2 solid draft picks on the o-line it could be much improved in a season.

They would have to the right picks and you would have to put them together day one in training camp but I think its very doable.


Miller is no Tre Mason, sir! Take that back!

Miller has no vision, I know our line sucks, but many times Miller and Thomas hit the wrong hole.
tre Mason runs with more power thAN Miller, as well. Miller might be a little faster


It’s rare an offensive lineman, especially an interior one, gets rewarded for his play.

But Lions right guard Larry Warford was so good this year the website Pro Football Focus found him too hard to ignore.

PFF named Warford, a third-round pick out of Kentucky, its Offensive Rookie of the Year today, ahead of San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen and Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy.

Yes THIRD RD. Same rd as Dallas Thomas.

NFL.COM has 3 mock drafts up. All 3 have us taking Zach Martin OT from Notre Dame. One mock didnt even have Ebron drafted in the 1st round

haha..... i want to believe you rdubs but lookin at mason's tapes/highlights it just seems like i'm watchin miller all over again. there both small for the rb position and who is to say that this Mason can handle pass blocking??? we don't, so i would stay away from mason @ 19. Fix our most glaring hole which is our oline and maybe grab a rb in the later rounds. no need to reach.


I think Mason might be there in the 2nd round. I really believe he goes in the first. But I am always wrong anyways, so who knows.

I just think tre mason will be something special

Posted by: Dolfan Rick | January 16, 2014 at 03:48 PM

Rick, Larry Warford was a guy I wanted last year. Unfortunately we did not get him.

be fair to Ireland, he found at least 2 nuggets in 5 years of searching. Plus he was half way thru his 10 year Offensive line rebuilding plan

I'm more discouraged that there is only one size Q-tip

Yes he was on my mock too Sam and I actually seen several others mention him on here.


It's risky using your first three picks on one area. It falls under"all your eggs in one basket" net. I've already noticed that Lazor wants this to be a DOLPHINS Offense. To paraphrase him, "I want to do what our players do best."

If personnel doesn't fit a "Zone Blocking Scheme"... then why the hell try and run it? Those who know Lazor said he is "Very Visual" about the game. He said himself his coaching mentors "Had a vision of what the offense should look like and never stopped pushing for it in practice or in a game"... That is about the most Anti- Mike Sherman thing I've ever heard. This team lacked (and lacks) a identity.

There are O-line players who excel in a Zone Scheme, but far more of them excel in a power scheme. Once Miami sorts out what they are going to "BE" on offense... It will be much easier to approach the draft without throwing a bunch of rocks at one can.

Miami WILL draft a Backside Tackle... IF... They don't resign McKinney or go free agent hunting. They'll take a couple O-line players. But Miami needs to keep talent moving up the pipeline in other area's also.

Bottom line is this... Everything we "KNEW" about Miami's offense left with Mike Sherman. Right now all we know is there needs to be some upgrades on the O-line... But what sort of upgrades..? Are we looking for athletic zone blockers..? Or are we looking to return to a line more consistent with the 2009 monster line we had..?

If you are looking to plug holes in the draft then you're doing it wrong...
It's advocating the draft-by-numbers approach Ireland seemed so fond of.

You draft talent in the draft. Regardless of position, because you know what? All it takes is one player aging a bit too quick, one injury,one player regressing and a perceived strength becomes a "need".
It's plugging a finger in a hole to stop a leak only to have three more spring up, never fixing the actual problem and eventually running out of fingers.

I can care less what a mess the OL is, if you wind up in a situation where you have the 4th best tackle still on the board or the 1st-2nd best Safety, and the Safety grades higher you should take the safety.
Now position should play some role, it should factor in...all things being equal, then by all means take the bigger perceived "need". But placing too much emphasis on that is how you wind up with a roster like the Dolphins.

If a position is really that much of a "need" and a hole your better off addressing it in FA anyways.
If it's that big a need your better off with a stop-gap rather then throwing all your eggs in a rookies basket.

And I'll stop there since this can turn into a rather lengthy rant, and it's the same thing I've been complaining about every year the past 5 years. I can only hope whomever accepts the job leans closer to the "draft the highest graded player" approach, which I'd argue the more successful teams employ, than the "Draft by need" approach.


Whether its zone blocking or power run. i just want an OLINE that doesnt give up 7 sacks per game and can actually block in the run game.

While i would love to see a draft where OLINE is the focus, i know we wont go that route with all the picks nor should we.

We need 2 tackles and 2 guards. Only pouncey is set to return. Forget FA as we are only inheriting other teams problems.

I will say if we dont go OLINE in round 1, then safety has to be the position. HA HA Clinton Dix is the thumper in the run game and can cover like an Ed Reed.

I agree with flaherty here, drafting by position is the very definition of a need. if you have a need you address it with a vet in free agency or in trades.

When it comes to draft time you should care less what position he plays, what your are doign here is collecting assets.

And like flaherty also astutely mentions depth becomes need in an awful hurry.

DTs going into this draft is a prime example.

u'v been wrong 5
seasons in a row so far


FA is one of the worst places to look for a fix. Look what Clabo did for us. Even before that Columbo or Geno James comes to mind. Maybe Justin smiley or Jake Grove will bring up bad memories. all FA busts here.

Look when we got Richmond webb and Keith sims. We were set on the left side of the line for a decade. sorry but the draft can be used for need and not only for depth

Brian Billick should be the next GM, superbowl winning coach, knows talent and has worked under Ozzy. He knows both sides of the game. Yes, and he has a nice personality like that matters.

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