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.
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.