Amid speculation that he might soon be replaced, general manager Rick Spielman on Friday voluntarily left the Miami Dolphins after five seasons with the club.
"I want to thank [owner] Wayne Huizenga, [coach] Nick Saban, the Dolphins players, coaches and staff, along with the South Florida community," Spielman said in a news release. "I have a lot of fond memories of my time here and made a lot of friends. I hope the team goes on to have a great season."
The departure of Spielman, who joined the Dolphins in 2000, might well have been a case of being one step ahead of the posse. It has been no secret that Saban has sought a potential replacement and even interviewed a few candidates for the job. Saban inherited Spielman when he took over as the Miami head coach on Christmas Day.
A successor to Spielman was not named, nor is it certain yet how close Saban really is to settling on who will run the team's personnel department. It is likely that whoever comes aboard will not have the general manager title and responsibilities, but will instead be more of a personnel director.
As was the case with his first draft, Saban likes to involve his coaches in the scouting and evaluation process, and might be seeking a personnel man who is capable of making solid recommendations to him, but who would not have as much clout as Spielman possessed.
Spielman exits the Dolphins with a history that is decidedly a mixed bag. Unfortunately, his strong work ethic did not always translate into successes in the draft or free agency.
The former Southern Illinois linebacker was hired by coach Dave Wannstedt in 2000 to run the Miami scouting department. In 2002, he was elevated to the post of senior vice president of football operations and last season Spielman was promoted by Huizenga to the general manager post.
It was clearly an awkward situation, with Spielman suddenly superior, at least in theory, to Wannstedt, the man who had been his longtime patron. The team was wounded by the abrupt retirement of tailback Ricky Williams, but some flawed personnel decisions, and a general sense of panic and lack of direction, contributed as well to a disastrous season.
Before joining the Dolphins, Spielman worked for three years (1997-99) as director of pro personnel for the Chicago Bears and, before that, was in the Detroit Lions personnel department for seven years.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.