Dennis Hickey's Hiring Shows How Far Miami Dolphins Organization Has Fallen

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJanuary 27, 2014

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, left, speaks with head coach Joe Philbin before an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Miami Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey as their new general manager. Hickey will replace Jeff Ireland, who had just one winning season in his six as Miami's GM.

You can't blame me if I'm not expecting much better from the new guy. 

Hickey has been with one organization, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for his NFL career. He never played in the NFL and was essentially a scout for the Bucs until being promoted to director of player personnel in 2011.

He was hired on Sunday after an extensive search that ultimately showed how low the Dolphins have fallen on the NFL totem poll.

I do not want to simply recount the past few weeks and provide a bio of Hickey's career thus far, so I will instead list a number of red flags and concerns that accompany this announcement.

The first and most pressing red flag is that Hickey was not the Dolphins' top choice to become their new GM. He also wasn't their second choice. He likely wasn't even their third choice.

Salguero notes that Hickey was only offered the job after Nick Caserio of the New England Patriots and Lake Dawson of the Tennessee Titans turned down their respective offers.

Those two only got offers because previous front-runner Ray Farmer of the Cleveland Browns withdrew from consideration a couple of days ago. Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post reports that other bigger names like Eric DeCosta and Tom Gamble declined to even interview in the first placealthough DeCosta also has turned down other teams' interviews.

Not a single one of these names jettisoned Miami to take GM jobs elsewhere. They all stayed in their respective positions at other teams, which is really quite depressing for Miami fans.

General manager is the apex. It's the goal, the end game, the destination. For anyone working in NFL front offices, it is their dream. Yet Miami couldn't convince any of these names to leave to become their own GM.

That says something in and of itself. It says that Miami is not only an undesirable organization to work for, it's a flat-out awful one.

It also quite obviously suggests that the Dolphins were not particularly high on Hickey in the first place. There's really not much else to say about that.

The second red flag has to do with Hickey's standing in Tampa Bay. He apparently was not even considered for the Bucs' GM job, which ended up going to Jason Licht, who was also interviewed by Miami.

After working for Tampa Bay for the past 18 years and getting a promotion to director of player personnelwhere the team's official site states he was "[w]orking side-by-side with General Manager Mark Dominik"the Bucs apparently were not even considering him for their open GM position this offseason.

How much does it say about Hickey that his own organization wasn't willing to offer him the job or even just give him an interview? 

The third red flag is essentially an extension of the second flag that makes everything look even worse.

Not only was Hickey not considered for Tampa Bay's open GM position, but Salguero even reported that he was actually going to be fired later this offseason.

It's almost hard to believe, but the Dolphins just hired a man who was going to be let go by the team that had employed him for the past 18 years to run their organization. While I understand that things go on behind closed doors and other factors play into that, it's still not exactly a positive.

The fourth and final red flag here is that nobody really seems to know much about or really endorse Hickey in any way.

I have yet to read many positive things about Hickey. The most relevant tidbits are all about the successful rookies he was apparently in charge of drafting. Guys like Mike Williams, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David were all great picks.

But Tampa Bay as a team has gone 15-33 since Hickey was promoted to director of player personnel. The Bucs also spent a ton in free agency last summer, yet still went 4-12 this season.

ESPN's Louis Riddick explained the move to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. “It’s a flat line hiring as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t heard anything great about him and I haven’t heard anything ridiculously negative about him,” he said.

These red flags lead to a number of concerns. The first and most surface-levelbut still importantone is how the Dolphins smooth this over with both Hickey and the fans.

We live in an age where very little is hidden. Hickey himself knows, and is also aware that all the fans and players and coaches know, that he was not one of the top choices for this job.

How is owner Stephen Ross going to appeal to Hickey and convince him that he's the main guy for the foreseeable future? How will Hickey be able to win over an embattled fanbase that knows he wasn't exactly an elite candidate?

The next concern is about the structure of the front office and how the power is distributed. Apparently, a big reason some candidates disliked Miami was because of their uncertainty about their role. 

According to an article by Adam Beasley in the Miami Herald, there was significant concern about Dawn Aponte and her relationship with both Joe Philbin and the prospective GM. Apparently, Farmer didn't like what he saw behind the scenes.

"Farmer’s main issue is with the amount of power Stephen Ross has granted executive vice president Dawn Aponte, according to a source close to the situation," Beasley wrote.

For the record, I very much share Farmer's concern there. Aponte is apparently good with contracts and cap negotiations, but she has no experience with evaluating players and should not be wielding as much power as she does.

The fact that she's apparently scaring away potential GM candidates is concerning enough. The reality is that there is no evidence that her and Philbin's stranglehold on things is a positive for Miami.

The final concern is about the direction of the organization. What is Philbin's future? Kevin Coyle's? Ryan Tannehill's? 

Who has the control in the organization? Ross? Aponte? Philbin? Hickey? Are these executives going to go all out to win now or are they building for the future?

Who are the team's core players? What are they going to do about the offensive line? Will new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor boost the production of Tannehill, Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller?

These are all questions that we can't answer right now, but are paramount to the future of the organization. The fact that there are so many of them cannot be seen as a good thing for Miami.

At the core of all this, however, there is one pressing question in the mind of Miami Dolphins fans everywhere: Does Stephen Ross have any idea what he's doing? 

So far, that answer would be a resounding "No." With the current state of the organization and the hiring of Dennis Hickey, it doesn't seem like that's bound to change anytime soon.


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