The Dolphins Blame Game: Jeff Ireland

Ireland has made decent if unspectacular decisions

Today the Miami Dolphins have a bye week, the good news is they will not lose today.  The bad news is they will still lose ground to either the Patriots or the Jets as both teams play each other.  Lose ground?  I really doubt that the 2011 Miami Dolphins will turn around their season in time to have to worry about gaining ground on any division winner.  Yesterday we took a look at Stephen Ross and his role in the mess we call the 2011 season.  You can read that here.

Today we dig a little deeper and take a look at the role Jeff Ireland has played in this mess.

Like with Ross, I blame Ireland for a few things but not for everything.   I don’t believe that Ireland is a bad general manager as much as I believe his choices simply haven’t been organized and directed to build this team in a proper manner.  However, it’s difficult to not overlook glaring issues with the team that Ireland is in control of.  Whether that is the re-signing of veteran players or choices he makes in the draft.  As with Ross and his responsibility for Ireland, the personnel on the field is ultimately the responsibility of Jeff Ireland.  

If we want to look at Jeff Ireland in a fair manner we need to evaluate his decision making as a whole.  Unfortunately for the first two and a half years Ireland was either under the thumb of Bill Parcells or so influenced by the man that he could not make a decision on his own.  It also goes without saying that while Parcells may or may not be responsible for many of the draft picks made in the first two seasons, it’s almost impossible to determine what players belonged to Ireland and what players belong to Parcells.

We do know that Pat White was a Bill Parcells pick.  In fact while Parcells has actually denied that he was the sole person responsible for that choice, there have been many others within the Dolphins organization that have publicly stated that Parcells was the driving force behind it.  Parcells also takes full credit for Vontae’ Davis and Jake Long as well.  For Ireland, it’s much easier and safer to digest the last two drafts that he has conducted without Bill Parcells in the room.

The drafting of Jared Odrick has yet to pay off but in reality this is his first year after spending his rookie season on IR.  So far he is one of the few bright spots on the Dolphins defense this season.  Koa Misi as well has yet to materialize into a stud OLB but has shown promise inconsistently.  John Jerry has been a rumored choice of HC Tony Sparano but it was and is still Ireland’s choice to make regardless of whether he conceded the pick or not.  A.J. Edds is gone and Reshad Jones and Nolan Carroll are struggling mightily this season.

This years is far too early to grade although it appears that first round pick Mike Pouncey and RB Daniel Thomas will become major contributors to the team.  The same could also be said about promising seventh round pick, Jimmy Wilson.

In two seasons away from Parcells, Ireland’s choices have been a little better than average when you view them as a whole from rounds 1 to 7.  Where Ireland seems to have failed is in the free agent market where his unwillingness to spend money has both hurt the team and the continuity of the product on the field.  In other words, the Dolphins are comprised of team players but no stars to build the team around.

Cameron Wake was a solid find in the CFL, something that Parcells claims to have turned over, but this year his play is pedestrian.  Ireland’s off-season consisted on passing over two very well thought of full time running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Ahman Bradshaw in favor of the oft injured and less talented Reggie Bush.  Bush has been a model player since his arrival but the fact remains he is not a player that can be relied upon between the tackles.  Ireland could have gone after Darren Sproles for much cheaper.  Sproles is having a phenomenal year in New Orleans, replacing Reggie Bush.

The one stand Ireland made was the trade for Brandon Marshall.  On paper it was supposed to be a great deal for the Dolphins but unfortunately that too has not worked out to the advantage of the team.  Marshall’s off-field problems still exist and on the field it’s likely that his personal life is now impacting his play.  Marshall is in the top 5 of WR’s dropped passes this year.  Something that he was not known for in Denver.

Perhaps nothing stands out more on the Ireland resume that his failure to address the QB situation.  His unwavering refusal to overpay for Kyle Orton was not found favorable in the eyes of the media or the fans.  Even today when Orton’s numbers are barely better than those of Chad Henne’s, the reality is that fans still believe that the Dolphins should have paid Orton what he wanted.

