DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are already deep into the interview process for their next general manager. And apparently they know what they want -- someone who can evaluate talent.
That skill was specifically mentioned by owner Steve Ross in his statement last week.
"First and foremost," Ross said describing what he's seeking in a general manager, "this person must have a passion for the game and demonstrated player evaluation expertise."
All of the top candidates to become the Dolphins' new general manager (the New York Giants' Marc Ross, Arizona's Jason Licht, Philadelphia's Tom Gamble, Tennessee's Lake Dawson, Cleveland's Ray Farmer, the Dolphins' Brian Gaine and Pittsburgh's Omar Khan) are regarded as highly-skilled talent evaluators except for one. Khan, the Steelers' director of football administration, is a numbers guy. He handles contract negotiations.
But three men stand out so far in this search, and, in order, they are Marc Ross, Licht, and Gamble. That trio represents the best and brightest of the Dolphins' general manager candidates.
Talent evaluation is an area where former general manager Jeff Ireland fell short. In the draft, free agency and trades Ireland proved to be decent, but not good. That's why the Dolphins have had a franchise-worst five consecutive non-winning seasons.
The Dolphins' new general manager won't negotiate contracts. That job belongs to Dawn Aponte, executive vice president of football administration.
The Dolphins want a football guy, someone who can identify quality players.
Ross, who is also interviewing for the Tampa Bay general manager job, has been largely credited for Giants drafts that have produced players such as wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (first round, 2009), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (first round, 2010) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (third round, 2008). The Giants also signed undrafted wide receiver Victor Cruz (2010) on Ross' watch.
Ross, a Princeton graduate, has interviewed for the New York Jets, Carolina, Jacksonville, Chicago and San Diego general manager jobs in the last couple of years.
Gamble, who serves as the Eagles' vice president/player personnel, is also interviewing for the vacant Tampa Bay general manager position. But that could be a plus for the Dolphins. Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith will have final say on all personnel matters, meaning the general manager would be subservient to Smith.
Gamble spent the previous eight seasons in San Francisco as their director of player personnel. That speaks well for Gamble because the 49ers have one of the most talent-rich rosters in the NFL, and it was built with string acquisitions in both the draft as well as free agency.
Gamble interviewed for the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars general manager jobs in previous years indicating he's well-regarded from a league standpoint. In his first stint with Philadelphia (1998-2004) part of his duties was negotiating contracts so he's also seen that side of the business.
Licht (pronounced Light), who helped Arizona go from a 5-11 record in 2012 to a 10-6 record in 2013, interviewed for general manager jobs with both Chicago and Jacksonville in recent years. Licht, who has already interviewed with the Dolphins, worked as an offensive assistant/quality control coach for the Dolphins in 1996. He also worked for New England for three years so he's well-versed on AFC East teams. And, working under Patriots coach Bill Belichick, he's learned a thing or two about spotting talent.
As an added bonus, Licht has worked with four Super Bowl teams -- New England (Super Bowls XLVI and XXXVI), Arizona (Super Bowl XLIII) and Philadelphia (Super Bowl XXXIX).
But the thing to remember is the Dolphins' new general manager has to be strong in finding talent.
Carl Peterson, the former Kansas City Chiefs executive who is advising his good friend Steve Ross on the general manager search, reiterated that stance said in a statement.
Peterson said he looks forward to assisting Ross and, "I am confident that he will add an outstanding candidate with a proven track record in talent evaluation to the Dolphins."
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