The saga that is Jeff Ireland has been similar to a roller coaster. High expectations with a quick drop. A slight climb and another drop. Twists, turns, even an occasional loop and each head turning spin coming faster and faster. That has not been lost on Jeff Ireland himself. The Miami Dolphins general manager spoke with a bunch of web hacks over the weekend in Miami, of which I was included.
Ireland was received well and with respect by the amateur journalists representing Miami Dolphins fan websites around the nation. He walked steadfast to the front of the room and noticed there was no micro-phone to speak through. “No mic? This should be fun”. His voice clearly audible through the Dolphins team meeting room. It was the first time since his 2nd season in Miami that he addressed the annual crowd.
“Really glad to be here, it’s been awhile”, he said. “I am normally doing my scouting around now which is why I haven’t been here the last few years but I’m glad I had this opportunity.” Ireland paused for a moment before taking full advantage of poking a little fun at himself.
“So let’s see. A lot has happened since the last time I was here. (Pause for effect). There was a plane ride to California. DezGate! As I like to call it. Picketers outside my office and a plane that flew overhead. Any of you guys responsible for that?”, he said with a clear smile and not a hint of irritation.
The room applauded and laughed and then collectively said ‘NO!”.
Ireland spoke for only a moment before opening up the floor to questions. I got the first one in. I asked Jeff what the difference between scouting for Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin was. If there was a different mindset going into it. Ireland responded by saying that most schemes are similar in base but that things are different. As an example he pointed out that he is no longer looking for the big bodied prototype lineman that Tony Sparano wanted but now has shifted that focus to the more athletic types.
Later Ireland was asked about a comment he made regarding “core players”. Ireland was referring to what he considers to be core players and the person asking wanted clarification. In regards to free agency and the draft. Ireland said that his core players are considered to be a number 1 WR, CB, and LB’s.
Ireland wasn’t really grilled on next years draft but did say that he has been blown away by Coach Philbin. He said that Philbin is very smart and meticulous. Ireland took a few more questions but the most interesting was the fact he pointed out that as of today, the Miami Dolphins have 9 draft picks in next April’s draft. The most in the NFL. He then pointed out that come free agency, the Dolphins will have the most cap space in the NFL as well.
When asked, Ireland said that it would allow the team to target the aforementioned “core players” in both free agency and the draft as well as getting his own guys under contract. When asked about the off-season trades, Ireland only elaborated on the Vontae’ Davis trade and how trades work in the NFL.
Speaking to the group, Ireland indicated that the bigger question for the Dolphins was what they thought they would get out of Davis this year compared to what they actually planned for him in the future. He said the question had to be, “Is this a guy we want long term?”. When they came upon the answer, they knew what they needed to do. Ireland also elaborated on trades that didn’t happen.
Talking in regards to the trade deadline, Ireland said that the Dolphins were called by several teams for several players both coming and going. Ireland said that a lot goes into a trade. Some are only inquiries with no real interest. Others have salary cap issues that would not easily be overcome if at all. Still others may have contracts that were not cost efficient for either team. He said that a lot is often discussed but it’s hard to get deals done.
Finally, Ireland was asked about the toll that the last few years have taken on him and he basically stated that he keeps moving forward with the teams plan. He said that we may not see it or understand it but that the team itself has a plan and structure in place to get better. He pointed out the draft picks and salary cap situations and said, “that all is part of the plan”. It led many in the room to speculate the Dolphins may be a very active top of the line participant in the market. Regardless it was made clear that the Dolphins are no longer spinning their wheels without having an action plan. Something that was really gathered from input from a lot of different sources and then simply confirmed by Ireland.
The Dolphins have a long way to go and Jeff Ireland is teetering on the edge of fan support. Like the proverbial roller coaster mentioned atop this article. It can continue to climb but at some point it has to come back down. When it does, will it be a thrill ride or a major let down? That is up to the “plan” that has been put into place.