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60 posts from January 2014

January 22, 2014

Dolphins to interview GM finalists this weekend

The Miami Dolphins plan to interview at least two finalists for the vacant general manager position starting this weekend, according to source familiar with the process.

The club -- which has been in contact with the seven men who already interviewed for the job -- will begin calls to six of those men in the next few hours to either 1. tell them they are one of the finalists and schedule the second interview or 2. thank the men for being part of the process and say the team is moving in a different direction.

The Dolphins had hoped to interview at least one more candidate this week, most likely plucked off a playoff team that participated in Championship Weekend last Sunday. But those hopes faded for unknown reasons and the likelihood that will happen are now slim.

The Dolphins plan to hire their next general manager well before the Super Bowl in 10 days and there is even optimism within the organization a new GM could be in place by Monday, the source said.

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL Network reported the Dolphins tried to hire Arizona's Jason Licht when the team caught wind of the fact Licht was offered the general manager job in Tampa Bay.

Two sources -- one very close to Licht and a Dolphins source -- said the report is not accurate.

The Dolphins indeed found out Licht was offered the Tampa Bay job and contacted him to inform him he'd be would be one of the finalists brought in this coming weekend. The Dolphins wanted to give Licht the option of waiting for the finalist interview before making his decision final.

Both sources confirm Licht decided to go with proverbial bird in the hand, taking the certain job offer rather than waiting to see if he would make the cut in Miami to have two job offers.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will be part of the finalists interviews and will be the man hiring the new GM. He has not left the country this week.

Aside from Licht, the Dolphins have interviewed Cleveland's Ray Farmer, Tennessee's Lake Dawson, Pittsburgh's Omar Khan, Tampa Bay's Dennis Hickey, Detroit's Brian Xanders, and in-house candidate Brian Gaine.

One of those will be Miami's new GM perhaps as early as Monday.

January 21, 2014

Dolphins coaches home while rest of AFC East in Mobile

The Dolphins had a former head coach in Mobile, Ala. during the Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday. Nick Saban attended the practices as he often does and did when he was the Dolphins coach.

The Dolphins did not, however, have a current coach in Mobile for practices or the interviews with players that happen afterward. Head coach Joe Philbin stayed in South Florida as did all his coaches.

Philbin was the only AFC East coach not attending.

New England's Bill Belichick, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and Buffalo coach Doug Marrone were all at the Senior Bowl. Marrone took his entire staff. Ryan gave his assistants the option of attending or taking a vacation week. And Belichick did not have his assistants attend.

Those are the facts.

So is this troubling?

Is it worrisome that the other AFC East teams -- the Patriots and Jets which finished ahead of the Dolphins and the Bills which swept the Dolphins -- have coaches on the ground at these practices and for the meetings and the Dolphins are the only one that does not?

Is it worrisome the Dolphins are the only NFL team that has neither their head coach nor general manager in Mobile -- an outgrowth of the fact the Dolphins have yet to hire their next general manager?

Well, let me be honest: I'm not in a position to know for sure.

I know the optics of it are bad. It looks terrible for the Dolphins. But that's public relations. That's perception.

Whether indeed it actually is bad is another story. I don't know if the three other AFC East head coaches are picking up nuggets on players that Philbin is missing by not being there. We're not talking just information from practice tape, by the way. Everyone can get the practice tapes and review those if they missed the practice.

I'm talking about nuggets from the face-to-face conversations and interviews with the players.

Maybe those offer nothing. And maybe they offer something tangible and worthwhile. We simply do not know.

It is known Philbin has prioritized his time this week and the Senior Bowl is not the priority. I asked the Dolphins why the head coach didn't attend while all his rivals did.

Philbin's answer through a club spokesman is he did not attend the Senior Bowl because he decided his priority this week was meeting with Bill Lazor and getting  the new offensive coordinator acclimated and up to speed with what the Dolphins are going to run offensively in 2014.

(I'm not sure if that means Lazor is telling Philbin what offense he wants to run or Philbin is telling Lazor what offense he wants).

Philbin also said the secondary reason he did not attend the Senior Bowl was because he was finalizing the hiring of new linebacker coach Mark Duffner.

And obviously Philbin has a strong conviction about his approach because Duffner was in Mobile along with all the other Jacksonville Jaguars coaches Monday morning, but once his hiring was solidified Monday afternoon, Duffner returned to Jacksonville Tuesday and will join the rest of the Miami staff in South Florida Wednesday.

"Anytime you can take advantage of all the opportunities you have to evaluate a player, and certainly if you can see them in person that's a help -- you can see and observe their ability to follow directions in drills and practice -- that's all good," Duffner said. "But with the way technology is now with the video all that is filmed. With proper study of the practice, of the individual sessions, the drills and so forth, you get a great evaluation. It's hard not to."

Look, these are hard times to be a Dolphins fan. The Dolphins stunk at the end of the season. They were shown to be dysfunctional internally. The head coach didn't want to fire an assistant that absolutely had to go and was pressured to do so by the owner. Some assistants that probably needed to go as well -- ahem, 58 sacks allowed -- are still on staff. And the GM search is proceeding at a snail's pace as Miami is the only NFL team without a GM.

Amid all that, is Philbin being in South Florida while Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and Doug Marrone are in Mobile going to determine the course of 2014?

I'd say there are bigger worries.

Talent men on playoff teams might be up next

The news that the Dolphins have more interviews on deck for their general manager vacancy was interesting considering they've already interviewed seven candidates, but it shouldn't surprise people that know owner Stephen Ross.

When the team needed to fill the CEO and President job that Tom Garfinkel eventually landed, the process included interviews for 15 candidates.


Obviously, there are a lot more CEO types in the world than there are NFL personnel men worthy of a general manager job. So if the Dolphins are planning more interviews it stands to reason they need to expand the field from which they harvest candidates.

And although I am only speculating here (at least I tell you when I am) I would think if the Dolphins have more candidates in mind and they are doing this search systematically, then the candidates that are next must come from teams that participated in Championship Weekend,  or the two conference championships.

So we're talking talent men from the Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots and Broncos.

(You as a fan better hope).

If the Dolphins can find worthy GM candidates in Tampa Bay (Dennis Hickey), Cleveland (Ray Farmer) and other struggling teams, surely the teams at the top of the NFL might have someone.

