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Joe Philbin safe for now as coach of Miami Dolphins

The next few weeks in breezy South Beach will help decide Joe Philbin's future with the Miami Dolphins.

Tuesday's parting with longtime general manager Jeff Ireland has opened up the franchise to rethink the operation for the first time in half a decade. At first blush, we see two options -- one safe, one perilous -- for the team's current head coach:

Option No. 1

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that owner Stephen Ross and his team will conduct an immediate search for "new leadership." The Dolphins plan to leave vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte in charge for the time being. If Aponte remains in that top spot and Brian Gaine, Ireland's top assistant, is made the next GM, Philbin can breathe a sigh of relief -- for now.

Aponte and the coach have worked well together, and her permanent promotion would suggest that Ross is satisfied by weeding Ireland out of the equation over rebooting the machine.

NFL Media's Jeff Darlington noted that it "seems very reasonable" that Gaine will be retained. If nothing else, that would allow Philbin to plead his case before a cast of characters who see the team-building process in a similar light and believe in Philbin's vision.

Option No. 2

If Ross hires a GM from outside the organization, Philbin's long-term future is shaky at best.

He's almost certainly safe for next season after agreeing to have his friend and former offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, scattered to the wind. From there, it's anyone's guess.

On top of likely flushing the organization of front office decision-makers and countless scouts, a newly appointed GM will want the power to pick his own coach. Assuming Philbin is given a one-year shot to prove himself, we can imagine more than a few late night phone calls with Rex Ryan, who's been down this road before.

Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald named Eric Mangini, Scott Pioli, Carl Peterson and even Mike Tannenbaum as potential candidates to take over. None of those men are wilting flowers. Philbin would be forced to win over a GM likely to blow up a roster that Ross -- and Philbin -- pieced together.

A new general manager almost always means a new coach. If Miami travels this second road, Philbin's short run in South Beach is on the hot seat.

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