The Miami Dolphins filled two of their four coaching vacancies Thursday, hiring Jeff Nixon as the team's new running backs coach and Darren Krein as the head strength and conditioning coach.
Nixon replaces James Saxon, who was let go this week after three seasons on the job. Meanwhile, Krein steps in for Evan Marcus, who left to join the University of Virginia earlier this month.
With the two additions, the Dolphins have two remaining coaching vacancies to fill—both on the offensive side of the ball.
Replacements are still needed for quarterbacks coach David Lee, who is now offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, and tight ends coach George DeLeone, who joined Paul Pasqualoni's staff at UConn.
Nixon and Krein join offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as the Dolphins' three new additions to the coaching staff since the 2010 season ended.
A running back at West Virginia (1993-94) and Penn State (1996), Nixon served as a student assistant for one season on Joe Paterno's staff after graduation.
Nixon then spent one year as the running backs coach at Princeton, followed by four seasons under the same title at Shippensburg, where he would earn his master's degree in elementary administration.
From 2003-05, Nixon worked at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as the team's running backs coach, tight ends coach, and special teams coordinator.
Following one season of coaching running backs and wide receivers at Temple, Nixon earned his first NFL gig as special teams quality control coach on Andy Reid's staff with the Philadelphia Eagles. He worked under special teams coordinators Rory Segrest (2007-09) and Bobby April (2010).
Nixon served in that role for four seasons until joining the Dolphins in January 2011 in his running backs coach position at the NFL level.
A first-team All-Big East selection as a senior at the University of Miami, Krein was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of the 1994 NFL Draft. He missed his entire rookie season and was briefly with the Green Bay Packers the following spring, although he never played for the team.
After re-injuring his knee in 1996 with the Barcelona Dragons of the World League, Krein retired from professional football.
Krein served two seasons as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Seahawks under head coach Dennis Erickson from 1997-98, and was later rehired by head coach Mike Holmgren in 2001. Krein served eight seasons under Holmgren and one under Jim L. Mora before being let go when Pete Carroll took over in 2010.
How do you analyze a strength and conditioning coach? Who knows. It is a bit curious the Dolphins didn't promote assistant strength coach David Puloka, though I assume he remains on the staff in that position under Krein.
Nixon was a college running back in the 90s and has plenty of experience coaching the position at the college level, but has never done so in the pros and has not worked on offense since 2006.
And really, that's the interesting thing about these hires. One of them was out of football in 2010, and the other was a special teams quality control coach, so both are taking on jobs they weren't doing last year.
It's also interesting to note that both guys are first-timers at their positions. Krein has never been more than an assistant strength coach, while Nixon has only coached running backs in college and only special teams in the NFL.
That is not to say they aren't qualified, however. All coaches have to start somewhere, and it's safe to say a head coach as thorough as Tony Sparano did his homework before adding these two.
It's just a bit surprising he didn't go with coaches that are more proven and established, especially considering he may very well be coaching for his job in 2011.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.