The Dolphins and Dan Marino have been talking about a job with the organization for more than a year, and yes, the topic has intensified (at least to the public) because CBS fired Marino in February and, as predicted, everyone assumed the proverbial son would return home once his time on national TV had ended.
But despite a face-to-face meeting between Marino and club owner Stephen Ross in April, which The Herald's Barry Jackson first reported, nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet.
Dan Marino may someday again work for the Dolphins.
... Or he might not.
Why the uncertainty?
Well, I guess to hire someone you have to have a job available to them. And then that person has to want that job.
And Marino and the Dolphins seem to be floating in a netherworld of not quite there on either front.
The Dolphins would love for Marino to rejoin the organization. But it is quite clear they want him as what he naturally seems to be -- a face for the franchise that is recognizable and respected and a reminder of how good things used to be.
(Playoffs almost every season is much better than no playoffs every season).
Such a position does not require a lot of preparation. Such a position does not require a fulltime, breakneck commitment. Such a position is a great fit for Marino.
And I commend the Dolphins, specifically club president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, for seeing that fit.
Marino doesn't seem to be sold on that fit. He seems to want to be more than a marketing tool that is trotted out at events and then set back in the shadows when real football business is handled. Marino apparently would like some actual power.
The problem is Marino is not currently suited for a role that includes any power. He's not ready to be a coach. He's not ready to be a general manager. He's not ready to be team president. Just as importantly, the Dolphins power bureaucracy is saturated as it is.
And then there is this: No one is certain exactly how much desire Marino has for putting in exceedingly long hours. I'm certain if this 52-year-old man wanted to work hard and long and be away from his family and commit, he would be an amazing success at whatever position he wanted to fill.
But there is no surety about that commitment at this point.
And so Marino is not hired yet.
In truth, if the commitment hurdle could be crossed, Marino could turn into a major asset for Ross if the owner would read the next few paragraphs carefully:
Dan Marino would be perfect as the owner's eyes and ears. Call him the special advisor to the owner.
Remember that Ross is an absentee owner. Like it or not, the Dolphins are one of his business ventures, but not his primary business venture. Like it or not, the Dolphins are more a billion-dollar hobby. Ross lives in New York. He works in real estate. And he dabbles as an owner.
That's simply the truth.
Ross relies on the people he has hired to run the Dolphins. He relies on coach Joe Philbin. He relies on general manager Dennis Hickey. He relies on executive vice president Dawn Aponte. On the business side he relies on Garfinkel. He relies on advisor Matt Higgins.
And none of that is any different as any other NFL owner except that Ross is absentee. He's not around the team on a day-to-day basis. He does not witness firsthand what is happening. He is a commander-in-chief who relies on his generals to report to him.
Sometimes generals have an agenda. And that agenda is always keeping their job and staying in good favor. Sometimes the commander-in-chief is simply out of the loop.
That is how a general manager and a head coach can go almost an entire year losing respect for one another and much of a season not speaking and it festers until one of them is gone.
So what I propose is inserting Marino into the gap Ross needs to fill between knowing what is actually happening within his organization and what he's told is happening within his organization.
I would turn Marino loose and have him sit in on meetings, talk to the coaches, hear what they think and are planning. And then once he sees the results of those plans and what actually is happening on the field, report to Ross what actually went right ... and wrong.
I would turn Marino loose over the personnel department and let him ask questions. What's Hickey's vision? What are the issues he's concerned about? How is he addressing them? Who is he trying to sign? Who is he planning on discarding? And then when we see how that vision translates to reality, he could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.
I would turn Marino loose over the cap and the legal matters Aponte oversees. What is her vision for handling the coming Mike Pouncey extension, especially given the fact Pouncey seems to have some maturity issues? What is her strategy for handling the coming Ryan Tannehill second contract? Why aren't the first three draft picks signed yet? What was her legal advise on the firing of multiple people who are now threatening to sue? And then when we see how that strategy and vision play out, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.
I would turn Marino loose in the locker room, where he would already have a ton of respect based on his credentials and history. If the vets are tired late in the season and need to lighten up in practice, he'd know. If the players don't trust the trainer, he'd know. If the players come in drunk or hung over to practice (it has happened on multiple occasions the past four years), he'd know. And then when we see how locker room issues affect the performance of the players on the field, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.
(Who knows, he might even be able to head off some problems if they're addressed early enough).
Eyes and ears.
Without any agenda. Without fear of having to say what he feels the owner wants to hear to keep his job.
That's what Marino could provide. Frankly, someone like Jason Taylor could similarly fill that role.
After I gave a brief outline for this role on my twitter account (you should follow me), some people called the job I propose one as a snitch.
That's a crass way of looking at it. The role is meant to increase the level of accountability throughout the organization -- and boy, has it needed it the past decade. The role is one that reports the good news as well as the bad. The role can help the team when its heading toward a ditch similar to last year's harassment scandal. The role can help fairy tale stories about what is going on get brushed away but what is true and accurate.
The role could help Ross be a better owner.
Would that role require an investment in time from Marino? Of course. That's why it's called work.
But it would not require the Hall of Famer keeping coaches hours. He doesn't have to meet with everyone every day. He doesn't have to sit in every meeting. But game plan meeting? Big draft meetings? The meetings where the grand strategy is crafted? Of course.
Marino could work smart hours rather than long hours. Oh yeah, and instead of traveling to New York every week for a pregame show, he'd travel only when the Dolphins are on the road or only to the Senior Bowl and Indianapolis Combine.
By God, people in the media travel to those events for a fraction of what Marino would make.
But what the person in that role could provide might prove invaluable.