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2 posts from January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014

Fins hire Hickey as GM; Mike Wallace says things must change; Dolphins, Heat, UM, Marlins chatter

11 a.m. update: The Dolphins have hired Tampa Bay personnel director Dennis Hickey as their new general manager, ending a search in which at least seven people either declined to be interviewed or turned down the job.

Tennessee's Lake Dawson turned the job down today, a day after New England's Nick Caserio did the same. "Details of the offer didn't align with my vision," Dawson said in a statement, adding it wasn't "an ideal fit."

Tampa Bay did not consider Hickey for their GM opening, even though he had been with the organization for 18 years. Hickey spent the past three years as the team's director of player personnel, after serving six years as their director of college scouting.

The Buccaneers had several regrettable draft picks (Josh Freeman, receiver Dexter Jackson and others) during his tenure as director of college scouting, though it's important to note that Hickey wasn't making the final decision.

Hickey is given credit for advocating the signing of undrafted running back LeGarrette Blount after Tennessee cut him. But the Bucs later traded Blount to New England, where he had a big role in the Patriots' 2013 season.

Now last night's post....

 

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN (We interrupt this underwhelming Dolphins GM search --- and Saturday night's rejection from the Patriots' Nick Caserio --- for some on-field chatter and thoughts from the Dolphins' highest-paid player):

The Super Bowl features the quarterbacks who were the most accurate on deep balls this season: Russell Wilson (48.3 percent) and Peyton Manning (48.2 percent) --- yet another illustration of the importance of explosive passing plays.

On the other end of the spectrum? Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.

Even if you give him credit for his five deep balls that were dropped, which Pro Football Focus does, he was accurate on just 32.8 percent of passes thrown 20 yards or more and completed 25 percent of them (16 for 64) – better than only Joe Flacco among qualifiers.

Mike Wallace knows this lack of chemistry simply cannot happen again in 2014.

And Wallace also knows this: They need to get together in February. And March. And every month before training camp. And Tannehill needs to throw deep balls and Wallace needs to catch them. Hundreds of them.

Rinse.

Repeat.

"We have to,” Wallace said. “Definitely have got to get the deep ball going. That’s the difference between winning and losing a couple games. I should have had 15 or 20 more touchdowns. And that’s being modest. If you press me, you have no shot to cover me. Once I get you to stop your feet, it’s over.”

But if the deep ball isn’t thrown accurately, or caught, it’s moot.

Consider: Of balls in the air at least 20 yards, Tannehill threw 36 such passes to Wallace, and only six were completed --- the worst percentage of 22 deep-threat receivers ranked by PFF. Of those 36, only eight were deemed catchable and Wallace dropped two.

Conversely, DeSean Jackson caught 16 of 33, T.Y. Hilton 11 of 26, Josh Gordon 15 of 36 and AJ Green 15 of 38.

Overall, Wallace caught just 53 percent of all passes thrown to him, which ranks 88th of 111 receivers.

It’s also troubling that Tannehill’s deep ball accuracy regressed from his rookie season, when he completed 39 percent (20 of 51).

Wallace, whose 11 dropped passes tied for the NFL’s fourth-most (four fewer than Brandon Marshall), said he will spend only a month away before returning to South Florida in February. He will run on the UM track with Hurricanes track coach Amy Deen, in addition to working with Tannehill and new coordinator Bill Lazor.

CHATTER

### One person who interviewed for the Dolphins’ general manager job said Stephen Ross never clarified whether executive vice president/football administration Dawn Aponte would report to him or the owner, which has caused confusion. The Dolphins publicly remain non-committal about that, even though Aponte previously reported to Jeff Ireland. Ireland would have reported to Aponte if Ireland had agreed to the demotion that Ross pitched.

One former NFL general manager said having Aponte report to Ross, instead of the GM, potentially would cause problems: “If your general manager says he’s already drawn up a contract with Drew Rosenhaus, will Dawn then say, ‘We don’t have the money to do that?’ The GM typically would be over a football administrative person.”

One candidate said Aponte participated in his interview but that he also met alone with Ross and alone with Joe Philbin.

### Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio, who turned down an offer to be the Dolphins GM on Saturday night, is highly-regarded. But several NFL types (a candidate who declined to interview, a respected former GM and others) called the Dolphins’ other candidates unimpressive.

