SBD/January 8, 2014/Franchises

Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland Departs Team, As His Six-Year Tenure Criticized By Fans

Dolphins are expected to look outside franchise to find replacement for Ireland
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland's six-year run in the position ended yesterday, concluding a tenure that "featured no playoff appearances in the past five seasons, numerous personnel decisions that backfired and heavy criticism from frustrated fans," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. A source said that Ireland "was going to lose much, if not all, of his decision-making power" if he did not agree to mutually part ways. Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross intended to hire an exec "with personnel authority over Ireland, a situation that was not acceptable to Ireland." Ross "immediately will begin a search" for a new GM.  He "intends to keep coach Joe Philbin, but Philbin is not expected to assume considerably more responsibility in personnel evaluation." Ross "likes" Dolphins Assistant GM Brian Gaine, "who was not fired, but the Dolphins are expected to look outside the building" for a new top personnel exec. Ross "also values" Dolphins Exec VP/Football Administration Dawn Aponte, but she "is not expected to be given authority on the player personnel side." Ross "told Ireland several weeks ago that his job was safe, but Ross was upset by the team failing to make the playoffs." Moreover, a source said that there also was "growing tension between Ireland and Philbin" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/8). NFL Network's Jeff Darlington noted the "goal of the organization" is to keep Philbin, Gaine and Aponte, then "hire an overseeing power that can come in and serve as more of a football czar" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 1/7). In Ft. Lauderdale, Chris Perkins in a front-page piece reports Ireland's departure is the "biggest indication yet that Ross ... is serious about changing the fortunes of his floundering organization." Only the Dolphins and Buccaneers currently have GM vacancies, and it is "assumed the Dolphins' new general manager will have final say on personnel decisions, which makes it a more attractive job" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/8).

A COVETED POSITION, UNLESS...: CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora wrote the Dolphins' GM position could be "one of the more coveted openings in a while, but with a major caveat being whether the job will entail final say on player transactions." Sources said that Ross is "contemplating a restructuring where a new general manager would report to Aponte, and not the owner, and thus she would truly head football operations." Furthermore, sources said that Aponte "would strongly consider" candidates she worked with while in the Jets' front office, such as former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. Sources added that if this proves to be the case, then "many of the well qualified candidates from other organizations would not participate in the process ... with them having great trepidation about that structure and their ability to do their job" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/7). In West Palm Beach, Andrew Abramson notes in addition to Aponte, RSE Ventures CEO Matt Higgins also "previously worked for the Jets" and has ties to Tannenbaum. Steelers Dir of Football & Business Administration Omar Khan also has "been mentioned" as a potential candidate (PALM BEACH POST, 1/8). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes Ross should "centralize the power in the best football mind available." Hyde: "Get someone with experience for any pro franchise's most important position, which the guy picking the players is." Former Colts GM Bill Polian "fits the mold of what the Dolphins need," as he is a "strong, football mind with championship experience." Hyde writes of Pioli and Tannenbaum, "See what they learned. Maybe they're off training wheels and ready to succeed" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/8).

THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN: In Miami, Armando Salguero reports during the Dolphins' final two games of the season, both losses, Ireland "watched from the press box or a club suite and complained about the job the coaches were doing." Aponte "heard Ireland’s complaints," and she "told Philbin of Ireland’s complaints word for word." That is how the relationship between Philbin and Ireland "broke." The reason "all this dirty drama and office politics matters is because the Dolphins now have a reputation around the NFL." Salguero: "Not a good one, by the way. ... while Ross has good intentions and is looking for the best and brightest talent evaluator to replace Ireland, more drama almost certainly awaits." If Ross tells a candidate they "must work under Philbin and Aponte instead of alongside or even over them, would the best candidates still be interested?" If they are not, "we’re likely to resort to more drama and office politics" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/8).

IS THERE A PLAN? In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda writes following Ireland's ouster, the "assumption is that the Dolphins have a plan," but "is it naïve to think so?" The franchise might be "trying to figure out things on the fly without regard to timing or sequence, because it sure looks as though that’s the case." That is "no way to run a business." Stoda: "Despite doing the right thing by cutting ties with Ireland, the Dolphins still come off looking confused, if not downright dysfunctional" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/8). In Miami, Greg Cote in a front-page piece writes Ross "did something very popular in parting ways" with Ireland. The "bold if somewhat expected stroke is more than a move of which fans will approve," and it "is justified." But the "problem that remains" is whether fans "trust these Dolphins -- either Ross in particular or the club in general -- to make great hires and positively jump-start this thing?" What "matters now is what's next," which brings up the question: "Is there a plan" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/8).
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