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.