Will Miami Dolphins’ Organizational Structure Hinder GM Search?

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The Miami Dolphins, fresh off another disappointing season, will soon hire a new GM to replace the departed Jeff Ireland. The team is expected to release a list of every candidate it will interview for the vacancy with some names having already been leaked.

But will owner Stephen Ross have to settle for the runt of the litter given the way his organization is constructed? Will speculation of dysfunction and rumored power struggles during past tenures scare away the most qualified?

Ross cleared up some of the mystery on Thursday night by releasing a statement that detailed what the opening will entail and who the eventual hire will answer to. There was some fear that the new GM would work under head coach Joe Philbin and Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte. If that was the case, the new GM would essentially be a glorified scout who wouldn’t have the freedom to build the roster his way.

That won’t be the case, though. Ross claims the new GM will only answer to him, meaning Philbin and Aponte won’t have the ability to overrule signings, trades or draft selections. However, Ross also made it clear that the GM won’t have the power to hire and fire members of the coaching staff as he pleases. Many GMs around the NFL do have this power, and some Dolphins fans are concerned that without it the most accomplished candidate won’t bite.

Despite this, there are many reasons to believe the opening is coveted in league circles. The Dolphins were only one win away from the playoffs in 2013 and quite possibly already have the long-term answer at quarterback in hand with Ryan Tannehill. Instant success isn’t a far-fetched ambition.

Having the final say on the 53-man roster but not the coaching staff isn’t atypical either. Not every GM in the NFL has the power to hire and fire coaches at will. And I, for one, fully expect Philbin to enter a make-or-break season in 2014. If the Dolphins stumble to another disappointing campaign, I believe he will be fired. In that scenario, the new GM would likely have a major say in who the next coach is. So, while he wouldn’t have the authority to fire Philbin immediately, he certainly could still get his chance to pick a coach in the future.

Sure, the coaching staff and GM working alongside one another leaves the Dolphins vulnerable for an internal dispute. Philbin and Ireland clearly didn’t get along, so there’s certainly a possibility that the new GM also won’t see eye-to-eye with the head coach. But to assume there will be discord is unnecessarily stirring up drama before any occurs.

Most front offices and coaching staffs around the league work together quite peacefully, even those whose organizational model mirrors that of Miami’s. There’s a reason Ireland was let go; he just wasn’t very good at his job. Repeated misses in free agency and the draft obviously fractured the trust of Philbin, Aponte and every member of the organization. Few would sit contentedly as Ireland jeopardized the future of the franchise and everyone in it with every signing and draft choice.

Isn’t it possible that a competent GM would have Philbin and Aponte’s trust? Isn’t it possible that they would steer clear of a GM whom they respected? Isn’t it possible that the problem was Ireland, and now that problem is gone?

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Ross will land a GM far superior to Ireland. But, in my opinion, it would take a pretty big whiff not to.

It’s easy to criticize and be skeptical of the Dolphins. Choking away what seemed to be an almost certain playoff berth in 2013 only assured that Miami would remain a trendy team to poke fun at. Those who adopt the pile-on mentality, in which everything follows suit with a particular train of thought, are sure to rip the team for any and everything.

Many of the complaints against the Dolphins are valid. There’s a reason, after all, they missed out on the postseason for the fifth consecutive year. But not everything they do has to be labeled dysfunctional just to appease a need to delineate their shortcomings on the field.

The Dolphins’ GM opening remains a position many well-respected NFL executives want. It’s just up to Ross to make the right choice.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.


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