The Miami Dolphins are stuck at a crossroads. Not since the days of Dan Marino have the glory days returned to a Miami team stuck in mediocrity. Last season the team came close to reaching the playoffs, before stumbling at the final hurdle with painful losses against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets.
Now it's Dennis Hickey's turn to take his seat in the spotlight. Hickey was viewed by many as an unlikely candidate for the top job in Miami. He failed to receive an interview with Tampa Bay for their GM job, despite being employed with the team for the past 18 years in both college and pro scouting. Neither was Hickey even Miami's first choice, after rejections from Nick Caserio of the New England Patriots and Luke Dawson of the Tennessee Titans.
So just what can we expect from Miami's untried and untested rookie GM?
1. Dennis Hickey is a team player.
One of the most important considerations for Stephen Ross during his prolonged GM search was the need for a team player to work with Head Coach Joe Philbin and Vice President of Football Operations Dawn Aponte. Both Philbin and Hickey will be tasked on fixing Miami's seemingly toxic locker room culture emanating from the infamous ‘Martin-Gate' scandal.
2. Wait-And-See Approach to Free Agency.
Consider a recent quote from Hickey:
"I think it is more about placing a value on a player. That's what we are doing. That's what we are doing in our meetings. That's what we will do in our draft meetings. That's what we will do in our free agent meetings. We place what we call a Dolphin value for the player, and that directs our steps on how we approach things."
One word to describe this would be cautious. Miami will take a methodical approach during this free agency and select players based on the ‘Dolphins value'. Some may call it savvy, while others will look at it as a risky way of doing business. While it may guard against overpaying for certain free agents, it could backfire by allowing other teams to set the terms of negotiations with our soon to be free agents. Whichever way this can be dissected, Hickey will be well aware that his predecessor ultimately lost his job for failing to bring in the right players (and overpaying for players including Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and arguably Brian Hartline) in free agency to kick-start this Dolphins team. Choosing the right players in free agency is imperative.
3. Approach to the 2014 NFL Draft.
While Hickey may not be viewed as the ‘sexy' choice for the Dolphins, he is highly respected in the NFL community. Though he never made the final call on draft day, Tampa Bay's previous GM Mark Dominik has been quoted as saying Hickey had a "fairly significant" role in the draft.
There's no doubt about it; Hickey is highly experienced when it comes to the NFL Draft. Sure, Hickey has had his misses, with quarterback Josh Freeman springing to mind. However Hickey has also made quality selections over the past few years.
His pedigree in selecting offensive linemen is evident with Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood (both in 2005) and Jeremy Zuttah (in 2008) becoming solid starters. Tampa also drafted the talented Aqib Talib (2009), who amassed an impressive 17 interceptions in four seasons before being traded to the New England Patriots. The selection of Gerald McCoy, now a Pro Bowl defensive tackle, in 2010 also proved a success.
In more recent years Adrian Clayborne (13 sacks) and linebacker Mason Foster (92 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions) in 2011 proved fine additions. In 2012 Tampa really struck gold in a draft that produced three players making the All- rookie team, by selecting safety Mark Barron, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David. Finally, in 2013 cornerback Jonathan Banks performed admirably in a backup role with 3 interceptions, while Mike Glennon and former UM running back Mike James look like smart decisions.
These are only just a few of the initial takeaways from Dennis Hickey. Over the next few months Hickey will be under even greater scrutiny from pundits up and down the country as Miami selects players in free agency and the draft designed to turn this ailing franchise around. Can he do it? Time will tell. But lets use this as a starting point.
Can Dennis Hickey turn things around in Miami? Lets hear your thoughts.