Let me share those names and some background on the men.

Nick Caserio, New England Patriots: What better way to hurt an opponent than to take their people, right? And as neither Tom Brady (QB upgrade) nor Bill Belichick (head coach upgrade) are available to the Dolphins, maybe looking at their top personnel department person is one way to do it. Caserio is only 38 and has a background in both coaching and personnel. He sat under Scott Pioli until the KC Chiefs snatched Pioli. He obviously sits under Belichick, who has final say over the Pats personnel decisions. Maybe he learned something under those guys.

Joel Patten, San Francisco 49ers: He just completed his first season as the director of player personnel. He was formerly the director of college scouting and he played in both the NFL (eight years) and USFL (three years). He sits under GM Trent Balke. The 49ers, as you know, have one of the most talented and complete rosters in the NFL. And while Balke, a Bill Parcells disciple, gets a majority of the credit, perhaps the Dolphins figure Patten is worthy of talking to.

Eric Mangini, San Francisco 49ers: I know, I know, I've floated the name and a source dismissed it. But since this is just speculation, and Ross loves Mangini, and executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte loves Mangini, and the Dolphins cannot be counted on to see that Mangini is not really a GM type but a coach type, then I'm throwing his name in here. I've witnessed too many years of the Dolphins doing Dolphins things to completely dismiss this. (By the way, if you hear the Dolphins are indeed interviewing Mangini, you know the apocalypse has come. The abomination of desolation is here. Don't pack a bag. Run for the hills immediately).  

Scott McCloughan, Seattle: Well, not happening. He should be interviewed because, after all, he was the San Francisco GM before Balke. So he has experience. He already helped build a talented roster. And he's doing the same in Seattle under John Schneider. But McCloughan didn't like the Dolphins set-up so he asked the 'Hawks to decline his interview request. And they did. He is one of at least four candidates that have decided the Dolphins situation is not for them. And that's that, barring a stunning change of mind.

Tom Heckert Jr., Denver Broncos: He cut his teeth in the Dolphins organization under Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson. He was the director of Pro Personnel when he left the franchise in 2000. He went to Philadelphia and helped Andy Reid build a winner there and although he was the GM in title starting in 2006, the final say went to Reid. Heckert left to become the GM in Cleveland and picked some good players such as Joe Haden, Josh Gordon, T.J. Ward and others. But he also had a hand in picking Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson in the first round. Heckert is nonetheless a very good talent man. He did have a DUI arrest in Denver in 2013 for which he served a club suspension.

Matt Russell, Denver Broncos: He's the team's Director of Player Personnel. And while Heckert reportedly blew a .162 on the breathalyzer test, Russell puffed out a .242, or about three times the legal limit when he too was arrested for DUI last year. (Separate instances). Obviously, the Broncos have a good roster and Russell was part of that. Not only has he been the player personnel man since 2012, but was the Director of college scouting for three years prior to that.

All these men have playoff pedigrees this year. All are part of successful teams now.

Why not talk to them?


January 20, 2014

Source: More GM interviews coming, Ross engaged

The Dolphins search for a general manager is not over in that interviews for new candidates are coming, according to a high ranking team source. After all of the interviews are complete -- there have been seven so far -- then the club will narrow down to finalists and pick the new GM.

And this: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been present "and engaged" in every interview so far. And he will be physically present for every future interview, and every part of the process that entails, the source said.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity. The source declined to confirm or deny a CBS Sports report that Ross is in the United Kingdom and will be traveling to China thereafter is accurate. (I am now assuming the report is accurate).

However, that changes no part of this process, as far as the Dolphins are concerned.

The team is currently doing a "deeper dive" and "work behind the scenes" to vet candidates already interviewed and those yet to be interviewed.

During the interviews already completed -- with Lake Dawson, Omar Khan, Ray Farmer, Dennis Hickey, Brian Xanders, Jason Licht, and in-house candidate Brian Gaine -- Ross has been part of the full group of people talking with the candidates.

"He is not on his phone or doesn't step out to take breaks," said the team source who is intimately familiar with the interviews.

The Dolphins are talking to candidates as a group led by Ross, advisor Carl Peterson, Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, RSE Ventures CEO Matt Higgins and Dolphins executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte.

Candidates are also meeting with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin separately, the source said.

(The team needs the new GM and Philbin to forge a strong bond because last year Philbin and former GM Jeff Ireland were not always on the same page).

The Dolphins, I'm told, are acutely aware of the criticism of their GM hiring process. Senior Bowl practices start this week in Mobile and it is clear a GM will not be named before those end. So there's criticism the process is taking too long.

The team's answer?

The goal is to hire the right man, rather than a right now man.

(I would say I agree with this. Obviously, there are deadlines that have to be met. The Dolphins need to hire a GM in time for the Feb. 18-25 NFL Combine as well as May draft. And the team will obviously have a GM in place before then. But him not being on board this week is not going to affect draft preparations. Most, if not all the candidates the Dolphins are considering will indeed be at the Senior Bowl working for their current teams, anyway. So that institutional knowledge will travel to Miami once the hire is made.)

There is also criticism of Ross being out of the country at times during this process.

It doesn't look good on the surface because it suggests the owner has left the process or become bored by it or has decided he has better things to do. This is a perception the club knows exists. And the pushback on that is that there is no part of the process Ross hasn't been a part of or will be a part of in the future -- in person.

Including, and most notably, making the final decision. 

Report: Dolphins hire Mark Duffner as LB coach

The Dolphins are off to a fast start at the Senior Bowl this week, filling their lone open coaching position by hiring Mark Duffner as the new linebacker coach, according to a report by the Florida Times-Union.

Duffner, 60, has been the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker coach under three different head coaches -- Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley. He's been with the Jaguars since 2006.

He worked for the Packers in the mid 2000s when Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was on that same staff thus the familiarity.

Duffner has 17 seasons of NFL experience thus making him the Dolphins coach with the most NFL experience.

 Duffner is formerly the head coach at the University of Maryland. He coached the Terps from 1992-96. Prior to that he was the head coach at Holy Cross.

