On Thursday, I got the privilege, along with several other great Miami Dolphins fan sites and/or blogs, to take part in a conference call with team president Bryan Wiedmeier. And this call was only for us site operators and not for the mainstream media, which is even better. Now, it went on for nearly an hour, so what I've done is focused on the parts that I think would be the most interesting to you all. At the end of this post, though, I've included a link to a page where you can hear the full conference call with Bryan. As for the questions below, I've paraphrased some of the questions but the answers, all by Bryan, are his own words and not me paraphrasing. Let's get to it:
It's understood that the Dolphins will arrive in the U.K. on the 26th of October for the game on the 28th. Some believe that it takes over 3 days to get over jet lag. Do you think the team will be effected and what measures will you take to avoid the jet lag?
Bryan: Well, we've taken a couple of trips already over to the U.K. so we feel we got a pretty good handle on what the schedule is going to be like and what effect it's going to have on the players. We've talked to others, through their NFL Europe experience and other coaches, and coming into it, ultimately we think it'll be fine for our players...The travel time is not that bad. The players will be able to sleep on the plane. We'll have a workout on Friday and have another practice on Saturday, probably at Wembley Stadium, and it should not be a factor at game time.
We've heard a lot of talk recently about the change in atmosphere that the new coaching staff has brought, especially in the locker room. What kind of impact has the change made in the professional atmosphere?
Bryan: Having been here a number of years and having worked with outstanding coaches...Cam kind of brings a calm sense of professionalism and with the veteran players on this team, I think they appreciate that. There is a sense of urgency and a work ethic; don't misunderstand there; but professionalism is probably the key word when it comes to the atmosphere around the building. And that goes from top to bottom. Randy [Mueller] has a lot to do with that as well as our general manager.
What benchmarks or criterion would make you consider this a successful season for the Miami Dolphins?
Bryan: I think that if you look back on where we've been over time, the goal is to win a championship. We brought in new leadership this offseason...We felt we didn't have to blow up the entire team. We felt we could inject some new leadership and didn't have to start from square one. So in terms of an outcome, I don't want to get in to wins and losses or postseason or whatnot, but I think the criterion you're going to look for is: were the players responsive to the leadership we got in place; how functional has our player selection process been; how do we feel about the draft; how do we feel about free agency; are we utilizing the people that we got? That would be what we are looking at from a management standpoint.
Does an NFL team's medical staff have the same measure of accountability as its coaching staff?
Bryan: They do, and very candidly, we have, whether it's the team doctors or the training staff, by the way our training staff was voted top training staff last year. It's a peer vote so we're very proud of Kevin O'Neal and his group. And there are team physicians, and what you see more and more...the national network of specialists, doctors are more willing to consult and get other medical help involved. You saw that most recently with Joey Porter. He went for what was technically a second opinion.
Would you be in favor of implementing a more incentive-based contract system for rookies?
Bryan: I do agree with that. It's funny you ask that. I've been on the Labor Advisory Board since it started a number of years ago and that was one of the big topics coming into the last couple labor agreements...People point to the NBA system but I'm not sure that is the right system per se, but no one has a problem paying players who are producing for you. In a salary cap system, if you got a limited amount of dollars, most owners would agree and most players would agree that the wealth should go to those making it happen for the team and are performing.
Did Cam Cameron play a big role in the selection of a quarterback in the first two rounds and, if so, what was his input?
Bryan: Absolutely. And kind of going back to the coaching search, a couple of things resonated with Cam. We didn't just want an offensive coach because we had Dom and the defense. Rule number one, we wanted to find a head coach that was the right leader for the team and could be a head coach. But if we had the guy we felt could be that guy and he had an offensive background and pedigree and also, as an additional bonus, has the experience in developing quarterbacks, that would be wonderful. That's what we feel we had with Cam. Coming into this year's offseason, quarterback was a priority, whether it was making an assessment on Daunte at what to do with him going forward or looking at who we would add or draft on the team, Cam has a pedigree in developing quarterbacks that's really second to none in the league at this point and he's highly regarded...Same thing with Randy Mueller. Randy had some success from an evaluation standpoint when he was at New Orleans and even Seattle in terms of assessing the quarterback position. With their background, they would be key in helping us make the decision on what to do with the quarterbacks we had and kind to kind of map out the future going forward.
If there's ever s situation where Cam and Randy disagree on which player to take, what is the process to break the tie?
Bryan: Well, we don't think we'll ever get in that position, number one...Let me answer it with a structural question. We wanted to get to a system where the general manager had final say on the roster...I think a lot is made out of the "who makes the final call" nod because one of the things you find in any organizations that have been successful over a period of time, whether it's a strong GM or a strong head coach or something else, it's the relationship between the talent selector and the coach to be able to be on the same page, share a common vision, and come to consensus that makes those clubs successful...So if it happened, we'd sort it out. But I don't ever think it will happen.
How much of getting the players in on time had to do with the "Huizenga mandate" that we all were sweating?
Bryan: Well, we were sweating that deadline, too. That's for sure. For those that don't know Wayne, he doesn't say it unless he means it. I think Wayne shares everyone's frustration with rookies missing time and he made it clear what his expectations were and that's all you can ask in terms of the agent community and the players...Wayne's mandate, did it help? It probably did in terms of expectation setting and clarity in that regard.
On draft day, there were a lot of upset fans when we didn't draft Brady Quinn. Did you notice any sense of dissatisfaction amongst the team and have you noticed a change in the opinions of the team and the fans?
Bryan: Time lends perspective and it's kind of a chicken in the egg scenario when you go to a draft. Maybe organizationally, we were too secretive on what we really felt...Most of you have followed the league long enough to know there's a lot of false rumors that are spread and misinformation that goes around before the draft. Our guys wanted to let their true feelings on the scenario that would develop and also what they felt about John Beck, if they had to make a choice, wanted to keep that to where quite literally only a handful of people the knew so that there's no chance for it to go awry. We got into the 2nd round and Beck was still on the board and there were a couple of teams we knew were looking at quarterbacks and had they known what our feelings were on that player out of the group of quarterbacks that people were looking at, that probably would have put our pick in jeopardy. As it worked out the way the assessment of the players went, they felt if they could get both Ginn and Beck, it would help our football team both in the short term and the long term better than what the combination of players would be in the alternative. To accomplish that, we were probably too quiet about it and by doing that, the people that would help shape the information and shape opinion about the move were totally in the dark.
So that's as much of the interview as I can type out. In the future, we expect to get more interviews with management, coaches, and possibly players. We shall see. Oh, and you can follow this link to listen to the conference call in its entirety if you wish. Just a note, the very beginning of that file is just the roll call of all the sites that were participating in the call. It only goes on for a minute, and then it's just the interview from that point on.