Then of course there is the Chad Henne issue.  Henne was playing much better than last year but the Dolphins opted for Matt Moore as his back-up, two conversely different styles of players.  Much to the same degree that Henne and Chad Pennington were different.  With Henne now out for the season, Ireland has chosen Sage Rosenfelds to back up Moore instead of taking a chance on a David Garrard who supposedly turned down Ireland’s offer.

For Jeff Ireland the reality is that he has failed in some areas.  For example, applying the franchise tag to Paul Soliai rather than negotiating a contract with him prior to the end of last season or letting the negotiating window close this season.  Soliai counts 12 million against the Dolphins cap this season alone.  He is not playing close to that kind of money.  Ross has also spent more money on busted free agents that have not made an impact on the team.  Kevin Burnett has been a major disappointment and Ireland’s lack of finding a real free safety has hurt the defensive make-up.

Of course Ireland has done nothing to address the tight end position either.

Like Ross, Ireland too has a black eye.  Outside of his participation in the Jim Harbaugh fiasco, Ireland had to smooth things over with Sparano, Ireland’s own personality has gotten in the way of smart business.  For example, he brought a free agent into town for a visit and shuffled him through the process and sent him along his way leaving a bad taste in the FA’s mouth that went public.  His decision to ask Dez Bryant about his mother’s past did him no favors.  Ireland is often seen as a smug egotistical GM which is fine if you’re a GM who has a stellar history to back it up.  Ireland does not.

Ireland has made some good decisions and while he hasn’t made many overly bad decisions, he has yet to find a catalyst to build around.  There is nothing on this team since he became GM to build upon.  There are no stars.  His desire to turn over “every acorn” has left the team with acorns and no sprouting oaks.  The lack of continuity and the fact this team doesn’t play as a comprised unit speaks more to the fact that Ireland has filled this team with support type players rather than actual game changers or leaders.

Of course the players that should be game changers, Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby, are struggling this year.  Dansby has had minimal impact since his arrival two seasons ago.  Perhaps the biggest slight on Ireland is his desire to stick with what is familiar.  Former players he is comfortable with.  It’s one thing to pull a top free agent off your old team and another to claim that former team’s cuts.  There is a reason that players are released.

Ireland may find his job on the line after the conclusion of this season.  If Ross opts for a full control head coach, Ireland will be gone along with Sparano.  However, Ross likes and trusts Jeff Ireland so any coach not demanding full control will allow Ross to keep Ireland in place.  While Ireland’s choices for players can be broken down and debated, it also has to be asked if the players on the field are simply mistakes by Ireland or if they are simply not coached well enough by Sparano.  Something we will look at in the next installment.

Ireland will not go down in Dolphins history as the worst GM, that honor belongs to Dave Wannstedt and even Randy Mueller.  In fact, it very well could turn out well for Ireland historically.  If a new HC comes in and turns these players into play makers, whether Ireland is here or not, he may be one of those few that fans remember and say, “you know, looking back, it really wasn’t his fault”.  But that’s a long way away.  The fact is, Ireland needs to stop adding acorns and start adding trees.  He can’t continue to turn over the roster because he has the power to do so.

This is the new NFL and money is thrown around quite a bit and contracts are written with a lot of creativity.  Ireland needs to find a way to do that if he is going to stay as the teams primary personnel man.

Tags: Bill Parcells Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross

  • fins4ever

    Good article. I can pretty much sum it up by saying I loved this past draft, but hate his FA signing. I was against signing Bush and Marshall.

    Jeff also failed to address the TE and Safety positions and his placing the franchise tag on Soliai was nothing short of knee jerk stupidity. Also, IMO it was dumb to let RW go and place all the “faith” on a rookie (Daniels) and an injury prone scat back (Bush).

    Final analysis…..You are fired!

  • hawkfinfan

    You left out a major part of his failing as a GM. Signing EX COWBOYS.

  • fins4ever

    @hawkfinfan Agree. His tunnel vision has made the team into the biggest joke in the NFL. Yeah, let’s sign a bunch of guys from a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in quite some time.

    I have said in other conversations, signing so many loser cowboys is reason enough on it’s own to show him the door!