As Duffner was also the linebacker coach for the Jaguars, this suggests he was either out of contract or the Dolphins will make him an assistant head coach as well.

January 19, 2014

In shadow of Bess trade, Dolphins looking for integrity

When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross released a statement telling the world what kind of person he wants as the team's next general manager he included this sentence:  "This individual also must be a person with integrity who is open-minded and creative."

"Integrity" is a word that should not be ignored here. Ross, I'm told,  wanted that in there because right now the Dolphins don't have a very good reputation within the NFL personnel community for, among other things, the manner they traded Davone Bess.

Bess, as has been widely reported this week, is troubled. And as The Herald reported this week, he was troubled before the Dolphins traded him in April 2013 to the Cleveland Browns. Less than one month before shipping Bess out, the Dolphins learned Bess's family had him Marchman Acted so he could be evaluated and receive treatment for the emotional or psychological issues that seemed to be troubling him.

But while the Dolphins knew Bess was troubled, sources confirm they took a don't-ask-don't-tell approach on the matter when shopping and trading Bess. The Dolphins did not offer information on Bess's apparent personal instability, according to multiple sources.

[Update: Another source confirms the Dolphins did not offer information but did tell the Browns to "do their homework."]

Now, an aqua-and-orange bleeding Dolphins fan might smile and consider this a coup. They might think the Dolphins pulled the wool over the Browns. Ha-ha, yeah too bad. Buyer beware.

That is not how most NFL teams conduct business.

Most would have simply cut Bess rather than run the risk of seemingly serving up a potential lemon without some sort of disclosure to another team. Why is this?

Well, because even though players come and players go, and front office people come and front office people go, teams remain. And personal reputations remain.

And having a reputation as a team or individual that cannot be a trusted trade partner is a bad thing. You can be certain the people who made the trade for Cleveland will never trust former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland again. You can also be certain the Browns will likely be distrustful of the Dolphins in the future unless fences are mended.

Credibility and respect are currency in the NFL and no one wants to be bankrupt. 

You have no idea how many NFL people I talk to tell me about the respect they have for one another despite the fact they want to bash each other's heads in on game day.

Once upon a time the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys fought for NFC East dominance year in and out. And yet Tom Landry served up advice to young Bill Parcells. The Oakland Raiders roster was known an NFL rogue's gallery and yet Al Davis offered advice to practically any young coach or personnel man who called.

There was an honor code among these men and although the times have changed, much of that code remains. Not all of it, but much of it.

The Dolphins broke that code by not disclosing Bess's problems to the Browns. Indeed, if they'd decided they didn't want to break confidence with the Bess family because their son had been a valued member of the organization for four years, the right move would have been to simply cut Bess and walk away.

That message, I'm told has reached Dolphins ownership.

And that's one reason the word "integrity" was used in the statement Steve Ross released when he began searching for a new GM. 

January 18, 2014

Source: Hickey 'hit one out of the park'

When one NFL source floated Dennis Hickey's name to me as a Dolphins general manager candidate Thursday, I dismissed it.

Hickey doesn't seem like a hot commodity. He's something of a career Tampa Bay Buccaneers worker drone. And, after all, his own organization that is conducting a general manager search as are the Dolphins have not interviewed their own guy.

Then on Friday Hickey's name came up again and it turns out not only is he a candidate but a very, very serious candidate, another source familiar with the process said Friday.

I'm told the Hickey interview was among the longest the Dolphins have conducted during the search that has already included interviews for seven candidates. Brian Xanders had a two-day, 11-hour interview earlier this week and Hickey was not far behind him. And I'm told Hickey "hit one out of the park," with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

I'm told by league sources that even if Hickey isn't hired in Miami, he is actually so well regarded by the Bucs that he may be asked to remain under the new general manager once that candidate is chosen.

As you know, I've previously reported that Ray Farmer, Lake Dawson and Xanders opened eyes for the Dolphins owner. I would now add Hickey among that company of top tier candidates.

The Dolphins have yet to interview Marc Ross of the Giants or Lionel Vital of the Falcons. But there is now some sentiment among those conducting the Dolphins search that the strength of candidates is already beyond initial expectations. So this search is nearing its end.

The Dolphins will soon whittle the field to perhaps two candidates and then pick their man.

So, yes, the Dolphins are so far very pleased with their search. Yes, they believe they have identified nearly a handful of potential hires.

And, yes, Dennis Hickey is improbably among the top of the group.

January 17, 2014

Seventh GM interview: Dennis Hickey

The Dolphins continue to search for their next general manager and that search today has led to the interview of Tampa Bay Bucs director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, league sources are saying.

Hickey is the seventh person to interview for the vacant Dolphins general manager job.

Interesting the Dolphins interviewed Hickey. The Bucs are searching for GM and haven't interviewed him, far as I can tell. So the Dolphins see something in Hickey the team that has employed him nearly two decades doesn't apparently see.

This is the background on Hickey directly from the Bucs media guide:

"Entering his 18th season with the Buccaneers overall and third as the director of player personnel, Dennis Hickey has helped lead the Buccaneers to four division titles and one Super Bowl championship during his 18-year tenure.

"Hickey, who spent six seasons as director of college scouting prior to his promotion in 2011, is responsible for coordinating a staff of area scouts and managing the compilation of information on college players which has proven to be invaluable during the Buccaneers draft process. In addition to these duties, he also oversees the Pro Personnel Department, which evaluates all pro leagues, free agents and trade prospects.

"Working side-by-side with General Manager Mark Dominik, Hickey helped oversee this year’s blockbuster offseason, including the signing of Pro Bowl S Dashon Goldson and trading for All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, the 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year and widely considered the premier talent at his position. These moves come on the heels of a successful 2012 offseason, which saw the Buccaneers signing WR Vincent Jackson, who recorded career-highs in receptions and receiving yards, earning his a trip to the Pro Bowl, third of his career. The Buccaneers also managed to lure two-time Pro Bowl G away from division-rival New Orleans.

"In addition to the touted free agents, Hickey and Dominik have worked together to draft premium talent. Despite having traded their 2013 first-round selection for Revis, the team still managed to get CB Johnthan Banks, the winner of the 2012 Jim Thorpe award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football. In 2012, Dominik and Hickey chose a highly regarded draft class, with S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David all being named to the PFW/PFWA All-Rookie Team. Martin was also selected to go the Pro Bowl, along with Jackson and 2010 first-round selection Gerald McCoy.

