The Miami Dolphins' general manager search has rolled on for two weeks since the "mutual" departure of former GM Jeff Ireland, but it seems that search is reaching its final stages. According to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald, the leading finalists are Browns assistant general manager Ray Farmer and Dolphins assistant GM Brian Gaine.
The question is: Which one is the right one? The answer may have already been given to us, by owner Stephen Ross himself.
"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 at the beginning of the search.
If the Dolphins want someone to shake things up, Farmer is the smart choice; however, if they are searching for stability and a smooth line of communication between the GM and head coach Joe Philbin, Gaine is the guy.
It may seem like a surprise for Gaine to even be a candidate since he worked under Ireland in his six years with the team, but Gaine is more of a Bill Parcells protegé than an Ireland protegé. The University of Maine alum spent time on both the Giants' and Jets' practice squads before joining the Jets scouting department in 1999 under Parcells. He then joined Parcells in Dallas in 2005, and again jumped ship when Parcells joined the Dolphins in 2008.
Since then, he has served on both the pro and college side in the Dolphins scouting department. After earning a promotion to assistant GM in 2012, it was announced he would have a more active role in working with Philbin and his staff. If we are to take Ross at his word, the working relationship between Philbin and Gaine should be a point in his favor.
Gaine also has a head start on the Dolphins' scouting process for the 2014 offseason; he is already in Mobile, Ala., leading the team's operation at the Senior Bowl and serving as an interim GM of sorts.
However, multiple reports have already indicated that Farmer is the front-runner. According to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, "Several people in the Browns organization ... expect Farmer to be hired by the Dolphins. One person close to Farmer called it 'almost certain,'" and Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald reports that "at least one of the candidates who sat for an interview believes that Farmer will get the job, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation."
Farmer, like Gaine, earned his experience in personnel evaluation. He got his start as a scout for the Atlanta Falcons, but he was also director of pro personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he worked under then-Chiefs president Carl Peterson. It just so happens that Peterson is advising Ross during the Dolphins' GM search.
Either Gaine or Farmer would make a good complement to Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins' vice president of football administration. She handles miscellaneous duties but is considered the team's salary-cap expert.
However, before the Dolphins are to make a hire, they need to find out what it is they're looking for, exactly. Do they want someone who will make all the decisions? Do they want someone who will work collaboratively with everyone? According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, they're not so sure:
League sources said that prior to leaving the country, Ross was leaning toward a structure in which the new GM would report directly to him, as would coach Joe Philbin and powerful executive vice president Dawn Aponte—and that left some candidates a bit dumbfounded.
Aponte and Philbin have formed a very tight bond, which is well known around the league and was obvious during the interview process, sources said. So a new GM might have a difficult time winning many tiebreakers and battling that dynamic. Furthermore, with Ross an absentee owner for the most part, one might have still have to go through Aponte to get to Ross, again troubling to some candidates.
One of the problems for the Dolphins recently has been the lack of communication between the coach and GM, and the best way to fix it is to create a mix of people who are already on the same page. Combine Gaine's personnel experience with his familiarity to the dynamic in Miami, and he becomes the more fitting candidate.
That being said, this needs to be the last time the Dolphins try to piece things together with their front office structure; too many times, they've gone for this half-way-rebuild that does nothing except keep the team muddled in mediocrity. If things don't work out this time, Ross would have to be a fool not to blow it all up.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.