One source who has dealt with Tennessee's Lake Dawson said he simply isn't as knowledgable as many of the league's other personnel directors. Former Dolphins candidate Jason Licht, who was hired by Tampa Bay, “was the best candidate of all of them” before Caserio interviewed and turned down the job, the former GM said. But Licht wasn't about to turn down an offer from Buccaneers merely to be a finalist in Miami.

What a humbling, disappointing search --- with at least four candidates declining to be interviewed, at least one declining a follow-up interview, one rejecting an offer, and now three finalists from teams that have experienced far more failure than success in recent years. Sort of typical for these Dolphins. And doesn't Ross need to ask a bunch of smart NFL people why this job is so unappealing and attempt to fix it?

### The Marlins, who privately sense Giancarlo Stanton’s interest in playing in California someday, decided this wasn’t the right time to make a multiyear offer and are hesitant to broach the issue once the season starts. But the Marlins expect to make a multiyear offer before they consider trading him as early as next winter.

According to a close associate, Stanton is in a good spirits because he believes the Marlins have improved their roster and because they gave him a fair contract in his first year of arbitration eligibility ($6.5 million) after automatically renewing him in the past for less than what he believed he deserved.

### Negativity has swirled among some UM football fans, with many upset about defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and the four blowout losses this past season. Associates say Al Golden has grown weary of some of the criticism.

“What the hell do people want?” one high ranking UM Board of Trustee member said. “Does anyone realize what the NCAA thing did to us? That team this year was an ordinary team, and we went 9-4. It will take three years to build this up, but this is the right guy to do it.”

### UM still hopes the NCAA will reduce its penalty of nine docked football scholarships because UM withheld some last year. But the NCAA hasn’t given UM an answer yet.

### UM continues to show a peculiar lack of interest in the highly-regarded sons of former Heat stars. Former coach Frank Haith never pursued former Michigan star Tim Hardaway Jr. (a first-round pick last June) and was late and lukewarm in recruiting former Georgia Tech standout Glen Rice Jr. (a second-round pick last June).

One UM source said the former staff had concerns their fathers might meddle, and UM had concerns about Rice's attitude; he was later dismissed from the Georgia Tech team as a junior.

Now, Ransom Everglades coach Claude Grubair said he’s surprised UM has not shown more interest in forward Alonzo Mourning III, Alonzo’s son.

 “I feel they’re not really interested,” Grubair said. “There are very few big men in the country that shoot like him. He’s still growing, and doctors say he’s going to be 7-foot, 7-1. Maybe he doesn’t fit what Miami wants to do. They haven’t offered him.”

UF and Duke have aggressively recruited Mourning, but Grubair said both schools told him that he needs to tell them he’s not going to go to Georgetown before they offer him officially.

“Other schools are saying he must be going to Georgetown like his father did, but I’m not sure about that,” Grubair said. Mourning, averaging 34.3 points and 10 rebounds, is graduating in May, according to his coach....

### Check out the Twitter feed of Herald colleague @Safid_Deen if you're interested in the names of the top Class of 2015 players visiting UM on Sunday.... As it turned out, UM had only two Class of 2014 official visits this weekend: Quarterback Malik Rosier (a strong UM oral commitment) and Georgia-based athlete Tavon Ross, a Missouri oral commitment. Ross told canesport.com that his visit went well but his decision will be based on how next weekend's Missouri visit goes. He's also considering Georgia and Auburn. UM wants him as a running back, though he can also play safety.

### Chris Bosh not only is in the midst of one of the best offensive stretches of his Heat career (58 percent shooting, 24 points per game in his past six, with Dwyane Wade missing four of them), but he has never felt more comfortable offensively here than the past month.

He admitted in a private moment recently that at times in the past, "I was thinking, ‘No play calls for me. I don’t feel comfortable doing this.’ Now, I just let it rip.

“Before, I was always just trying to figure it out. It was to the point where it frustrated me because I wasn’t in my comfort zone. I wasn’t getting on that right block and getting play calls. Now I’m a totally different player, where the defense never knows when I’m going to shoot it.”

Bosh, who has averaged 17.6 points in his Heat career, said Erik Spoelstra still doesn’t call plays for him but said some calls have built-in options that allow him to shoot.

