Since the start of free agency, Jeff Ireland has become the most disliked individual in South Florida. Players, agents, fans, bloggers, local and national media have all ripped Ireland for his recent personnel decisions and unclear plans for the Miami Dolphins. Last week, two dozen angry protesters gathered outside the Davie facility, holding up signs to fire Ireland. The morale of the fan base has reached an all time low as well as the number of season ticket sales. But even after all of this ridicule and scrutiny, Ireland’s job appears to be safe. Well, at least for now.
Ireland has made several questionable personnel moves in the past few weeks that have disappointed and angered most fans; losing out on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, insulting Matt Flynn with a low ball offer, trading away our most explosive player on offense, unethically releasing veteran captain SS Yeremiah Bell a week after free agency started, and failing to address any one of the major holes on this Dolphins’ roster. Despite all of these transactions, owner Stephen Ross publicly defended Ireland during Monday’s NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach.
Throughout the press conference, Ross stressed the importance of sticking with Ireland’s philosophy, which is going after value in free agency and continuing to build a “Championship” team through the draft. Ross went on to claim Ireland is a great talent evaluator who has done a “great job” in the draft. He also spoke very highly of Ireland’s work ethic, saying he’s one of the hardest working individuals he has ever met.
Ross reiterated the importance for the fans to be patient with the process and gave the Rome wasn’t built in a single day speech. “We think we have a fine nucleus and we’re very excited about where we are going,” he said. By the end of the meeting, it appeared Ross was fully committed to the current plan in place and was hitched to Ireland’s wagon.
For now, Ireland can sleep a little better at night. He knows his boss has his back and shares his same vision. For the most part, angry fans have walked away from the ledges of the highest buildings in Miami and the “Fireland” signs appear to be slowly going away. After all, he still has six more months to improve this team before the first game of the season, so there’s no need to prematurely throw in the towel. But Ireland shouldn’t get too comfortable just yet. He will be under the brightest spotlight on the night of April 26th.
All hope and saving grace for the Dolphins’ GM resides in this upcoming NFL draft. This is his chance to redeem himself and finally get this ship back on course. He’s still sitting in the eye of the storm and the largest fan revolt is still lurking on the horizon. The fans have very high expectations with that eighth pick in the first round. The suspense of this selection is killing everyone. If Ireland drops the ball with this pick by making another head shaking move, be prepared for riots in the streets of Miami. Then, Ross may be forced to make a change.