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2 posts from January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014

Seventh GM interview: Dennis Hickey

The Dolphins continue to search for their next general manager and that search today has led to the interview of Tampa Bay Bucs director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, league sources are saying.

Hickey is the seventh person to interview for the vacant Dolphins general manager job.

Interesting the Dolphins interviewed Hickey. The Bucs are searching for GM and haven't interviewed him, far as I can tell. So the Dolphins see something in Hickey the team that has employed him nearly two decades doesn't apparently see.

This is the background on Hickey directly from the Bucs media guide:

"Entering his 18th season with the Buccaneers overall and third as the director of player personnel, Dennis Hickey has helped lead the Buccaneers to four division titles and one Super Bowl championship during his 18-year tenure.

"Hickey, who spent six seasons as director of college scouting prior to his promotion in 2011, is responsible for coordinating a staff of area scouts and managing the compilation of information on college players which has proven to be invaluable during the Buccaneers draft process. In addition to these duties, he also oversees the Pro Personnel Department, which evaluates all pro leagues, free agents and trade prospects.

"Working side-by-side with General Manager Mark Dominik, Hickey helped oversee this year’s blockbuster offseason, including the signing of Pro Bowl S Dashon Goldson and trading for All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, the 2009 AFC Defensive Player of the Year and widely considered the premier talent at his position. These moves come on the heels of a successful 2012 offseason, which saw the Buccaneers signing WR Vincent Jackson, who recorded career-highs in receptions and receiving yards, earning his a trip to the Pro Bowl, third of his career. The Buccaneers also managed to lure two-time Pro Bowl G away from division-rival New Orleans.

"In addition to the touted free agents, Hickey and Dominik have worked together to draft premium talent. Despite having traded their 2013 first-round selection for Revis, the team still managed to get CB Johnthan Banks, the winner of the 2012 Jim Thorpe award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football. In 2012, Dominik and Hickey chose a highly regarded draft class, with S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David all being named to the PFW/PFWA All-Rookie Team. Martin was also selected to go the Pro Bowl, along with Jackson and 2010 first-round selection Gerald McCoy.

"The 2011 draft brought several new building blocks to Tampa Bay, starting with DE Adrian Clayborn, selected 20th overall. Clayborn started in all 16 games and recorded 54 tackles, a team-leading 7.5 sacks, 26 quarterback pressures, four TFL and three forced fumbles. DE Da’Quan Bowers, considered a steal in the second round, futher bolstered the defensive line, and finished the season as a starter. Third-round selection LB Mason Foster provided great production, recording  statistics in every major defensive category with a team-leading 126 tackles, four TFL, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback pressures, one interception, two passes defensied, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Foster also led all NFL rookies in tackles.

"In 2010, Hickey was instrumental in bringing in a draft class that proved itself on the field during its rookie season, where seven of the nine picks recorded at least one start, with the draft class recording a total of 49 starts on the season. In fact, WR Mike Williams, a fourth-round selection, started all 16 games his rookie season, leading all rookie receivers in the league in receptions (65, second on the team), yards (964, first on the team), and receiving touchdowns (11, single-season team record). Williams was a finalist for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and finished second in voting for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"In addition to the draft class, Hickey has helped find and bring many undrafted gems to Tampa Bay throughout the years, including RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount, an undrafted rookie free agent acquired off waivers from Tennessee in 2010, became just the second undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to record a 1,000+-yard season when he finished with 1,007 yards, despite starting only seven games, and was nominated for the NFL’s Rookie of the Week award on five occasions. Other notable Buccaneers Hickey has helped in attaining include DL Michael Bennett, WR Preston Parker, T Demar Dotson and C/G Ted Larsen.

"With Hickey’s assistance, the 2009 draft was highlighted by the addition of first-round selection QB Josh Freeman.  Freeman led all rookie quarterbacks in completion percentage (54.5) while setting Buccaneer rookie records in touchdown passes (10) and passing yards (1,855) despite starting in just nine games.  The third round of 2009’s draft produced DT Roy Miller who proved to be a solid contributor along the defensive line.  Miller finished the season tied for third among defensive linemen with 54 tackles while adding two sacks.  Perhaps the steal of the draft came in the seventh round with the selection of WR Sammie Stroughter.  Stroughter ranked third on the team with 31 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown while adding a kickoff return for a touchdown.

"The 2008 draft produced CB Aqib Talib, who tied for first in the NFL among rookies with four interceptions, OL Jeremy Zuttah, who started at both guard positions, and LB Geno Hayes, who was a big contributor on special teams before moving into a starting role.  The Buccaneers also procured talent through the signing of undrafted rookie free agents RB/KR Clifton Smith and CB Elbert Mack.  Smith was selected to the 2009 AFC/NFC Pro Bowl as the kick returner and was named AP Second-Team All-Pro kick returner while Mack appeared in 15 games in the secondary and on special teams where he ranked fourth on the team with 12 special teams stops.

"s best guards while earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl following the 2008 season.

