DAVIE (CBSMiami) – With Senior Bowl practices underway and teams beginning to identify players for the NFL Draft and free agency, the Miami Dolphins continue to operate without any direction and without a general manager or recognizable power structure.
The Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, is the unofficial kickoff of the scouting season. While Miami has representatives in Mobile; for a team in desperate need of help at several key positions, the lack of leadership is catching other teams’ attention and that of potential general manager candidates.
At least two candidates said they still don’t understand how the power structure inside the franchise will operate. Previously, owner Stephen Ross had said the general manager would report to him directly, but candidates told nationalfootballpost.com that was not made clear.
“Maybe they’re waiting for the second interview to lay it all out, but they were completely non-committal about how it was going to work,” one candidate told NFP.com. “I honestly don’t know if you answer to the owner or to (vice-president of football administration Dawn Aponte. It’s all really unclear.”
The problems with the Dolphins surround how much power Aponte, and by association head coach Joe Philbin have inside the team. Aponte handles contract negotiations and that in turn puts her in direct control of the salary cap.
According to multiple reports, Philbin and Aponte were aligned together and that was part of what led to the ousting of former general manager Jeff Ireland. Aponte reportedly heard Ireland complaining about coaching and told Philbin and the relationships deteriorated from there with Ireland.
“If you have three people all at the same level, you’re going to have one taking sides and that’s going to create problems,” a candidate told NFP.com of the Aponte/Philbin power structure.
Further complicating problems is Philbin’s job security overall. Most of the time, a general manager is hired first and then brings in a coach to take the franchise in a new direction. However, the general manager coming in to Davie will have a coach on a one-year, win or else plan.
If the Dolphins struggle next season, will the general manager have the power to get rid of said coach and in that case, how much power does Aponte to retain over the hiring of a new coach.
According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, the search for a new general manager will continue and shows no signs of ending in the coming weeks. The Dolphins reportedly plan to interview more candidates in the first round of interviews.
But, the Dolphins have also been rejected by several high-profile NFL executives who have chosen to stay with their current teams rather than interview for the general manager job in Miami.
The Herald reported that the Dolphins’ general manager candidates and the entire 2013 season in general has “been the talk of the town” in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.
The man at the top of the Dolphins’ food chain, Ross, is currently out of the country for at least a week while visiting London and China. He’s also not commented publicly to the media about the status of the general manager search.
All of it has put the Dolphins behind the proverbial eight-ball as teams begin to ramp up scouting and free agency preparations. And all of the issues the Fins are dealing with don’t even address the lack of talent on the field at several key positions.
The Dolphins salary cap will also have to be addressed quickly as several players have large cap hits that will have to be managed. At the top of the list is the contract of receiver Mike Wallace who is owed $17 million in base salary this year alone.
In addition, players like Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler now seem worth far more than the players were able to deliver on the field last season.
Plus, the offensive line is a complete mess with only one starter from last season considered a quality starter in the NFL, center Mike Pouncey.
The Dolphins are a mess heading into a crucial offseason that could determine the fate of the team for another 4-5 years. All Fins fans can do is hope the mess can be cleaned up quickly and a consistent winner can emerge from the confusion.