  • Phinphanatic

    @hawkfinfan you didn’t get: “Perhaps the biggest slight on Ireland is his desire to stick with what is familiar. Former players he is comfortable with. It’s one thing to pull a top free agent off your old team and another to claim that former team’s cuts.” It was a direct reference to the Boyz….LOL

  • mscout99

    I think Ireland is a stooge who can’t make his own decisions. He was Parcells’ yes-man, and now he’s Ross’s yes-man. Ross and Ireland are ineffective, to say the least, and they’re pretty much a package deal.

    I agree with several points, but I think the ineffectiveness of players like Wake and Dansby is more of a problem with Mike Nolan, and I hope you have a novel of the issues he’s given us while you blame all of this on Sparano later on.

    You hit Ireland’s big weakness in the free agency market spot on. After drafting Thomas and getting Bush, you didn’t have to sign DeAngelo Williams. But there were proven backups out there like Jason Snelling out there. But the biggest need that didn’t get addressed was the WR position. Guys were out there like Braylon Edwards and Steven Smith that would have been a HUGE upgrade over the #4 receiver that lines up opposite of Marshall (Hartline).

    My beef is that issues like Miami’s start at the top; Everyone has their fair share of blame, but Ross and Ireland are setting a bad culture. If Ross has any clue, he’ll seperate that liking he has for Ireland and bring someone better in to fix the problems.

  • fins4ever

    Who decides which coaches, other than the HC are hired to the staff? I would assume it would be the GM.

  • mscout99

    @fins4ever Bush can be effective if used correctly. Right now, he is not.

    Marshall needs “stick ‘em” or some stronger meds where he only hears two voices instead of six, because they five voices telling him to drop passes are ticking us all off.

    Releasing Ricky wasn’t as much an issue with me; he’s a two-time quitter who couldn’t put the bong away, and his criticisms weren’t helping. Let’s face it, over the years Ricky has shown he’s not the epitome of someone you would call a team player or a locker room leader. Plus, he’s on the decline, as was Ronnie Brown.

    Ireland has to go, but he and Ross should be shown the door as a package deal.

  • Cornerss

    not sure i think it makes much sense to blame him for not signing Solia to a long term contract and instead overpaid him 12 million just this year. Wouldn’t a long term contract pay him more over a longer period of time then hes been playing up to this year?

    Also passing on deangelo williams was smart, as hes only got 3.9 yards a carry and is having a bad year for the huge contract he got this year.

    I think its kind of sad we didn’tget to see henne play out this year. He was looking very promising but had many dropped balls and td’s and was standing in a firing range while still getting 7.9 yards a carry and almost 8 yards a pass this year. He had 4 ints but at least 3 of them weren’t even his fault. Go back and check the time and how they happened. Most of the blame goes to the to the defense for being out of shape and the horrible o-line play and butter fingers for wr’s we have this year. Not Henne

  • fins4ever

    @mscout99 RW is having a better year in every way than any RB on the Miami roster. He would have been cheaper too. Hmmm.

    Marshall doesn’t need stickem. Marshall needs to hit the road along with the clowns that overpaid for him.

  • fins4ever

    @Cornerss It was a desperation move to pay Soliai 12 mil for a single year because they had no other option except put Starks back at NT. They did draft Frank Kearse in the 6th round, but he was plucked off the PS by the Ravens.

  • Phinphanatic

    @fins4ever most of the time a head coach brings in his own assistants like OC and DC. In Miami, Parcells already had a deal in place with Henning before Sparano was officially hired in fact at one point there was a rumor that Henning would be the HC. Parcells also hired Mike Nolan. Sparano brought with him a few assistants but Parcells was the guy behind the hiring of Dorrell and Todd Bowles. It’s hard to blame a coach when he doesn’t get to choose his staff.

  • Phinphanatic

    @mscout99 well tomorrow you will see how much blame I put on Sparano in this. As for the WR’s…sorry I disagree. WR was not a priority for this team it would have been a luxury to spend more money on a number 2. What they should have done was spent more money on a TE and on the Oline and given Henne more time in the pocket. I think he would have been stellar with more protection and the WR’s would have looked much better. Edwards is already a problem in SF and Steve Smith was coming off an injury and is buried on the Philly chart.