"From 1998-2009, Hickey worked as a college scout for the Buccaneers, during which time he oversaw all scouting efforts in the Midwestern states for the team. Hickey was a member of the Buccaneers first Super Bowl championship in 2002, a 48-21 victory against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

"Before assuming his role as a scout for Tampa Bay, Hickey spent the 1996-97 seasons as a pro personnel assistant in Tampa Bay’s scouting department. Prior to joining the Buccaneers, Hickey spent two years (1994-95) as an assistant coach at Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas. At Blinn, he coached the defensive backs and was responsible for recruiting in the state of Texas.

"Hickey played collegiately at Coffeyville Community College and was a three-year starter and captain at the University of Tulsa, where he was also named an academic All-American. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tulsa in 1994." 

Edwards promotion great; Turner status merits scrutiny

The reported departure of Dolphins linebacker coach George Edwards to Minnesota to become the Vikings defensive coordinator deserves congratulations for him. Dolphins fans should applaud that someone from the Dolphins coaching staff is moving on up, professionally and geographically. No, seriously, you should really be thrilled ...

Because in his last two seasons coaching the Dolphins linebackers -- Edwards's second stint with the team following a tenure that lasted 2005-2009 -- the unit has mostly underperformed. Indeed, last season as the Miami defense fell to 24th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, the worse ranking since 2007, it was clear that linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler were at the core of the problems with the run defense.

That fact is so obvious that at least one general manager candidate interviewing recently said the next GM must replace at least one of the two players because the performance from the positions did not merit the salary cap and actual money expenditure.

(Peanut gallery: Well, Armando, this clearly shows what a poor GM Jeff Ireland was. After all he signed Ellerbe and Wheeler.)

Yes, gallery, the signing of both players was apparently a poor decision given their contracts -- Ellerbe at five years for $34.75 million and Wheeler for five years and $26 million. The Dolphins paid Ellerbe $14 million guaranteed. The Dolphins paid Wheeler $13 million guaranteed.

But here's the rub ...

Ellerbe played quite well for Baltimore in 2012. Wheeler was outstanding in Oakland in 2012. And the two players the Dolphins jettisoned to upgrade to Wheeler and Ellerbe played better for their new teams. Karlos Dansby was a borderline Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Arizona and Kevin Burnett was a revelation in Oakland.

The two departed players combined for nine sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five interceptions, 23 passes defensed and two TDs.

The two players under Edwards combined for 1.5 sacks, zero forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, 12 passes defensed and no touchdowns.

So to recap, the players the Dolphins added under Edwards played better elsewhere before arriving but took a step back in Miami. And the players who didn't play well enough under Edwards the year before were released and had banner seasons elsewhere.

I don't see this as a coincidence. And I see a good portion, if not the majority of the responsibility for this, falling on the position coach involved -- Edwards

So congratulations to him for getting the promotion. Problem partially solved.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Edwards was not the only Dolphins assistant that deserves scrutiny based on the performance of his players.

Last season the Dolphins offensive line was, as the entire NFL knows, something of a problem. Yes, sometimes the pass protection breakdowns fell on the shoulders of running backs or tight ends. Yes, sommetimes quarterback Ryan Tannehill held the ball too long or did little to get out of the way of the pressure.

But those franchise record and NFL worst 58 sacks?

The offensive line, folks.

(Peanut gallery:  Well, Armando, this clearly shows what a poor GM Jeff Ireland was. After all he put that offensive line together).

No doubt about it. At the end of the day, the Dolphins did not have enough talent on the offensive line. Ireland bet on Jonathan Martin, his draft pick, and that bet was a loser.

But the thing is, Mike Pouncey is a talented center. And Bryant McKinnie is a solid left tackle who Ireland brought in via trade midway through the season. And John Jerry was often able to get in somebody's way. And Tyson Clabo is a former Pro Bowl player who went 14 consecutive games, including the playoffs, without allowing a sack for the Falcons in 2012.

And these guys, together, simply were not very effective. There was no unity of action on the field. They were disjointed. And there certainly was no unity of thought as the NFL scandal obviously suggests.

So who is responsible for solving those issues? Um, thinking ...

Yeah, the position coach.

Offensive line coach Jim Turner oversaw the statistically most inept offensive line in Dolphins NFL history. That is not an opinion. It is a fact, as evidence by the phrase, "most sacks allowed in franchise history." One can argue the expansion offensive line was worse, but that was an AFL line.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings haven't been calling to hire Turner. Neither has any other NFL team that I know of.

Barring a return to his college roots, Turner is likely to remain in Miami.

So while the offensive line that underperformed likely will get a nearly full reconstruction this offseason, the man who led that terrible line, likely will remain.

It is possible new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor may lobby to replace Turner and others but he said recently that subject had not been discussed with coach Joe Philbin.

(Huh? How does an interview happen and either the head coach or OC candidate doesn't bring up the topic of what will happen with the offensive assistants under the new OC?)

Anyway, this brings up another little issue:

What's Philbin thinking?

Does he know more than everyone else in thinking Turner is a great coach that deserves the chance to step out of the shadow of an epic failure?

Does he know Turner isn't it but rather not replace him out of loyalty? (This is a possibility because, well, Mike Sherman.)

Or does Philbin, a former offensive line coach himself, simply not know a failing OL coach when he sees one?

There still isn't an answer to these possibilities. So far Philbin has stuck with Turner. We'll see if that lasts through the release of the NFL report. We'll see if it lasts through that conversation he and Lazor apparently haven't had yet.