Today at 12:30 Jeff Ireland gave a pre-draft news conference. I like Ireland, he’s a smart man whose passion for football has helped the Dolphins improve since he took over as GM. That being said, Jeff Ireland didn’t really give much new information today. He was pleasant and even joked around a little bit, but at the end of the day he’s still a Parcells man through and through. And the media needs to be kept at arm’s lengths. So with that in mind, here’s a summary of Mr. Ireland’s presser as well as some comments from his live web-chat afterwards…
The first questions asked were about Jason Taylor, and Ireland didn’t seem pleased with them:
“This organization knows exactly our stance on it, Jason knows our stance on it, and we’re not going to air our business to the media.”
“He’s a free agent right now, we told him exactly what our stance was and he’s allowed to do whatever he wants to do that’s best for him. This is a pre-draft press conference fellas”
Clearly, the Dolphins don’t feel they need to make much of a public sales-pitch to Taylor. According to Ireland both sides have communicated and come to an understand. What that understanding may be is completely irrelevant to the media and the fans, apparently all that matters is the organization and Jason know where they both stand. According to Tim Graham, Taylor may ultimately be standing on the Jets sideline come next September, though Graham did report today that JT has no immediate plans to make a decision. Armando Salguero reported last night that the Dolphins had a constructive conversation with Taylor and his agent. I don’t know what to believe right now, my heart and head say two entirely different things. We’ll obviously follow up on this story as it develops.
Moving on to more pertinent draft-related issues, Ireland was much happier to skirt the questions. This presser and most of the press conferences since the trifecta took the reins have actually reminded me more of Ari Fleischer’s Whitehouse press briefings. No concrete answers. No definitive statements. But damn the words sound nice.
Ireland went on to tell Dolfans that Miami feels like no matter how the draft plays out, there will be good players available at 12. Then he said Miami may trade up or down but they’re confident they’ll find a good player in round 1. Sounds like a politician’s answer, Miami may trade up or down, they may actually pick at 12, but regardless it will be the right move for the organization, for America.
More specifically, in regard to free safety, Ireland felt there were:
“Good players at the safety position. Confident the players on our team can fill that role as well. Tyrone and Chris have a great opportunity to fill the position but there are some good players in the draft that can fill the position as well…”
Again, not really an answer. Miami likes the safeties in the draft but they like the safeties on their roster. Who knows? Well, Jeff Ireland knows but he’s not going to tip his hand. And not that I blame him, but you have to admire the way these answers discuss this issues without providing any insight into what the front office may be thinking.
In terms of his evaluation of players Ireland was a lot more candid. Obviously, that’s because he can afford to be in regard to that topic, but it was nice to get a straight answer.
“I put a lot of weight on how the player plays, the combine is helpful to verify what is on tape, but personally I weigh more on how the player played. (There are) a million kinds of formulas you can take into the draft. I have a formula that I use and I let play factor more heavily into the evaluation.”
With regard to drafting a player that may not live up to the prototypical measurements at a position:
“Depends on position, some you’re more liberal with your prototype, others your more stringent. Certain positions in this league over time will tell you small players don’t have success and at the same time there are positions that over a time will show you smaller players can be successful.”
I appreciate the pragmatic approach taken here, but I can’t help but remember the Parcells quote about making exceptions for players, “you make one exception, and the next thing you know you have a team full of exceptions.” Ireland didn’t take the time say which positions a team can be more flexible on size with, but when asked about Mike Nolan’s success with smaller outside linebackers, he seemed to dismiss the idea. In fact he said something to the effect of, “If Mike wants to offer that advice then we’ll listen, but ultimately it’s up to Bill and I and we’ve never drafted many outside linebackers that weren’t prototypical size.” So Brandon Graham still might not be an option.
Ireland also discussed some of the pre draft process including visits:
“I bring a guy in if I have a question about him. If I haven’t spent enough time with him. If he needs a physical. Maybe I wanna see if he measures up. If he’s what Bill and Tony and I are looking for. Maybe he needs more chalk talk. Or maybe I’m just trying to mess with the 11 teams ahead of me and the five teams behind me.”
“I do spend time considering draft needs for other teams. I’m on it and there are a couple of other guys on it right now. I really pay a lot of attention to it, especially in the four or five days leading up to the draft.”
“So you want me to tell you who I’m going to take first and the philosophical reasons why we want to make that pick? (Laughter)
“I’m going to be a little less vague than I’d like to be. Let’s just say that just because Bill and I haven’t done it before, doesn’t mean we won’t do it.”
That was really the only… insightful remark. Not that Jeff Ireland isn’t insightful, but obviously he’s going to be very guarded with his information at this stage. But the indication Miami may buck trends can certainly be interpreted in many different ways. It might be an indication that Dez Bryant is a possibility. Perhaps Miami would pull the trigger on a trade of some sort or maybe Jeff Ireland only said that throw people off the scent. Regardless, it’s food for thought.
A couple of quick notes, Miami seemed to have a little trouble with the live-chat but a video of it is now up on the Dolphins site. The highlights from Ireland came in his response to a question about projecting players at other positions in the NFL, he said 4-3 Defensive End is the easiest to project to 3-4 OLB, they both pretty much play a 6 technique and with the increase of zone blitzes in college where an end drops back into coverage in a flat or even sometimes into man coverage makes it even more of a natural progression because, according to Ireland, you get to see them do the same things.
And then finally, perhaps another interesting tidbit. This answer cam in regard to a question about free agency affects a team’s draft strategy. This could be posturing or insight into Miami’s line of thinking:
“It really doesn’t affect it too much in my opinion, people have asked me that in the past where you are picking up a player or a position in free agency well they automatically think you’re not going to pick that way or the same position in the draft. Well I think that’s, that’s not right. I think you’re looking for good young players. I think you’re looking for players to build the strength on your team if you get the opportunity to draft a player that helps you build your strength on that football team, you know especially if it’s a core position, I think you should never overlook that.”
I tried to transcribe Jeff Ireland’s quotes as quickly as possible while on a work computer, constantly dealing with both buffering issues and trying to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation with my boss. So I apologize if there are any small syntactical errors. The substance in each is correct. And remember, we here at PhinPhanatic put you (and the Miami Dolphins) ahead of even our work lives. God bless and Go Fins!