"The 2011 draft brought several new building blocks to Tampa Bay, starting with DE Adrian Clayborn, selected 20th overall. Clayborn started in all 16 games and recorded 54 tackles, a team-leading 7.5 sacks, 26 quarterback pressures, four TFL and three forced fumbles. DE Da’Quan Bowers, considered a steal in the second round, futher bolstered the defensive line, and finished the season as a starter. Third-round selection LB Mason Foster provided great production, recording  statistics in every major defensive category with a team-leading 126 tackles, four TFL, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback pressures, one interception, two passes defensied, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Foster also led all NFL rookies in tackles.

"In 2010, Hickey was instrumental in bringing in a draft class that proved itself on the field during its rookie season, where seven of the nine picks recorded at least one start, with the draft class recording a total of 49 starts on the season. In fact, WR Mike Williams, a fourth-round selection, started all 16 games his rookie season, leading all rookie receivers in the league in receptions (65, second on the team), yards (964, first on the team), and receiving touchdowns (11, single-season team record). Williams was a finalist for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and finished second in voting for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"In addition to the draft class, Hickey has helped find and bring many undrafted gems to Tampa Bay throughout the years, including RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount, an undrafted rookie free agent acquired off waivers from Tennessee in 2010, became just the second undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to record a 1,000+-yard season when he finished with 1,007 yards, despite starting only seven games, and was nominated for the NFL’s Rookie of the Week award on five occasions. Other notable Buccaneers Hickey has helped in attaining include DL Michael Bennett, WR Preston Parker, T Demar Dotson and C/G Ted Larsen.

"With Hickey’s assistance, the 2009 draft was highlighted by the addition of first-round selection QB Josh Freeman.  Freeman led all rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage (54.5) while setting Buccaneer rookie records in touchdown passes (10) and passing yards (1,855) despite starting in just nine games.  The third round of 2009’s draft produced DT Roy Miller who proved to be a solid contributor along the defensive line.  Miller finished the season tied for third among defensive linemen with 54 tackles while adding two sacks.  Perhaps the steal of the draft came in the seventh round with the selection of WR Sammie Stroughter.  Stroughter ranked third on the team with 31 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown while adding a kickoff return for a touchdown.

"The 2008 draft produced CB Aqib Talib, who tied for first in the NFL among rookies with four interceptions, OL Jeremy Zuttah, who started at both guard positions, and LB Geno Hayes, who was a big contributor on special teams before moving into a starting role.  The Buccaneers also procured talent through the signing of undrafted rookie free agents RB/KR Clifton Smith and CB Elbert Mack.  Smith was selected to the 2009 AFC/NFC Pro Bowl as the kick returner and was named AP Second-Team All-Pro kick returner while Mack appeared in 15 games in the secondary and on special teams where he ranked fourth on the team with 12 special teams stops.

"s best guards while earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season.

"From 1998-2009, Hickey worked as a college scout for the Buccaneers, during which time he oversaw all scouting efforts in the Midwestern states for the team. Hickey was a member of the Buccaneers first Super Bowl championship in 2002, a 48-21 victory against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

"Before assuming his role as a scout for Tampa Bay, Hickey spent the 1996-97 seasons as a pro personnel assistant in Tampa Bay’s scouting department. Prior to joining the Buccaneers, Hickey spent two years (1994-95) as an assistant coach at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas. At Blinn, he coached the defensive backs and was responsible for recruiting in the state of Texas.

"Hickey played collegiately at Coffeyville Community College and was a three-year starter and captain at the University of Tulsa, where he was also named an academic All-American. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tulsa in 1994." 

Edwards promotion great; Turner status merits scrutiny

The reported departure of Dolphins linebacker coach George Edwards to Minnesota to become the Vikings defensive coordinator deserves congratulations for him. Dolphins fans should applaud that someone from the Dolphins coaching staff is moving on up, professionally and geographically. No, seriously, you should really be thrilled ...

Because in his last two seasons coaching the Dolphins linebackers -- Edwards's second stint with the team following a tenure that lasted 2005-2009 -- the unit has mostly underperformed. Indeed, last season as the Miami defense fell to 24th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, the worse ranking since 2007, it was clear that linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler were at the core of the problems with the run defense.

That fact is so obvious that at least one general manager candidate interviewing recently said the next GM must replace at least one of the two players because the performance from the positions did not merit the salary cap and actual money expenditure.

(Peanut gallery: Well, Armando, this clearly shows what a poor GM Jeff Ireland was. After all he signed Ellerbe and Wheeler.)

Yes, gallery, the signing of both players was apparently a poor decision given their contracts -- Ellerbe at five years for $34.75 million and Wheeler for five years and $26 million. The Dolphins paid Ellerbe $14 million guaranteed. The Dolphins paid Wheeler $13 million guaranteed.

But here's the rub ...

Ellerbe played quite well for Baltimore in 2012. Wheeler was outstanding in Oakland in 2012. And the two players the Dolphins jettisoned to upgrade to Wheeler and Ellerbe played better for their new teams. Karlos Dansby was a borderline Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Arizona and Kevin Burnett was a revelation in Oakland.

The two departed players combined for nine sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five interceptions, 23 passes defensed and two TDs.

The two players under Edwards combined for 1.5 sacks, zero forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, 12 passes defensed and no touchdowns.

So to recap, the players the Dolphins added under Edwards played better elsewhere before arriving but took a step back in Miami. And the players who didn't play well enough under Edwards the year before were released and had banner seasons elsewhere.

I don't see this as a coincidence. And I see a good portion, if not the majority of the responsibility for this, falling on the position coach involved -- Edwards

So congratulations to him for getting the promotion. Problem partially solved.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Edwards was not the only Dolphins assistant that deserves scrutiny based on the performance of his players.

Last season the Dolphins offensive line was, as the entire NFL knows, something of a problem. Yes, sometimes the pass protection breakdowns fell on the shoulders of running backs or tight ends. Yes, sommetimes quarterback Ryan Tannehill held the ball too long or did little to get out of the way of the pressure.