### Wade, who blamed knee soreness on his four-game absence, practiced Saturday and hopes to play Sunday against San Antonio.

### Miami-Dade County deputy mayor Chip Iglesias said the county commission probably won’t vote until April or May on whether to approve a proposed MLS stadium at the Port Miami site. There is optimism it will be approved, but final resolution --- especially with Beckham’s group seeking state money --– is a ways off.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Report: Caserio declines Dolphins' GM offer; UM recruiting; Marlins signing

10:30 p.m. update: Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio has turned down an offer to become the Dolphins' GM, NFL Network's Ian Rapaport reported tonight. If true, that leaves Brian Gaine, Lake Dawson and Dennis Hickey in the running to replace Jeff Ireland. None of those three has been a GM before and none of their teams had winning records this season.

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A few quick Saturday notes:

### What would the Dolphins be getting if they grab Nick Caserio from the Patriots? The Patriots personnel director remained in Miami for a second interview today, as they close in on hiring a general manager.

"To me, what was so impressive about Nick is everything he does, there's a selflessness about it," Scott Pioli, who hired Caserio in New England in 2001, told NFL Network’s Albert Breer earlier this month. "People in this industry, there's a lot of ego, a lot of testosterone, but Nick was always more concerned about the greater good than his own mission. For young guys in our business, that's a vanishing commodity these days, and it's an important quality of his. It's loyalty, but it's more. It's selflessness. He's a team guy.

"When he was asked to coach, he coached; when he was asked to work in personnel, he worked in personnel. He was only concerned with what the team needed. A lot of guys are in there for two yearsand are worried about being directors or GMs. That's not what Nick's focus was."

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who previously worked with Caserio in New England, told Breer: "Nick's gotten where he's gotten for good reasons, because he's incredibly driven and intelligent. It's a huge asset to Nick that he can move from personnel to coaching and coaching personnel, and even perform those tasks in the same day.

“To be able to handle that multitasking and understand what someone as talented as Bill Belichick wants, it's huge. When you work for Bill, you better come to the table with your I's dotted and your T's crossed. Nick is able to do that, and Bill has great respect for that."

When I mentioned his name to an NFL official Friday, the first response was "very sharp guy."

Belichick makes final decisions in New England, so it’s unclear which decisions Caserio suggested. But the Patriots have made a bunch of good ones in the draft and the fact he has earned Belichick’s complete faith and trust speaks volumes.

It Stephen Ross wants Caserio, it wouldn't be surprising if he offers him a ton of money to lure him.

Tennessee's Lake Dawson also interviews a second time today, but the feedback I've received on him (from two NFL executives) has been lukewarm at best. Dennis Hickey also is set for another interview today. The Dolphins' Brian Gaine had a second interview Friday.

###It’s a light weekend for UM recruiting visits, among seniors. Mobile (Ala.)-based Malik Rosier --- rated the nation’s 22nd-best dual purpose quarterback --- is visiting and is considered a solid UM oral commitment.

At least two others were expected this weekend: Three-star Georgia-based prospect Tavon Ross (who’s committed to Missouri) and three-star Jacksonville-based receiver Isaiah Ford, who’s uncommitted.

UM has interest in Ross as a running back, but Ross told Rivals.com that his commitment to Mizzou is “pretty solid.”

Ford, rated the nation’s No. 67 receiver, is considering Louisville, Virginia Tech, UM, UF and South Carolina. [UPDATE: FORD REPORTEDLY ENDED UP CANCELING HIS VISIT.]

UM will host a bunch of juniors on Sunday.

### UM basketball is getting more exposure this week than any other week this season, with two consecutive games on national television and both being called by the lead analyst at their respective networks. Wednesday, it was ESPN2 and Dick Vitale for UM- Duke. Today, it’s a full national telecast on CBS for UM-Syracuse, with new CBS lead analyst Greg Anthony providing commentary (alongside Ian Eagle).

### The Marlins had been considering four players as a right-handed bat off the bench: Vernon Wells, Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson and Ty Wigginton. They signed Wigginton on Friday, even though he hit just .158 in 57 at-bats for St. Louis last season before being released in July.

He was better for Philadelphia in 2012, hitting .235 with 11 homers and 43 RBI. Wigginton, 36, has a .261 career average with 169 homers.  He signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training.