  • Phinphanatic

    @Cornerss If Ireland had negotiated a deal with Soliai instead of franchising him, they would have reduced his front end salary and his cap number while spreading out any guaranteed money over the life of the deal. Not to mention they could have creatively not guaranteed large portions of the contract and made it more incentive based in later years. Instead, the power was there for Soliai who could stand his ground and take a 12 million salary this year and not worry about the rest until he hits free agency next year.

    It would have been much smarter and team friendly to work out that deal.

    I agree with you on Williams as it played out but not Bradshaw or Sproles. Instead they go after Steve Slaton and play cut and paste with Larry Johnson. Again, turning over “acorns” instead of looking for something that actually will grow.

  • abbeynormal

    Letting Rickey go was not a “dumb” move and I am assuming you’re talking about Thomas at RB who in his limited playing time has shown promise. Usually running backs decline quickly, Shaun Alexander anyone. I would rather lose them a year too early than a year too late. I also remember hearing talk of Ronnie Brown before his departure but he has done nothing noteworthy in Philly. I think the knee jerk stupidity you refer to could be applied to much of the fandumb around here. @fins4ever

  • mscout99

    @Phinphanatic WR SHOULD have been a priority. Miami had issues spreading the field going back to the days of Pennington, which I think led to the ineffectiveness of Miami’s running game. Hartline instills fear in NO ONE, and has no business starting. This makes life toughter for Marshall, who I hope gets some tough love for the drops, but you need a dependable #2, which Hartline has proven he’s not.

    Edwards is a problem in SF because he’s not getting the ball. With Marshall opposite of him, he’d be getting looks. Smith is buried on the depth chart only because Philly has Jackson, Maclin, and Avant (though I think one of them is hurt). That was a stupid signing for Philly, because Smith had good years with the Giants, but is backlogged because of the other playmakers they have there.

    As far as TE goes, I thought people were happy with Fasano. I agree there’s better TE’s out there, but he’s also far from the worst.

    BTW,I know I can be snarky and snippy when it comes to the Dolphins, but it’s good to come to a blog and engage the authors and know that they’ll actually respond if we disagree.

  • mscout99

    @fins4ever Of course Ricky is going to have a better year, playing for a team with an offensive line that doesn’t melt away after the snap. Guy shot himself in the foot because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and has had issues in the past.

    As far as letting Marshall go, the guy was still a 1000 yard receiver for us last year, and showed all sorts of promise while in Denver. If you get rid of him, do you feel comfortable with Brian Hartline being your number one receiver? If you do, then ask yourself if you want any sorty of passing game whatsoever.

  • redteg02

    @mscout99@Phinphanatic What is wrong with Hartline? I’ve watched every game so far and when he gets a chance he produces. It seems like every time the ball is anywhere near him he finds a way to come down with it and is nothing short of spectacular when working the sideline.

    I honestly think Marshall is a problem, especially if we do draft a young quarterback. Marshall commands too much attention from the quarterback and is not dominating the way he should. Is Joe Haden really so good that he should shut down Marshall? Not if Marshall really is the “beast” that everyone claims he is. Also, if Marshall doesn’t get the looks he thinks he deserves what is going to happen?

    In the interest of developing a young quarterback, I would like to see them get what they can for Marshall and try to get a top QB and WR to pair together for years to come. A young QB needs to be in charge of the offense and not worry about Marshall yapping in his ear that he was open every time he doesn’t see the ball.

  • Phinphanatic

    @mscout99 what fun would a site be if you didn’t have good debate and conversation? :)

  • Phinphanatic

    @mscout99 Fasano is a decent TE but the team has to use him too much in pass protection. He isn’t a seam threat like other TE’s in the league and while he possesses good hands he is far too inconsistent. The Dolphins would have done Fasano better by getting him a solid pass catching TE to play opposite him.

  • cowboyarizona

    Thanks for bringing up the 2 good decisions Ireland has made in the last 5 years. THe problem is about 28 or 29 other GMs made far better decisions.

  • Lespaul

    In my mind he is as big a failure as Wanny in so much as he didn’t address the biggest issue of the team since he took over…the lines. Both Defensive and offensive lines have been very inconsistent, particularly the O-line. The whole reason the wildcat came along was because the O-line couldn’t block. This is not his fault entirely, but he sucks as a talent coordinator.

  • hawkfinfan


    They got me so down I can’t understand code lol!