But those franchise record and NFL worst 58 sacks?

The offensive line, folks.

(Peanut gallery:  Well, Armando, this clearly shows what a poor GM Jeff Ireland was. After all he put that offensive line together).

No doubt about it. At the end of the day, the Dolphins did not have enough talent on the offensive line. Ireland bet on Jonathan Martin, his draft pick, and that bet was a loser.

But the thing is, Mike Pouncey is a talented center. And Bryant McKinnie is a solid left tackle who Ireland brought in via trade midway through the season. And John Jerry was often able to get in somebody's way. And Tyson Clabo is a former Pro Bowl player who went 14 consecutive games, including the playoffs, without allowing a sack for the Falcons in 2012.

And these guys, together, simply were not very effective. There was no unity of action on the field. They were disjointed. And there certainly was no unity of thought as the NFL scandal obviously suggests.

So who is responsible for solving those issues? Um, thinking ...

Yeah, the position coach.

Offensive line coach Jim Turner oversaw the statistically most inept offensive line in Dolphins NFL history. That is not an opinion. It is a fact, as evidence by the phrase, "most sacks allowed in franchise history." One can argue the expansion offensive line was worse, but that was an AFL line.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings haven't been calling to hire Turner. Neither has any other NFL team that I know of.

Barring a return to his college roots, Turner is likely to remain in Miami.

So while the offensive line that underperformed likely will get a nearly full reconstruction this offseason, the man who led that terrible line, likely will remain.

It is possible new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor may lobby to replace Turner and others but he said recently that subject had not been discussed with coach Joe Philbin.

(Huh? How does an interview happen and either the head coach or OC candidate doesn't bring up the topic of what will happen with the offensive assistants under the new OC?)

Anyway, this brings up another little issue:

What's Philbin thinking?

Does he know more than everyone else in thinking Turner is a great coach that deserves the chance to step out of the shadow of an epic failure?

Does he know Turner isn't it but rather not replace him out of loyalty? (This is a possibility because, well, Mike Sherman.)

Or does Philbin, a former offensive line coach himself, simply not know a failing OL coach when he sees one?

There still isn't an answer to these possibilities. So far Philbin has stuck with Turner. We'll see if that lasts through the release of the NFL report. We'll see if it lasts through that conversation he and Lazor apparently haven't had yet.

January 16, 2014

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."

January 15, 2014

Bill Lazor: Assistants, offense to be determined

Bill Lazor is excited. He's eager to get to work as the Dolphins new offensive coordinator. Although he has known coach Joe Philbin only casually he says, "he's a winner ... the work coach has done is lay the foundation."

Indeed Lazor says the reason he took the job with the Dolphins was "about coach Philbin himself."

"It's about people," he said today. "It's about trusting the person you're working for and working with. You want to be around people with character and who are committed in doing things the right way. I want to be around football people, which is what coach Philbin is ..."

Lazor was vague about several topics. He declined to comment whether he was indeed on his way to Detroit as was reported Tuesday by ESPN. More importantly he couldn't give specifics about what type of offense the Dolphins would run -- although it's believed it will be mostly a West Coast attack with other elements of other schemes peppered in as well.

"The clearest way to say it and it's probably disappointing is this will be the Miami Dolphins offense," Lazor said. "The one factor in how we do it, specifically how it works is the ability of the players we have. I've done a little bit of research ... but I haven't done nearly enough to be able to answer that question."

Lazor said he is not certain if he'll be able to bring coaches he's familiar with to the Dolphins.

"Coach Philbin is charge of the structure of the staff and he and I have not had all our conversations about the structure of the staff. What I do know, and I did my research, is I know we have good coaches on the staff and they have great reputations. I'm excited to get to know them and that's something that will be handled going forward."

(So Philbin and Lazor interviewed and they didn't talk about offensive assistants? The offensive line gave up a franchise record 58 sacks and the OL coach was not discussed?)

Lazor, the Eagles QB coach in 2013, did not call plays for the Eagles. He confirmed he will call the plays for the Dolphins.

Before the 2013, former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill would be the most improved second-year quarterback in the NFL. He wasn't. The most improved second-year QB in the NFL was Nick Foles in Philadelphia.

The quarterback Lazor coached.

So what does Lazor think of Tannehill?

"I see a lot of ability. Physical ability. The ability to play the game," Lazor said. "It would be premature to say what he can do and what he can't do because I haven't been around him much. But I think there's a nucleus here in a lot of way with the staff and the talent I've seen so far to work with these players."

Tom Gamble not going to interview with the Dolphins

Four days ago the Dolphins asked and received permission to interview Philadelphia Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble. No interview was set, however.

And no interview is going to happen -- barring a stunning turn of events.

Gamble, considered among the league's best personnel men, has decided he won't interview for the Dolphins job because he is happy in his current role with the Eagles, isn't thrilled about the structure Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has outlined for his football operations, and is confident other opportunities will come along in the future.

Multiple sources familiar with Gamble's thinking say he wants the opportunity to be a general manager but wants the job when he has full power and authority over the roster and has the ability to make a decision over the head coach and other people in the organization.

The Dolphins GM will not have the power to decide the fate of head coach Joe Philbin or others within the organization. The GM, coach and others will report directly to Ross and not each other.

Gamble was apparently puzzled why the Dolphins were already searching for an offensive coordinator with no input from the GM. It should be noted the fallout between former GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin had its genesis in Ireland's distaste for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's work.

The Dolphins today hired Bill Lazor of the Eagles to be the new OC.

That, by the way, is the move that leaves this quickly closing door still slightly ajar. As Gamble knows Lazor, he might be convinced to reconsider the Dolphins if certain interview accommodations are met.

But the Dolphins, I'm told, aren't likely to make such accommodations.

Gamble thus becomes the third GM candidate the Dolphins have contacted that turned down an interview, joining Baltimore's Eric DeCosta and Seattle's Scott McCloughan. The Dolphins request to interview McCloughan was turned down by the Seahawks at his request, according to an NFL source.

The request to interview Gamble will basically just fade into forgotten Dolphins history but it bears mentioning that in failing to even get in front of him, the Dolphins will not be talking to someone highly respected around the league and someone who comes with a very strong recommendation from former Bills, Panthers and Colts general manager Bill Polian. 

