The Dolphins yesterday formally introduced new GM Dennis Hickey, who "didn’t seem bothered that two others rejected the job before him, and that at least four others declined interviews," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. Hickey will have "final say on the 53-man roster." But he but said that he "will consult" with coach Joe Philbin on personnel decisions. Owner Stephen Ross "believed the disagreements" between Philbin and former GM Jeff Ireland regarding playing time, personnel decisions and other issues "were destructive." Ross said, "I have a lot of confidence in Jeff. He’s a good friend. We needed to have harmony in the organization and think as one organization where everyone has respect for each other and operate with the same mind-set in all situations." Sources said that Patriots Dir of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and Titans VP/Player Personnel Lake Dawson "turned down the job because they wanted the authority to fire the coach whenever they chose." Asked why he insisted on retaining that power, Ross said, “I own the team. Let’s start there.” He added that he "doesn’t understand why some candidates were confused about the organizational structure." Ross: “I was pretty clear in the structure. Not an unusual structure. General manager reports to me. Coach reports to me" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/29). Ross said that he was "not concerned that Hickey isn’t familiar to Dolphins fans." Ross: “Just because you’re a big name doesn’t mean you’re going to win. It’s putting together the right kind of organization and growing together" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/29).
WAIT AND SEE APPROACH: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes Hickey "may become the greatest general manager this team ever had," but the "truth is he was the team's fourth GM choice, at best." Hyde: "And, besides, fans are numb from the parade of hopefuls over the last decade standing in the exact spot he did at his introductory news conference and say much of what he did. ... When's the last time the Dolphins made a decision at the top that made you cheer?" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/29). Also in Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly wrote what Ross "lacks is clout inside the football community, a track record of success, and good advisers who have football knowledge and connections." It is "impossible to not notice Ross can't land his big fish time after time." Kelly: "However, I respect Ross for the fact he's usually swinging for the fence. I'd rather an owner go that route than do what Tampa Bay and Jacksonville have done the past decade" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/28). In Miami, Greg Cote writes the hire "wasn’t just about how Hickey will shape the roster." It was about a "beleaguered NFL franchise trying to get on that proverbial 'same page'" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/29).
AS FOR THAT BULLYING THING: Ross said that special investigator Ted Wells' report on the Dolphins' bullying scandal "will be released after the Super Bowl." But the SUN-SENTINEL's Kelly writes Ross "doesn't seem too concerned about the details of the drama" that led to OT Jonathan Martin's departure from the team, and G Richie Incognito's eight-game suspension. Ross said, "I've been [in] communication with the NFL and I've spoken with Ted Wells, who is handling the investigation. I don't know exactly what his conclusions (are), but based on my conversations ... when it comes out we'll do what has to be done. In my mind I know what direction we're going. Stay tuned." He added, "The respect we gained by how we handled the situation that took place here says an awful lot about this organization, and about the people who are running it" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/29).
The NBA Kings yesterday told season-ticket holders that prices "will go up next season," with news "disclosed in emails" unveiling the team's final renderings for their proposed downtown arena, according to Dale Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Several season-ticket holders said that they were "informed their tickets will go up" by 9%. Kings President Chris Granger said that some tickets "won’t go up at all, and others will go up anywhere between $1 and $50 a game." He added that this is the "first increase in five years and is justified by the rise in attendance at Sleep Train Arena this season." Granger: "The prices will still be lower than they were in 2008." He added that the increases include a 5% surcharge "to accelerate repayment" of the $62M debt the Kings owe the city (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/29).
IF YOU DON'T BUILD IT...: In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes what is missing in the debate over the Kings' new arena "is an acknowledgment that there is no other real or tangible proposed deal between the Kings and Sacramento." The $258M the city is slated to contribute to the arena is "a lot of money for the city to invest in remaking the Downtown Plaza," and there are "risks involved in paying down the debt over the next decade." Breton: "But what are the real consequences of spurning the deal? Losing the Kings, having Sleep Train Arena as a fading asset -- and a dead downtown mall" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/29).
