That's the question now. General Manager Jeff Ireland was Tuesday's departure du jour from the Dolphins, because he wouldn't take more money and less power under some new boss, according to a source.
Now we see wait to meet the new boss. We wait to see if the new job is smartly structured. Ultimately, we wait to see what Steve Ross has learned as an NFL owner since 2009, an era full of inherited issues, extended mistakes and no winning seasons.
Centralize the power in the best football mind available. That should be Lesson No. 1 for Ross. For the second time in four years, he had to untangle who was to blame for what decisions, somehow separating the coach's moves and the general manager's deeds like dirty laundry.
Two years ago, coach Tony Sparano was out and Ireland was in. Now coach Joe Philbin survives and Ireland doesn't. This is a strange way to do business, hearing testimony and ladling out blame every couple of years.
The best franchises in sports have one person to form the business plan and answer for everything. The Heat have Pat Riley. The Patriots have Bill Belichick. And, yeah, Washington had Mike Shanahan, so this doesn't always work.
The key is to find that right person at the right time in the right position. Sounds simple. It's not. The Dolphins over the last decade show that.
No rookies right now. That's Lesson No. 2. Get someone with experience for any pro franchise's most important position, which the guy picking the players is.
The Dolphins of the past decade have hired rookie general managers and rookie coaches at every turn (overlord Bill Parcells was the brief exception). This isn't a time for a leader on training wheels. Vice-president Dawn Aponte, for instance, might be great with salary-cap numbers and Ross might love her style, but she lacks experience in addition to another vital ingredient.
"For all the terrific things Dawn Aponte does, you need someone who knows personnel,'' Bill Polian, who took three franchises to Super Bowls, said on Sirius radio. "That's not her."
Polian fits the mold of what the Dolphins need. A strong, football mind with championship experience. So does Scott Pioli or maybe even Mike Tannenbaum, two unemployed general managers who failed elsewhere. See what they learned. Maybe they're off training wheels and ready to succeed.
Lesson No. 3 offered by the Dolphins over the last decade evidently hasn't been taken traction with Ross. It's that the general manager and coach should be equally yoked, hired at the same time to have the same vision and business plan.That doesn't guarantee success, as we've seen through the years. But it also avoids repeating the recipe for trouble you can see coming already. Philbin, assuming he survives, will be coaching in win-or-else mode with a first-year offensive coordinator. The general manager will have a broader vision.
So the coach and GM's timelines are staggered inside the franchise, their expectations different. Yes, that worked with the New York Jets this year. New General Manager John Idzik watched coach Rex Ryan work through the season and decided to keep him on board. But that's the exception and a perilous chance to take.
Ross has spent the last several days deciding what this franchise needs to move forward. He can be expected to surface as soon as today and explain what he's found.
Ireland took his swings over the last six years. He missed more than he hit. Some Dolphins fans will celebrate his leaving, but there's no satisfaction in watching someone try his best and fail. That's the story of the last Dolphins this football generation.
Ireland follows offensive coordinator Mike Sherman out the door now. Everything is in Ross's hands. He's a brilliant businessman, an international billionaire, trying to succeed on an 100-yard development.
What will he do? That's not the first question.
What has he learned? That's the question. We're about to find out.