Gamble will be an NFL GM someday. Just not in Miami.

Bill Lazor is Dolphins new OC

The Dolphins have hired Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor, The Miami Herald has confirmed.

Lazor, 41, has been well traveled during his 10-year coaching career but the only time he has called plays for an offense was in 2010-12 when he was the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia.

The Dolphins are getting a coach who likes to run and wants to run the West Coast offense. Lazor got his background running the offense when he served as the Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach under Mike Holmgren.

But Lazor can be something of a chameleon as well. He cut his teeth under Joe Gibbs system which was an offshoot of the Don "Air" Coryell system. That is a vertical passing attack. He also spent the last year under Chip Kelly and his fast attacking style.

Lazor has work to do. The Dolphins are tied for last in the NFL with the fewest games scoring 30 points or more the last two years. The team they're tied with? The Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Dolphins have not yet made the announcement of the hiring.

ESPN was the first to report the news. On Tuesday, ESPN reported Lazor was on his way to Detroit to become the Lions offensive coordinator. But the network is correct this time. Lazor has agreed to join the Dolphins.

Time for Dolphins OC search to make haste

Making a wise and thoughtful decision requires time. You typically don't go with the first contractor you call, you rarely marry the first girl you date and you shop around for the best deal on most things you buy. That is apparently how Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is conducting his search for an offensive coordinator.

Orderly. Methodically. Systematically.

Kind of how the Dolphins play, come to think of it.

And there's nothing wrong with that in a perfect world. But the world is not perfect. And the world is full of competition. And the Dolphins exist in that less perfect, competitive, cut-throat world.

And so what is definitely an orderly attempt to hire an offensive coordinator is now starting to look like something of a slow attempt to do so.

Consider that Miami announced the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Jan. 6 -- which is nine days ago. The Dolphins did not conduct their first OC interviews until Jan. 10, according to the team's own accounting of events.

So even if one ignores that Sherman was a pretty much a goner after the season ended Dec. 29 and Philbin had to know, sources close to math say it took the Dolphins four days before interviewing Eagles QB coach Bill Lazor and Redskins former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

It took eight days before Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo came to town to interview on Tuesday. And by the time McAdoo got here, he'd already reportedly interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their head coach job and the New York Giants for their offensive coordinator job.

And, by the way, the search for an offensive coordinator took the weekend off on Saturday and Sunday. 

Now, compare that to how other coaches who are looking for coordinators are doing business.

In Tennessee, Ken Whisenhunt was hired Monday and Tuesday it was reported by ESPN that John McNulty was "pretty much hired" as the OC. So that took one day.

Whisenhunt left the San Diego OC job on Monday and on Tuesday the Chargers promoted quarterback coach Frank Reich to OC.

One day.

Detroit's Jim Caldwell apparently works even faster. He was hired by the Lions Tuesday afternoon and by Tuesday evening there were reports from ESPN that Lazor was headed to Detroit to be the OC. Lazor, obviously, cannot serve as Dolphins OC if he's the Lions OC so that's that if ESPN's reporting is correct.

In Washington, Jay Gruden was named head coach January 9 (last Thursday) and within hours there were reports Sean McVay would become the OC. Those reports were accurate as McVay signed his new contract Tuesday.

The Bengals lost Gruden as their OC and within hours Cincinnati had a new OC in Hue Jackson.

The point is coaches are working fast to fill their staffs. And teams that are losing coaches to promotions are replacing them quickly because they feel they have candidates in-house capable and ready to step up.

The Dolphins so far are not working as quickly. And Philbin so far has looked elsewhere other than considering a promotion for quarterback coach Zac Taylor to the OC job.

(By the way, if your QB coach isn't ready to take the next step to OC when the opportunity presents, why is he your QB coach?)

Now, for the sake of being fair, it can be that slow and steady wins this race. (Yawn). The most optimistic of Dolphins fans are suggesting that just as the Dolphins passing on Matt Flynn a few years ago was the right thing to do, so was the passing on McAdoo and the others that have interviewed.

Maybe. Time will tell.

But from an outsider's perspective, I feel like I'm watching Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction -- yeah, look it up if you're too young. Like Uncle Joe, this search is moving kinda slow. It also seems to me there is one name out there that glows in neon and deserves not just consideration but a contract:

Gary Kubiak.

Kubiak, 52, was fired as the Texans head coach weeks ago and is hoping to land interest from either the Cleveland Browns or Minnesota Vikings as a head coach candidate. That hasn't happened so far.

(I use "so far" a lot in these posts because the NFL changes fast and the words here do not, so I have to let you know that this is not the Gospels.)

Anyway, Kubiak runs a West Coast offense, which is what Philbin wants to do. He's tutored great quarterbacks like Steve Young and John Elway and the Dolphins need such a tutor for Ryan Tannehill. Kubiak has won three Super Bowls as an assistant, so for a Dolphins staff that sorely needs pelts on the wall, that also makes sense. And, by the way, if you're interviewing Kyle Shanahan, why aren't you doing that with the man Mike Shanahan had as his offensive coordinator before young Kyle?

Speaking of interview, who needs an interview? I spit on interview. Call the guy. If he is open to coming and understands Philbin is the boss and he's the assistant, what the heck else does the Dolphins coach need to do, run a background search to see if he's an New York Jets spy?

Offer him the job. Hire him.



January 14, 2014

Ben McAdoo agrees to become NYG OC

Ben McAdoo, considered the most likely hire as the Dolphins next offensive coordinator, was not an easy man to get. Indeed, he's not going to be the Dolphins next OC at all.

McAdoo left the Dolphins facility moments ago, headed to the airport and agreed to become the next offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, per a source. The story was first reported by FOXSports1.

There is no doubt the reason McAdoo was able to get done so quickly is because he was increasingly in demand. Only moments before agreeing to terms with the Giants, he had other teams already eager to speak with him, as I reported on my twitter feed:

The Dolphins knew about McAdoo's interview with the New York Giants on Monday. But the interest from the Ravens was new.

Indeed, Baltimore put in a interview notice for McAdoo only hours ago after their OC Jim Caldwell accepted the job to become the Detroit Lions coach.

