Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dolphins hire Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe as receivers coach

The Miami Dolphins' coaching staff is nearing completion, with reports Friday saying new head coach Joe Philbin has brought former colleague Ken O'Keefe aboard as the new wide receivers coach.

O'Keefe, who has spent the past decade as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Iowa, replaces Steve Bush, who was not retained upon the arrival of Philbin. Bush tutored the Dolphins' receivers just one season after spending Tony Sparano's first three seasons in Miami as the offensive quality control coach.

The Dolphins are now just a quarterbacks coach and potentially an offensive quality control coach away from a full staff under their rookie head coach, with the NFL Scouting Combine looming in a few weeks and free agency and the draft not far behind.


Background

A three-year starter (1972-74) at John Carroll, O'Keefe began his coaching career with two years as an assistant at New Haven from 1976 to 1977.

O'Keefe then served as a coach at Worcester (Mass.) Academy, working with new Dolphins' offensive coordinator Mike Sherman from 1979-80 and coaching then student Joe Philbin.

After a year at Fort Worth (Tex.) Country Day School in 1985, O'Keefe became the offensive coordinator at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. After holding that title for four seasons, O'Keefe spent eight years as the team's head coach and amassed a record of 79-10-1, including an undefeated season and Division III National Championship during his first year at the helm in 1990.

O'Keefe spent one season as the head coach of Fordham in 1998 and went 4-7 before moving on to Kirk Ferentz's staff at the University of Iowa. He coordinated the offense and coached the wide receivers in 1999 before shifting to quarterbacks coach, holding both that title as well as offensive coordinator through the 2011 season.


In a dozen seasons at Iowa, O'Keefe has tutored numerous Heisman Trophy finalists and sent dozens of players to the NFL including Dallas Clark, Brad Banks, Ricky Stanzi, Shonn Greene, Bryan Bulaga and Robert Gallery. During that span, the Hawkeyes have won 96 games and six bowl games.

Iowa City was also the most recent stop that O'Keefe worked with Philbin, as the Dolphins' head coach spent four years coaching the Hawkeyes' offensive line from 1999 to 2002.


Analysis

As has been the trend since Philbin arrived, the O'Keefe addition comes with plenty of connections to the Dolphins' new head coach. Both Philbin and Sherman go back with O'Keefe all the way to the late 1970s, with O'Keefe actually being the superior at Worcester when he was the head coach, Sherman was an assistant coach, and Philbin was still a student and player.

All three men are in their fifties now, however, so who is the boss of whom won't be an issue. What is important is familiarity, and the O'Keefe hiring certainly brings that. Philbin has obviously built an offense staff that he's comfortable with and there should be no speed bumps in formulating a direction for the team.

I am a bit curious that O'Keefe is coaching wide receivers rather than quarterbacks, which is one of the roles he held at Iowa since 2000. O'Keefe was a receiver in college in the mid-1970s but doesn't have much coaching experience there and hasn't specifically held the title since his first season at Iowa in 1999.

Nevertheless, O'Keefe is certainly an experienced coach that Philbin trusts, and I imagine his influence in the offense will extend to more than just the receiving corps. You also have to assume he'll have some good insights on Hawkeyes' players such as likely first-round offensive tackle Riley Reiff (a potential target for the Dolphins at No. 8 or 9) and wide receiver Marvin McNutt, who stands 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds and could be a early-to-mid-round selection.


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