For several reasons, Jeff Ireland is not a popular guy to most Miami Dolphins fans. I have met the man twice and both times I found him to be quite enjoyable to be around. Smart, a degree of humor mixed with honesty, and bluntness. He is a man that holds himself to his own standards and really doesn’t care what other view him as. Some in the media believe that he will do just about anything to keep his job, including tossing anyone else under the bus who may get in the way of that.
Personally, I don’t believe it any more than blaming him for being on a plane to Cali with owner Stephen Ross while Tony Sparano hung on a clothes line back home. To me, if the owners says come with me, you go. Toss in a little bit research on the background of a certain incoming rookies mother and you have a soup of controversy that paints him in a rather dim light. While some will cite sources here and there about how Ireland does things and then turn around and criticize him for not doing what they think he should do, has led many to believe that Ireland is not perceived to be a very respected man in NFL circles. That would be wrong.
I personally have had conversations with individuals of different teams who have no relative reason to feed me lines and they have spoken very highly of Ireland. In fact, one person informed me that Dallas owner Jerry Jones was livid when Parcells took him from their team. Another offered that Ireland is smart and knows exactly what he wants and usually will find a way to gain the upper hand in negotiations and that he doesn’t release it. Never backing himself into a corner.
That is good and it can be bad. This year the big question will be, at least on the minds of fans and local media, is how Ireland fixes the QB position and whether or not in the eyes of perception, he screws it up. Ireland does not simply walk out and toss money around like it is free flowing money. He puts a value on a player and he sticks to it. He has a little give and take worked in but for the most part the number he has in mind is the limit he will go to. Ireland has always been at evaluating talent. It’s where he broke into the league. He breaks down the film and does the math then assigns a number. That number, this year, will be assigned to Matt Flynn.
While Peyton Manning is the man that owner Stephen Ross is targeting, Matt Flynn may be the guy that Ireland has to turn to in the end. Ireland is not controlling the Manning deal, that is Ross’ gig and Ross apparently wants Manning at any cost. Ireland will do his best to serve his boss Manning on a platter. That however is Manning’s decision not Ireland’s and if/when Manning goes elsewhere, the game swings back to Ireland’s control.
Ireland will have to evaluate what little film is on Matt Flynn take into consideration all of the support from Joe Philbin and then assign a value to Flynn’s name. The issue here is that in Cleveland and Seattle, the money flows a little easier and a free agent who originally was expected to garner a 40 million dollar deal is now looking at anywhere between 50 and even as high as 60 with a large guaranteed portion of that contract. How far will Ireland go? Especially given the recent revelations that some in the Dolphins hierarchy don’t view Flynn as an upgrade to current starter Matt Moore.
Miami, specifically Jeff Ireland, will have to make a decision on Flynn within the next 72 hours at least. There are reports that Miami will definitely show interest in Flynn once free agency starts but a lot of that hinges on Manning’s decision first. If Ross does not land Manning and Ireland does not convince Flynn to come to Miami, the next stop turns to the draft where final say belongs to Ireland.
The eighth pick in the draft is where Ireland will meet his first obstacle. Off the table is any chance of moving up to take Robert Griffin, III or Andrew Luck leaving Ireland with Ryan Tannehill, who was coached by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman or a guy like Brandon Weeden. While either QB’s would give Miami a shot at long term QB success, the question really is will Ireland see the value in those QB’s that high in the draft or will he A: try and move down and take one later in round 1, or B: pass them up and take a QB in round 2? Last year it was widely expected that Ireland would solve the QB problem by taking Ryan Mallett, he passed and actually passed at adding any QB to the roster through the draft, opting instead to go with Pat Devlin from the un-drafted pile.
The Dolphins are facing a reality check this off-season. Stephen Ross has his coach but needs to get him the right pieces to be successful, that means a QB. The team needs to return to winning to sell out the stadium, something they have failed to do regularly for a couple of years now. The fans need to see a commitment from the team to start winning games or they simply won’t buy into the wait and see approach any longer.
All of this makes Ireland’s decision’s more critical and much more scrutinized. It starts with Manning but it won’t likely end until someone is steering the offense. Ireland has a few choices but he needs to decide what is worth more, the price he puts on a player, or the risk vs. reward of finally taking a bold shot to get the team competing again. He can lose either way but some would argue that taking the risk at least shows that the team is trying.
In about a week, likely sooner, we will see if Ireland’s focus will be turning the draft into adding playmakers or adding a still yet to be found important piece to the offense. One thing is for certain, the task to find a solution is Ireland’s.