Here's the issue: I doubt the Dolphins knew of the Ravens interest and thus did not know of the building momentum to get McAdoo. But they knew of the Giants interest. And they let McAdoo leave the building without getting him.

I cannot tell you if they offered McAdoo the job on the spot or not. If they did, obviously McAdoo thought better of the opportunities in New York. If they did not, well, you snooze ... you lose.

Source: Dawson also impressive in interview

The Dolphins are pleased with their general manager search so far because 1. They believe they are identifying quality candidates and 2. Several candidates have so far been very good to exceptional in their interviews, according to various sources.

Include Lake Dawson as one of those impressive interviews.

Like Ray Farmer, which sources said over the weekend was the most impressive interview so far after his meeting with the team Saturday, Dawson similarly left a great impression following his interview on Sunday, according to a source familiar with the process.

Dawson is the Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel.

So for the time being, it seems Farmer and Dawson lead the pack of five candidates that have interviewed.

This is a constantly evolving dynamic. I am not saying either of these men will be the guy. I am saying both have put themselves in a good position compared to others who have already interviewed. I am giving you as close to a blow-by-blow account of what's happening as possible. This is not the final score, however.

(Reports that tried to piggyback off my Farmer report made a leap, wrongly suggesting I said the Dolphins had found their guy or the process was basically done. The process continues.)

Interestingly, this process puts to the test a habit of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross that I have heard from multiple people he simply cannot shake. Ross often seems to agree with, or fall in love with the latest person he speaks with.

"He'll talk to someone and think that person is great and five minutes later he'll talk to someone else and now that new person is great and he forgets the previous guy," one source said. "He does it all the time."

If that's the case, the candidates that have yet to interview might have unknowingly worked themselves into a great spot.

One of the interviews the Dolphins are trying to nail down, by the way, is for Atlanta director of player personnel Lionel Vital. I am told Vital comes with a strong recommendation that glows in neon: Bill Belichick.

Vital, it must be noted, is also being courted by Tampa Bay and is considered a very strong candidate.

To me, the Belichick recommendation is a two-edged sword. Yes, Belichick knows football and good football men. But it should not escape anyone that his interest is beating the Dolphins as he's done with regularity most of the past dozen or so years.

Also, Belichick can miss. I remind you of his recommendations of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel for head coaching jobs. 

Finally, the Dolphins today are interviewing Green Bay's Ben McAdoo for the vacant offensive coordinator job. McAdoo, who worked for several years with head coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay, is considered the favorite to land this job.

McAdoo has been Green Bay's tight ends and, lately, the quarterback coach but has never called plays. McAdoo recently interviewed with the New York Giants for their open OC job.

Brian Xanders also a GM candidate

The most obvious hole in the Dolphins general manager search so far had been experience. The team had looked away from multiple candidates who had been general managers in the past. Until now.

Brian Xanders, who served as the Denver general manager from 2009-2012, is expected to interview for the Dolphins job, according to ESPN.

Xanders is the Detroit Lions senior personnel director. He joined the club in 2013 after his situation under John Elway in Denver became untenable.

During his tenure as general manager, the Broncos won the AFC West in 2011 and 2012. 

The Broncos had nine starters from Xanders' draft classes, including three Pro Bowl players while Xanders was still on the job: LB Von Miller, WR Demaryius Thomas and OG Zane Beadles. The opening day roster of the 2013 Broncos had 18 starters from the 2008-12 draft classes.

Before joining the Broncos, Xanders worked 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons in various scouting, player personnel, and football operations roles. Xanders attended Florida State University.

Personnel men gather at Shrine game and talk Dolphins

Practices for the East-West Shrine game, which will be played Saturday, started on Monday and not surprisingly a lot of the talk among the men of the NFL scouting and personnel community included the Dolphins, their current search for a general manager, and rumors that have been swirling around the team.

Let's address some of those rumors and bring as much clarity as possible based on the latest reporting on the topics:

There have been whispers that San Francisco 49ers offensive consultant Eric Mangini might eventually have a position with the Dolphins -- either in personnel or some other way -- after the 49ers current playoff run is over.

Part of those came from league sources that know Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted to add Mangini to the organization after 2011 and that Executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte formed a bond with Mangini when both were with the Jets. Later, when Mangini went to Cleveland, Aponte joined him there. When he was fired, Aponte was also made aware she was no longer needed.

[Update: The Dolphins called to say Aponte left Cleveland one year before Mangini was fired.]

Well, I'm told by club sources Mangini is not an option "at this time" and his name has "so far" not come up in discussions for any position with the team.

Aponte's name has come up at the Shrine practices because, well, the NFL is a good ol' boys network and she's not part of the network. And there are questions about her role with the Dolphins going forward. The fact she is part of interview process has made some personnel people around the league wonder what role she'll serve in helping the next Miami general manager do his job picking talent.

Let's clear that up now as well: I'm told by multiple Dolphins people Aponte will have no personnel role. The general manager will oversee personnel and report to owner Stephen Ross. Interestingly, however, even as the GM won't answer to either Aponte or head coach Joe Philbin, the plan currently is they will not answer to him, either.

The fact there are rumors about this at the gathering of multiple scouts, general managers and others personnel people should not be ignored. Being on everyone's lips in this setting is not a good thing in this instance. The fact is although former general manager Jeff Ireland was not among the more well liked personnel men in the league, he was, good or bad, part of the so-called club. And the division between the Dolphins personnel department and coach Joe Philbin and Aponte is well known now. 

There's not a whole lot the Dolphins can do about this gossip among league people other than hire a legitimate new general manager, not extend the process too long, not drop the ball by having the top candidates decline the job, and then letting the man filling the vacancy do his work without drama.

(This is in everyone's best interest including Ross, who has had multiple unseemly episodes under his ownership including the soured relationship of Ireland and Tony Sparano and then Ireland and coach Joe Philbin. It's also in the best interest of Philbin and Aponte to make nice with the incoming GM because they failed to get along with the last one, so the next time they have an issue with anyone, it will seem more a reflection on them than the new general manager).

