The Miami Dolphins have hired former San Francisco 49ers assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp for the same role with the Dolphins, according to sources covering both teams.
Fipp steps into the role previously held by current special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, who took over in Week 5 after John Bonamego was fired following a disastrous performance by the Dolphins' special teams unit in a 41-14 loss to the New England Patriots on Oct. 4.
Veteran NFL wide receiver Ike Hilliard has also reportedly joined the coaching staff as an offensive assistant, per Jeff Darlington at the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
The Dolphins, who have brought in five new coaches already this offseason, now have just one vacancy to fill with former quarterbacks coach David Lee gone to Ole Miss.
Such a hire might not happen this week, as general manager Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano are both in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.
A walk-on at the University of Arizona who eventually earned a scholarship and started his final two seasons at safety, Fipp began his coaching career with two seasons as the secondary coach and special teams coordinator at Holy Cross.
After a year as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 2000, Fipp served on season as the secondary coach at Cal Poly, followed by two seasons as the team's defensive coordinator.
Fipp then served one season as co-defensive coordinator at Nevada with Chris Ault in 2004, followed by two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for San Jose State. He stepped into a full defensive coordinator role for the Spartans in 2007.
Hired by the 49ers as an assistant special teams coach in 2008, Fipp has been credited with helping a handful of 49ers reach the Pro Bowl, including punter Andy Lee, return specialist Allen Rossum, and special-teamer Michael Robinson.
Fipp worked three seasons for the 49ers, two under special teams coordinator Al Everest and the most recent season under Kurt Schottenheimer. He was let go upon the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as the Niners' head coach in 2011.
A standout receiver at the University of Florida, Hilliard helped the Gators win their first national title in the 1997 Sugar Bowl. An All-SEC and All-American selection as a junior, Hilliard finished his three-year playing career with 29 touchdown catches and was eventually inducted into the school's athletics hall of fame.
Hilliard was drafted seventh overall by the New York Giants in 1997 and went on to spend eight seasons with the team, including the final seven as a starting receiver. He helped the team reach Super Bowl XXXV against the Baltimore Ravens with a career-high eight receiving touchdowns during the 2000 season.
An unrestricted free agent in 2005, Hilliard signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent four seasons with the team, including the 2007 season as a starter.
A neck injury forced Hilliard to retire following the 2008 season, but he finished his 12-year professional career with 546 receptions for 6,387 yards and 35 touchdowns. Among the Giants' leading career receivers, Hilliard currently ranks fifth in receptions, eighth in yards, and 12th in touchdowns.
Hilliard immediately got into coaching following his retirement, serving as a volunteer receivers coach under Jim Haslett with the UFL's Florida Tuskers in 2009. Hilliard was promoted to the full-time wide receivers coach position in 2010 under new head coach Jay Gruden and helped the Tuskers' receiving corps rank second in the league as they lost to the Las Vegas Locomotives in the championship game for the second straight season..
Fipp has plenty of experience at both the college and pro levels as a special teams assistants, working with quality coaches and learning from more experienced men along the way.
While the Dolphins' kicking and punting games need little help, the team's coverage and blocking units in all areas do. The team got better after Bonamego fell in the ax following the first Patriots' game, but Darren Rizzi couldn't fix things over night.
He will have some nice tools to work with including Jonathon Amaya, Lex Hilliard, and Roberto Wallace, but both Fipp and Rizzi will be tasked with making the unit more efficient as a whole.
As for Hilliard, this is yet another inexperienced hire but one that I like a lot. Similar to new tight ends coach Dan Campbell, Hilliard has extensive experience playing in the NFL in the last decade and thus has a wealth of wisdom to share with the Dolphins' young receivers.
Hilliard will also be able to learn from a greatly experienced receivers coach in Karl Dorrell, and could even be groomed for a full-time receivers coach gig if Dorrell eventually becomes an offensive coordinator in Miami or elsewhere.
Considering the Dolphins have let Tony Sparano make fairly inexperienced hires at offensive coordinator, tight ends coach, and now an offensive assistant role in Hilliard, perhaps there is some chance he'll get to stick around in Miami for more than just 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.