At end of 2013, Dolphins front office was reportedly in power struggle

Former Miami GM Jeff Ireland, left, reportedly lost a power battle in the owner Stephen Ross' organization. (USATSI)
Former Miami GM Jeff Ireland, left, reportedly lost a power battle in the owner Stephen Ross' organization. (USATSI)

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When the Dolphins and Jeff Ireland "mutually agree[d]" to part ways on Tuesday, the thought was that since the team was going to strip the general manager of his power, Ireland decided to leave the team on his own.

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald revealed some of the power struggle that went on behind the scenes between Ireland, coach Joe Philbin and executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte. And it's really something.

Reportedly, the relationship between Ireland and Philbin frayed at the end of this season because Aponte told Philbin about Ireland's complaints about the coaching staff that he vocalized during Miami's season-ending losses to the Bills and the Jets.

But what's even more interesting -- and perhaps more enlightening for potential Dolphins GM candidates -- is the role Aponte might have played in Ireland's vocational demise. Since owner Stephen Ross hired her, the Herald writes, she figured out a way to get out of being supervised by Ireland.

Writes Armando Salguero:

Ireland, seeing this, asked Ross to fire Aponte after the 2011 season. Ross didn't go for it and, indeed, after mulling the matter, actually promoted Aponte from Senior VP of Football Operations to her current Executive VP role. And in so doing, Ross doubled Aponte's salary. And got her out from under Ireland's umbrella. And Aponte joined parts of the coach search of 2012 that led to Philbin's hiring after Jeff Fisher turned the Dolphins down cold.

Knowing that Ireland had tried to get her fired, Aponte turned her sights on the GM. The relationship between the two, professional and even cordial in public at league meetings and alike, was a struggle for power behind the scenes.

Aponte then reportedly developed a close bond with Philbin after he was hired as coach.

You can read the rest of the Herald's report here.

At this point, Salguero writes that the Dolphins' reputation has taken a big hit during this process, and as CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported, the team might have a tough time finding a top-notch talent to fill Ireland's spot.

More from La Canfora:

Several league sources say Ross, who relies heavily on business-side execs Dawn Aponte and Matt Higgins, is contemplating a restructuring where a new general manager would report to Aponte, and not the owner, and thus she would truly head football operations. Furthermore, sources said Aponte would strongly consider candidates she worked with previously with the Jets, like former GMs Mike Tannenbaum and Scott Pioli, who, frankly, would not end up on many other lists right now given how their previous regimes ended.

If that is the case, then many of the well qualified candidates from other organizations would not participate in the process, sources said, with them having great trepidation about that structure and their ability to do their job. How transparent this search is, and how much power the GM titles truly wields, will go a long way to determining if Ross has learned from his other many public missteps (trying to hire a coach before he'd fired his existing one, for instance), or whether the Dolphins are in for more of the same.

As's Jeff Darlington tweeted, "[Ross'] allegiances change. People around NFL are taking note ... Potential hires (all of which have healthy visions of their self worth) recognize this important factor: Win the owner and win the power."

While this organization, to the outside observer, doesn't appear to be quite as screwy as the Browns franchise at the moment, it also doesn't seem healthy at the moment either. The next general manager might -- or might not -- get a chance to try to fix that.

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