It's on Stephen Ross. All of it.
He hired this coach. He has hired this general manager. He has hired the Dolphins new President and CEO. All that stuff about inheriting people like Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano is out the window now. For the first time since he's owned the Dolphins, Ross actually owns the team of people that will take the Dolphins to heights or keep them at their current level of mediocrity and NFL irrelevance.
It is all on him.
And Ross is apparently quite comfortable with that because he obviously believes he's got the right people on the job. As I write in my column in The Herald today, Ross had plenty of chances to get rid of Jeff Ireland after 2011 when he jettisoned Sparano.
And at least one candidate for the general manager vacancy asked Ross to remake the team as a condition of being hired over the weekend. And Ross remained oddly loyal to his people, most notably Joe Philbin.
Do I agree with that loyalty?
I think the owner's loyalty must be to the brand and his fans first and foremost and his coach and employees after that. And if someone isn't helping that brand, he or she is hurting that brand. I guess I ascribe to the Genghis Kahn school of NFL ownership.
And having graduated from that school summa cum laude I would now be looking around the room if I were Ross and figuring out who is helping my brand and who is diminishing it. And whoever is diminishing it gets pushed into the shadows.
So let's go through the exercise.
Carl Peterson: He is a longtime Ross advisor and confidant. He led in identifying and pushing of many of these candidates. But I'm looking at him sideways now because while he convinced Ross and others that Ray Farmer and Lake Dawson were quality GM candidates, he didn't seem to have much pull with either man. Farmer, named a finalist, didn't even take a second interview. Dawson, another finalist, took the interview but, as I detail here, didn't take the job. Nice work, Carl! Unless Peterson identified Dennis Hickey and Hickey turns into a stud of a GM, fake owner Salguero isn't feeling all this love for this trusted advisor going forward.
President and CEO Tom Garfinkel: I get the feeling he's going to be wielding a lot more power within the organization going forward, and I'm not thinking it'll be limited to the business side of the organization. Unlike Mike Dee before him who was not included in interviews for coaching candidates and thus couldn't save the process, Garfinkel was intimately involved in the search for the GM. His was apparently a stabilizing voice in the room. Yes, he is a strong Ross advocate. Obviously. But I have a feeling he sees the process was not pristine by any measure. He recognizes need for improvement.
Executive VP of football administration Dawn Aponte: I'm told many of the candidates came into their interviews wary of Aponte. Understandably, I might add. She reportedly had her issues with a GM in Cleveland. She definitely had her issues with GM Jeff Ireland in Miami. But once the candidates got to understanding Aponte's role, she sunk into the background. She was not the reason, at least not the primary reason, either Nick Caserio or Dawson declined the job. Now, fake owner Salguero would not have included her in the interview process at all because, as the Dolphins describe it, she will be answering to the GM on salary cap matters going forward. If that is true, what kind of backward set-up allows a subordinate to interview a potential supervisor? Strange.
Head coach Joe Philbin: He should be feeling pretty good about himself right now. Ross stuck with him. Showed loyalty to him. Is convinced he's the right guy to coach the team. He emerges with the most valuable of endorsements -- one proven by actions. But it should be understood that during interviews when Ross was asked by at least one candidate what he (the candidate) would be able to do after the 2014 season if the Dolphins didn't play well, the answer was not, "Joe Philbin is staying no matter what." The answer was, "We'll handle that situation if and when it arrives." So loyalty from the owner has to continue to be earned.
Assistant GM Brian Gaine: This one has to hurt. Gaine was the only finalist who was not offered the job. I'm told he is considering his options and future, including leaving the organization. Hickey will make a call on trying to keep him or not. Look, would fake owner Salguero have hired Gaine as GM? No. He's been a leader in the personnel regime that was just fired. But does fake owner Salguero try to move heaven and Earth to try to keep Gaine? To make Gaine feel whole? To convince Hickey to keep Gaine? You betcha. Brian Gaine is a quality person. He's a good personnel man. He helps the brand. And that should keep him with the Dolphins if the owner is trying to keep good people.