Things are different these days in Miami. No, it's not new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. It's not the new players that signed with the team over the past few weeks. Instead, it's the renewed relationship between the general manager and head coach. This, of course, would be Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin.
You see, former general manager Jeff Ireland and Philbin disagreed on many things. Whether it was keeping Jonathan Martin on the left side of the line and not finding a replacement or moving up in the draft to grab Dion Jordan, or to throw all the money possible at Mike Wallace, they were never truly on the same page. This continued into the season when Philbin wasn't playing the players Ireland drafted as much as he had wanted him to. After the bullying incident blew up, Philbin became so irate at Ireland that they stopped talking throughout the remainder of the season. This was because Philbin saw it as a situation that could have easily been avoided. Two years ago, Philbin wanted to cut Richie Incognito. Ireland overruled him, citing he was a rookie head coach who didn't have a lot of power in the organization. There are quite a few more instances that are on and off the record but this gives you an idea of just how dysfunctional their relationship was behind the scenes.
Enter Dennis Hickey, the third, fourth, fifth or sixth choice for the vacant general manager position depending on who you ask. Is it possible though that Hickey was the best candidate all along? Sure, the Dolphins could've had Nick Caserio from the New England Patriots or Ray Farmer from the Cleveland Browns or supposedly Lake Dawson from the Tennessee Titans. However, all of them wanted to bring in their own head coach after the season. This would have led to much uncertainty in the building with not much trust to go around. Hickey, on the other hand, already had a relationship with Philbin when he interviewed for the vacant Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching position two years ago before they hired Greg Schiano. Hickey liked Philbin and was more than willing to work with him. Because of this, their relationship has been off to a great start.
That's because just about every morning, Hickey and Philbin watch film together. They watched film on Branden Albert, Earl Mitchell, Louis Delmas, Shelley Smith and every other free agent they signed. They watched and will continue to watch film on the players they have on the roster. They will watch film together on draft prospects. Did I mention that they also watch film together with position coaches and coordinators to get a feel for what they see in players they are thinking about for the Dolphins?
Ireland and Philbin rarely watched film together. Ireland rarely watched film with the position coaches and coordinators. That was one of the many reasons why coaches were so hesitant to play certain players. It's because they didn't have a comfort level with them and may have never wanted them in the first place.
Hickey, along with Philbin, has also changed the culture around the organization. How many times did Ireland swing and miss on free agents? He was regarded around the NFL as a GM who was rough around the edges and as someone with bad people skills. Hickey, on the other hand, is regarded as someone who genuinely cares about the players and their families. This is proven by the fact that Hickey and Philbin have been able to sign just about every free agent that has walked through the doors. The only exception was D'Qwell Jackson, who wanted to go to an immediate Super Bowl contender.
Hickey and Philbin came into the offseason with a plan. They attacked who they wanted right off the bat then let the free agent market settle. They have been filling holes here and there with players who provide great value for the team. They have just about set themselves up to take the best player available in the NFL draft, which is what every team strives to do.
While we won't know if their plan translates into success until the season gets underway, it's not hard to say that so far, they have been quite successful in just about everything they have since Hickey was hired in January.
Matthew Cannata is a columnist for The Phinsider. Be sure to follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs