After much anticipation, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on Thursday spelled out what he’s looking for in a general manager.
The short version: Someone to do Jeff Ireland’s job — just do it better.
After a week of speculation that Ross might strip his next GM of power, Ross pledged to give Ireland’s replacement the same authority his predecessor had — autonomous control over the roster and the draft.
And, importantly, the new general manager will report directly to Ross — not executive vice president Dawn Aponte or coach Joe Philbin, as some around the league feared. However, it does not appear that the next general manager will have power to fire either Aponte or Philbin.
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“Regardless of reporting structure, the relationship between the general manager and Coach Philbin must be one of trust, respect, and collaboration, and this will be an area we will look closely at during the process,” Ross said in a statement released Thursday night. “This individual also must be a person with integrity who is open-minded and creative.”
The Dolphins have lined up at least six candidates. Ross will lead the interviews, which will begin Friday. Former Kansas City Chiefs president and Ross confidante Carl Peterson has agreed to serve as an adviser during the process.
However, Peterson will not have a role with the organization once the next general manager is picked.
“I’ve known Steve for a long time and I know that no one wants to bring a winner to Miami more than he does,” Peterson said.
“I look forward to advising Steve through this search, and I am confident that he will add an outstanding candidate with a proven track record in talent evaluation to the Dolphins.”
While the team has yet to release a list of candidates, the Miami Herald has confirmed four of the Dolphins’ targets: Brian Gaine, Ray Farmer, Lake Dawson and Marc Ross, high-ranking personnel minds with the Dolphins, Browns, Titans and Giants, respectively.
Furthermore, ESPN reported that Omar Khan, the Steelers’ director of football administration, and Cardinals vice president of player personnel Jason Licht also have been contacted by the Dolphins. The Dolphins also reached out to Saints personnel director Ryan Pace, but New Orleans denied permission for them to interview, Fox Sports reported.
One significant name left off that list: Eagles executive Tom Gamble, who was reportedly a top target of the Dolphins earlier in the week. As of Thursday night, the team had not contacted Gamble for an interview.
Along with the pecking order, Ross spelled what the team wanted in a general manager.
Priority No. 1, Ross, said, was a “passion for the game and demonstrated player-evaluation expertise.”
Ross added that the candidate must be “a person who is a collaborative team player that puts the organization first” — significant, considering a clash of personalities between Ireland and Philbin and Aponte helped create this very job opening.
The Dolphins won’t need to travel far to interview Gaine, Miami’s assistant general manager who remained with the team even after Ireland’s dismissal.
A true NFL grinder, Gaine worked his way up from a college scout with the Jets 15 years to a top talent evaluator with the Dolphins.
Farmer worked under both Peterson and Scott Pioli, who has ties to Aponte, in Kansas City before becoming the Browns’ assistant GM last year. He is seen as a rising star.
Dawson, meanwhile, just finished his seventh season with the Titans and second as the team’s vice president of player personnel.
Licht began his career with the Dolphins in the mid-1990s, serving as a coaching assistant and then a quality control coach.
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.