Concerns over the Miami Dolphins’ front office power structure are very real, and apparently cost the team one of its leading candidates — if not the front-runner altogether — for its general manager job.
Ray Farmer, seen as the likely successor to Jeff Ireland by many both inside and outside of the search, has removed his name from the running. Browns CEO Joe Banner told reporters Thursday night that Farmer, currently the Browns’ assistant GM, will remain in Cleveland.
That’s a remarkable turnaround in the course of 24 hours, when many believed he would end up in Miami.
Another candidate who sat for an interview believed Thursday that Farmer would get the job because Carl Peterson, who's running the search, is said to be enamored with him.
John Wooten, who heads an organization committed to promoting minority coaching and general manager candidates, explained Farmer’s reluctance to participate in a second interview.
“He has reservations about the structure of the Dolphins,” Wooten said. “He’s not certain who would be running things, whether it would be him or someone else. I told him the only way you can find out is to take the second interview and get the answer.”
Farmer ultimately rejected Wooten’s advice.
Farmer’s main issue is with the amount of power Stephen Ross has granted executive vice president Dawn Aponte, according to a source close to the situation.
Multiple candidates have complained privately that they can’t get a straight answer that they wouldn’t have to report to Aponte. That would apparently run counter to what Ross said at the outset of the search, when he pledged that the new GM would have control of the roster and report directly to the owner.
Furthermore, Aponte’s control over the budget could affect who the next general manager would be able to re-sign or target in free agency.
Ross has said that he wants a candidate who is comfortable as a team player. Ireland had issues with Aponte and coach Joe Philbin late in the 2013 season, ultimately contributing to Ireland’s departure.
Brian Gaine and Lake Dawson apparently are fine with the situation. Both have agreed to a final round of interviews, the Miami Herald has learned.
Gaine should come as no surprise; most believed he would be a finalist after leading the Dolphins’ operation at the Senior Bowl this week. He’s Miami’s assistant general manager who remained in place even after Ireland’s departure.
Dawson is a more of a curve ball. However, the Titans’ vice president of player personnel is said to have had an impressive interview when he met with Ross two weeks ago.
Dawson, 42, also benefits from his ties to Peterson, who took the then-wide receiver in the third round of the NFL Draft in 1994. Dawson played six seasons in the league before joining the Seahawks‘ front office in 2001.
In Tennessee, Dawson also has served as director of college scouting and vice president of football operations.
The Dolphins also could consider Buccaneers director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, who also interviewed well.
Jason Licht, who the Dolphins wanted back as a finalist, became unavailable after taking the Tampa Bay GM job.
Even before the Farmer development, Miami already had four prospective candidates decline even a preliminary interview.
One league source acutely familiar with personnel matters endorsed Gaine as the best of the bunch that remains.
Miami Herald sportswriters Armando Salguero and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.