Another topic that has not escaped scrutiny at the Shrine gathering is the fact the Dolphins have completely dismissed experienced general managers in this process. The team has shown no apparent interest in interviewing former New England and Kansas City personnel man Scott Pioli, former San Diego general manager A.J. Smith, or former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.

The Dolphins clearly have focused in on wanting an "up and comer" or a  "star in the making," according to one team source.


The Dolphins conducted no interviews for either their general manager or offensive coordinator vacancies on Monday.

Finally, it seems personnel people around the league are watching closely to see who the Dolphins hire. The thinking is most young, hungry personnel men who want to be a GM would be eager to take the Miami interview if offered.

It is a commodity in a year only two GM jobs came open. But the issue is not who interviews.

League people are watching to see if the Dolphins can actually close the deal. Can they hire their guy once they identify him in the interviews?

Ross, little known in league circles despite owning the Dolphins since 2009, nonetheless has something of a reputation for not being able to close. That's ironic for a man who made billions in real estate.

Ross couldn't close the deal for Jim Harbaugh when he wanted him in 2011. He couldn't close the deal for Jeff Fisher when he offered him the head coach job in 2012. He could not close with fellow owners in trying to get a Super Bowl to South Florida. And, it turns out, he could barely get in the running for Peyton Manning when that sweepstakes was at its height -- with sources saying recently the Dolphins needed to rely on Dan Marino to ask Manning as a personal favor to take a meeting with the Dolphins.

So the question that lingers is once the Dolphins pick their top finalist for the general manager job, will they be able to do what is necessary to convince him to take the job? At that point, the power shifts from the interviewers to the finalist. At that point the finalist can begin to make demands and it doesn't necessarily have to do with just money.

Will the Dolphins be able to hire their leading candidate? Or will they have to decide on a second option -- like when they stayed with Sparano in 2011 and hired Philbin in 2012?

Stay tuned.  

January 13, 2014

Sources: Farmer 'most impressive' GM interview so far

When the Dolphins finally finish their first round of interviews for their vacant general manager job -- and there are still multiple interviews to go -- the club expects to pare down to two finalists and meet with both again for another round of interviews.

Expect Cleveland Browns assistant general manager Ray Farmer to be one of those finalists, barring a major surprise.

It seems Farmer, who interviewed on Saturday, has so far been "the most impressive" of the interviews the team has conducted, according to sources familiar with the process.

The Dolphins have interviewed Famer, in-house candidate Brian Gaine, Arizona's Jason Licht, Pittsburgh's Omar Khan, and Tennessee's Lake Dawson on Sunday.

More interviews are expected in the coming days including Philadelphia vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble, Falcons director of player personnel Lionel Vital, New York Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross and possibly others.

Multiple NFL sources familiar with the Dolphins' thinking say the team has other candidates whose teams remained in the playoffs through the divisional round which ended Sunday.

It is believed Seattle senior personnel executive Scot McCloughan, formerly the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, was on the Dolphins radar. One source said the Dolphins still would like to speak to him but his desire to take the interview is in question.

There could also be a mystery candidate, according to a source: San Francisco offensive senior consultant Eric Mangini. His name should not be eliminated, the source insisted, until one party or the other publicly says they're not interested.

Of the remaining candidates who have not been interviewed the two seen as a greatest threats to Farmer as the leading candidate are Ross and Gamble.

The interview process so far has been a success, according to various NFL sources.

Former Kansas City Chiefs president and GM Carl Peterson put together a credible list of candidates and has taken the lead in contacting those candidates. Executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte has been the team's liason with the league in requesting permission or putting in notification tickets for the candidates. And Ross has been present and engaged in every interview.

But there is one significant hole in the Dolphins interview team: Peterson has been out of the NFL since 2008 so the abundance of sources he once enjoyed around the league is much thinner now. Ross, who does not dedicate all his time to the running of his team, knows very few NFL people he can call to get outside information on candidates. And Aponte is a neophyte in the personnel part of the game and in judging personnel men.

So while the Dolphins can listen to what the candidates say about themselves, they don't have a wealth of "dirt," according to one NFL source, on each candidate that could balance out glowing resumes and references the candidates give them.

"Who was it that said, 'Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan?' " one NFL source asked rhetorically. "Well, they're getting told by some of these candidates stories about them standing on the table for particular guys and not wanting others. That happens all the time. The only way to corroborate those stories is to know other NFL people and be able to get an honest take on what those guys are claiming."

The interviews have so far taken place at the team's Davie, FL. practice facility but as practices for the East-West Shrine game are set to begin this week and personnel men attend those, the coming interviews may have to move to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. 

The Marc Ross interview, however, may take place in New York -- perhaps as early as Monday.

January 12, 2014

Miami Dolphins interview Lake Dawson for GM

The Dolphins today continued interviewing general manager candidates by hosting Tennessee Titans vice president of football operations Lake Dawson at the club's practice facility in Davie, FL, according to an NFL source.

Dawson played collegiately for Notre Dame. He was selected in third round of the 1994 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. The man who drafted him?

Then Kansas City general manager Carl Peterson, who is advising Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in his search for a general manager.

Dawson has spent seven seasons with the Titans, the past two in his current position. This from the Titans media guide:

"Dawson works alongside general manager Ruston Webster by managing day-to-day football operations with a primary focus on player personnel.  He is responsible for overseeing both the pro personnel and college scouting departments.

"A highly-respected talent evaluator, Dawson assists head coach Mike Munchak and the general manager with the team’s daily roster moves and all transactions via free agency and the annual NFL Draft.  He also scouts all levels of professional football, including the NFL, CFL and Arena Football League.  In addition to his various football operations responsibilities, he assists with contract negotiations. This past May, he participated in the NFL’s Career Development Symposium at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia."

Obviously, Munchak is now gone but the media guide has not been updated.

Ross is getting other help in this process. Club president Tom Garfinkel, RSE Ventures CEO and Ross advisor Matt Higgins, and club executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte are involved.

It is unknown if Dawson was the only interview today.

The Dolphins have released the names of their previous interviewees -- in-house candidate Brian Gaine, Cleveland's Ray Farmer, Pittsburgh's Omar Khan and Arizona's Jason Licht. When they release the name or names of today's interview's I'll update this post.

[Update: The Dolphins announced Dawson was Sunday's only interview.]