Dennis Hickey wasn’t the Dolphins’ first choice. Far from.
But he was their last — and they hope their best.
Hickey agreed early Sunday to become the team’s latest general manager, the Dolphins announced, but only after the team wooed two others — Nick Caserio and Lake Dawson — who had issues with the team’s power structure. A third finalist, Ray Farmer, wouldn’t even agree for a final interview.
Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ in-house candidate, was never offered the job. He was taken aback by the snub, and not expected to remain with the franchise long-term.
Hickey will oversee all aspects of football administration and report directly to owner Stephen Ross, the team announced. Executive vice president Dawn Aponte will report to Hickey on “all matters,” not just the salary cap, the Miami Herald has learned.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin will continue to oversee his coaching staff and also will answer only to Ross.
“Miami is a great franchise with a historic tradition and passionate fans. The opportunity to work with Stephen Ross, Joe Philbin and the entire Dolphins organization to build a team that wins on a consistent basis is exciting,” Hickey said in a prepared statement. “The Dolphins certainly have talented players, and I am eager to hit the ground running with our personnel and coaching staffs. We will all work together to construct a team that will make our organization and fans proud.”
Despite the team’s strong delineation of powers, details of the arrangement were unpalatable enough to scare off some of the best candidates — in very public fashion.
The at-times embarrassing search has already taken a real toll. Several Dolphins players have already privately expressed that they want out of this situation, seen by many as dysfunctional.
It could fall to Hickey to convince them otherwise.
“I am excited that Dennis Hickey is our new general manager,” Ross said. “When we started the search, I outlined qualities that I was looking for in this position. These included a collaborative team-first person who can work with Joe, demonstrated player evaluation expertise and someone who is open-minded and creative. Dennis fit all of these criteria, and I’m looking forward to having him get started.”
So who is Dennis Hickey?
A graduate of Tulsa in 1994, Hickey, 43, started his career at Blinn Junior College, where he spent two years as an assistant coach. He then joined the Buccaneers’ personnel department, starting as a pro personnel assistant. He then spent a dozen years as a scout, concentrating on the Midwestern states — which is where he got to know Philbin, then an assistant at Iowa. During that time, Tampa Bay won its first and only Super Bowl.
Hickey, who is married and has two children, also served as director of college scouting and, most recently, director of player personnel. However, when the Bucaneers’ GM job opened up this past offseason, Hickey wasn’t even considered for the job — even though he helped assemble a roster that’s considered more talented than the team’s 4-12 record indicated.
Reaction to the hire around the league? Mixed.
One plugged-in source not associated with the Dolphins or Buccaneers gave it a thumbs-up: “Hickey is actually really good.”
Others, however, weren’t so kind.
A high-ranking personnel official from another team quipped: “Laughing to myself. ... Good luck Joe.”
Another take from a respected talent evaluator: “Tampa is psyched. They were going to fire him anyway. Now they don’t have to pay him.”
Most importantly, however, Hickey was willing to coexist with Philbin and Aponte. Ross has said he’s looking for a team player in that job, and appears to have found one.
Hickey’s track record in the NFL Draft is equally mixed. The Buccaneers had some bad misses early in his time as college scouting director, including busts Carnell Williams (fifth overall pick in 2005), Gaines Adams (fourth overall in 2007) and quarterback Josh Freeman (the first-round pick who was traded after four inconsistent seasons in Tampa).
However, the team’s draft success rate has improved in recent years, however, hitting on running back Doug Martin, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. Also, the team could have its quarterback of the future in Mike Glennon.
The Dolphins think they already have theirs in Ryan Tannehill. It’ll be Hickey’s job to put enough talent around him to succeed.
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.