The CFL Toronto Argonauts “could be sold within a matter of weeks," either to MLSE or company Chair Larry Tanenbaum, according to sources cited by David Naylor of TSN.ca. Talks between Argonauts and B.C. Lions Owner David Braley and MLSE have “heated up in recent months to the point that the MLSE board, which includes Tanenbaum as well as representatives from Bell and Rogers, was asked to vote during December on acquiring the CFL team.” While the board “could not agree on the matter, there remains the possibility that MLSE could revisit buying the team or that Tanenbaum himself may purchase it.” Being sold to Tanenbaum or MLSE would “make the Argos part of the plan for a redesigned BMO Field, thus solving their need to build a new home from scratch” when they vacate Rogers Centre after the ‘17 season. Having the Argos as a second tenant at BMO Field could “help MLSE's drive to secure investment from government to redevelop the stadium, which is a publicly-owned facility operated by MLSE exclusively for soccer at this time.” This is not the first time MLSE has “looked at a potential Argo purchase.” The Argos had been “offered up to MLSE when the team was owned by David Cynamon and Howard Sololowski,” who sold to Braley in February '10 (TSN.ca, 1/28). In Toronto, Kurtis Larson noted BMO's field dimensions would “need to be expanded to accommodate a much larger CFL grid, potentially pushing" MLS Toronto FC fans "further away from the field” (TORONTO SUN, 1/29).
TIM TALKS: In Toronto, Zoe McKnight noted MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke last night "may have hinted at a future deal" between MLSE and the Argos during a “candid speech.” Leiweke has previously said that MLSE is “interested in paying for an expansion of city-owned BMO Field, and soon, to include a partial roof and more seats.” He said last night that he would be “willing to share the refurbished field with a CFL team.” Leiweke: “We’re going to spend $120 million to build an English Premier (League)-style stadium, with a roof that covers the seats. ... Yeah, there are rumours there may be a CFL solution, but we’ll do it in a way you’ll never know there’s a CFL team when you’re there for a soccer game, and you’ll never know there’s a soccer team when you’re there for a CFL game. It’s engineering and we can fix that.” He added, “I think giving fans an opportunity to go see an Argos game outdoors in a stadium with a roof that covers the seat, in a 30,000-seat environment, with real grass, is awesome, and it will help turn that franchise around. So we’re going to start with that. There’s no way the NFL comes here without the CFL being unbelievably successful first.” McKnight noted MLSE and the CFL declined to comment further. Argos Chair & CEO Chris Rudge said that while he “couldn’t comment on any deal between the team’s owner and MLSE, he’d be happy to play at BMO Field” (THESTAR.com, 1/28).
Browns President Alec Scheiner said that the team has "discussed at length dynamic pricing." Scheiner: "We really haven't made a decision yet. But it probably will not be this year" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 1/28). Meanwhile, the Packers on Monday said that they "will not use variable ticket pricing." But Packers Dir of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey yesterday said that the team will "monitor how variable pricing works for other teams" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 1/29).
ASK NOT WHAT BROWN CAN DO...: In Cleveland, Jeff Darcy wrote Browns Assistant GM Ray Farmer's decision to turn down the Dolphins GM job "may prove to be as important to the Browns future as the hiring of Mike Pettine as head coach." Farmer turning down a job that "would have been a promotion and advance minority presence in the upper ranks of NFL management, obviously begs the question, why?" Darcy wrote knowing Farmer is there "as potential check and balance" to CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi makes him "less uneasy about future Browns draft, free-agent and roster moves" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/28).
ALL ABOARD THE RYAN EXPRESS? In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted former MLB Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan yesterday had a "productive visit" with Astros Owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow, leaving Minute Maid Park with a "commitment to decide before spring training whether to rejoin the club." Ryan’s "potential duties with the Astros aren’t completely set, but it’s clear" that he is "intrigued by the opportunity to work" with his son, Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan. Nolan Ryan said, "I visited with (Crane) and Jeff on what the role would be. I told them I'd give it a thought and I'd get back to them in the near future" (CHRON.com, 1/28).
CHECK ENGINE LIGHT: In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes it is "not surprising" the Pistons are "again a dysfunctional mess with disjointed pieces that can’t properly mesh until other roster moves are made." There is "no shortage of blame for yet another season falling into irrelevance." Pistons Owner Tom Gores "set this nonsense in motion, creating a playoffs-or-else ultimatum this season." Gores should "hold himself accountable for wrongly creating an illusion of urgency" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/29).