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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.

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