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?