The Dolphins’ new general manager introduced himself on Tuesday and he could turn out to be a blessing or a bust for a franchise that badly needs him to be the former. Dennis Hickey will introduce himself more tangibly and properly, of course, with his first major decisions in free agency or the draft.
We needn’t wait to judge his job performance, though, to weigh in on this important hire by owner Stephen Ross.
See, this hire wasn’t just about how Hickey will shape the roster.
Before he brings in a single new player, he has already brought this:
Before he makes a single significant decision, he has already made this:
All of what has happened here was about a beleaguered NFL franchise trying to get on that proverbial “same page.” The departure of unpopular former GM Jeff Ireland, other candidates turning the job down, the settling on Hickey — all of it was about an owner gambling that a front office figuratively arm in arm and singing Kumbaya would be a necessary step toward winning.
Peace, love and happiness work great on a Hallmark card. They are a fragile premise to making champions of a team that last appeared in a Super Bowl in 1985, when Dan Marino had curly hair and peach fuzz.
Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin had a deteriorating relationship that became corrosive, and that’s why we were here Tuesday: In the Dolphins’ main meeting room where major announcements are made, listening to a newly anointed rookie GM who was so thrilled for his big break he could hardly stand it. Hickey’s young son, Barrett, wore a No. 17 Ryan Tannehill jersey.
Hickey is good with everything. With the owner he called “Mr. Ross,” with the head coach he doesn’t have the power to fire, with influential salary-cap maven Dawn Aponte — it’s all good.
Now let’s see if Hickey is all good, or any good, at being a GM.
Ross admitted “compatibility with the head coach” was a priority in this job search. He chose Philbin over Ireland and the incoming GM wasn’t going to mess with that. Candidates who didn’t like the power structure or didn’t like Philbin came and went. Hickey was left.
The new man spoke of a “unified vision.” He recalled telling his wife after his first meeting with Philbin, “Yeah, this fits.”
Now let’s see if it works.
There was no question the Dolphins needed change.
What was happening privately last season, away from public view, was an embarrassment.
At least the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin/Bullygate thing was out there in the open. What was going on with Ireland and Philbin hurt the team far more. And it festered.
Ross became aware of it but said Tuesday, “It’s not something you address in the middle of a season.” He said of the Ireland/Philbin relationship, “It goes back to having respect for each other. I didn’t feel it. We had to make a decision and move on.”
That moving on is personified now by an agreeable new GM with much to prove.
There are natural concerns.
Hickey was a Tampa Bay Buccaneers lifer, 18 years with the club, the past three as director player personnel, and yet was passed over for the Bucs’ recent GM opening.
He was not even one of Miami’s top five choices for the job originally, just the last, most agreeable one.
Hickey (and Ross, and Philbin) must understand this and can’t know it enough:
This cannot be a slow build.
Miami should have made the playoffs this season before blowing it the last two games. Dolfans who were in high school cheering the club’s last Super Bowl win are now thinking retirement.
When Hickey asked rhetorically Tuesday, “Is this a place I can win championships?” and referred to “a nucleus of young players that can develop into a championship-caliber roster,” Dolfans were thinking, “Tick-tock, pal.”
When Ross said Tuesday, “We’re not that far away” and “We have a lot of confidence in coach Philbin and the direction we’re headed,” well, he should know fans are going to hold him to that belief and all it implies.
Hickey referred to Miami’s “passionate fan base.” I might say “impatient” as much as passionate.
Hey, this guy might turn out great. Hopefulness is a wonderful thing.
Hickey might prove to be a rising GM star who mines hidden talent in the draft, who makes brilliant free agent signings, who dovetails with Philbin magically and who becomes a talent-finder other teams go after.
It could happen. It could!
But this is the Dolphins, where the long drought has made the expectation of disappointment a fan’s default emotion.
This is the Dolphins, where years or mismanagement, missteps and missed playoffs have erased all but the fumes of benefit of doubt.
For sure, the new GM means the Dolphins front office has that coveted harmony that it lacked, that “same page.”
Now we wipe that page blank, if we might be charitable, and we wait to see if that page is filled from here with gibberish or poetry or the same forgettable mediocrity to which we’ve become accustomed.
So, welcome to Miami, Dennis Hickey.
Now wow us.
Right now, if you wouldn’t mind.