Do you blame Jeff Ireland for the 2013 draft class’s lack of playing time or do you blame a coaching staff that are of the belief that rookies should sit and learn? The 2013 Miami Dolphins rookie class was unimpressive. Blame who you want.
Finding top rated talent in the draft has been one of Jeff Irelands sticking points with fans. Few draft selections have really stuck for Ireland at least stuck out in the minds of fans and this year draft class saw 899 total snaps by the rookie class including special teams. As the Palm Beach Post writer Andrew Abramson points out, the next closest team is over 1,000. That is unacceptable on any level and again points a crooked finger at Jeff Ireland.
But is this his fault?
I’m not sticking up for Jeff and I am sure the comments will be full of “Fireland now” statements but most of the hatred towards Ireland comes in the form of his first few years with Miami that included slaps to the face and black eye’s to the organization. Traditionally, after the 5th round it becomes a crap shoot for talent. You stop picking for playmakers and start picking for depth and projects. I don’t tend to look at the 6th and 7th rounds as busts or failures on the parts of the men picking those players. Sometimes you find a gem but more often than not you don’t.
For Ireland his previous three drafts are as wildly up and down as the Dolphins 2013 season but the talent may surprise you. The Dolphins had 23 selections from 2010 – 2012. Of those 23 players selected by Miami, 14 have become starters or reliable contributors. Koa Misi, Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, Mike Pouncey, Rishard Mathews, Jimmy Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Charles Clay, Jared Odrick, John Jerry, Nolan Carroll, Reshad Jones, and Austin Spitler. Jonathan Martin looked to be an upgrade at RT until he quit. Michael Egnew showed that he could be on the verge of becoming a top contributor as well.
So how does Jeff Irelands three drafts compare to this years debacle and why is this years so bad?
For starters lets look at last years draft. Ryan Tannehill wasn’t supposed to be the starter. David Garrard was. Tannehill was thrust into that role by injury and Matt Moore’s poor practice habits. Jonathan Martin started at RT last season while Lamar Miller and Michael Egnew saw little or no time as the case was for Egnew. Rishard Mathews didn’t see the field until late in the season either. In 2011 the Dolphins started Mike Pouncey at center under Tony Sparano’s last season but got little production out of Daniel Thomas, Jimmy Wilson, or Charles Clay.
This coaching staff believes that rookies should sit and learn. It’s a habit developed from Green Bay. Interestingly enough, the Dolphins have most of 16 of those 23 draft picks still on their roster. So why was this year so different? In reality it really wasn’t. Outside of Tannehill and Martin last year under Joe Philbin no other rookie really contributed to the team in 2012. You may want to try but you can’t really blame Jeff Ireland on that type of coaching decision. This year undoubtedly was worse.
Ireland told a group of us back in October that he does indeed lobby for playing time for certain players. Whether it’s a rookie who he believes should be on the field more, Dion Jordan, or to see what a player might have to offer down the road, like Rishard Mathews. Ultimately he said the final decision on who plays is the coaches.
In 2013 the draft looks to abominable. Mainly because the players haven’t contributed. The most snaps taken was by first rounder Dion Jordan who many believe wasn’t used properly and wasn’t on the field nearly enough. Again, that is a coaches decision and not the GM’s. Jamar Taylor and Will Davis saw limited action due in part to injuries but both sat behind Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson. Was this talent or coaches decision? Dallas Thomas was supposed to challenge along the offensive line and instead failed to show any real ability in his rookie season. Often looking lost. He was jumped by undrafted lineman Sam Brenner.
LB Jelani Jenkins saw some playing time late in the season and looked like he could develop as did Dion Sims who needs to improve his blocking in both the run and the pass. Don Jones was a special teams stalwart but made plays when he had the chance and rookie mistakes to go with it. Mike Gillislee never really saw the field and Caleb Sturgis was a pick for a kicker who started off on fire before costing Miami games as the season wore on. It’s simply too early to judge this draft class just yet. Especially when we haven’t seen enough of them to really judge them.
Again, is this the fault of the head coach not playing rookies or bad personnel decisions by the GM? Many fans after the fall of the team late will blame both and I’m not here to tell you that is right or wrong only to look at the facts in front of us and make our own decisions based on those facts. Regardless of who is to blame, the Dolphins wether it be Jeff Ireland through the draft or Joe Philbin as a coach need to do a better job of getting the younger guys on the field. It’s the only way to learn.