While I am not looking to start a debate here it will nonetheless begin at some point. Feel free to skip to the comments an read the names I will be called. The truth is I don’t know if the Dolphins have a direction. A plan. Regardless of what many of you believe there was at least a plan with the approach to the off-season under Jeff Ireland. I know, I know Dennis Hickey has been here all of two months and it’s hard to figure out a GM’s plan in year one.
That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it.
History will show Jeff Ireland to be a lot of things and for most those things will be negative. His poor drafts surely didn’t help his status with the fans anymore than his shunning of the spotlight endear him to the media. One look however at the last three years of his tenure will show that a plan was in place.
Ireland dealt with the NFL lockout and a pissed off head coach three seasons ago. He entered the free agent market looking only for players who could help the team win. Short term deals designed to get more money under the salary cap. It was a three year plan. In year two, he hosted a new HC and gave his coach a year to evaluate the team he had in place making minimal additions through free agency. It was part of that plan to get to that year three.
Three came in like a hurricane off the East coast. Mike Wallace, Danelle Ellerby, Brent Grimes, Phillip Wheeler and so on. He upgraded the skill positions with over 40 million to spend and added players they felt would make the team better. Our were the players who rubbed Philbin the wrong way. Dansby, Bush, Long, and Bess. In were players who had a higher “character” standing. Ireland’s failure as a GM can also be traced in year three to the failure of Joe Philbin.
The Dolphins had talent on the field last season but poor offensive management by Mike Sherman, poor decisions by Joe Philbin, and a total lack of preparation by the coaching ultimately secured the Dolphins a third place finish in the division rather than a trip to the post-season. While some of Ireland’s players didn’t work out the team was still one game out of two from going to the playoffs. To say nothing of the locker room events that occurred.
Ireland failed to address the offensive line. Why? It was part of his plan. I know because he spoke about his plan last year. There were better offensive lineman in this years free agency than last years. Ireland felt he could get by with what he had and a patch on the right side. Tyson Clabo was supposed to nail down the position for a year next to John Jerry while he felt it was time for Jonathan Martin to take the next step at LT. Incognito at guard next to him.
In the end, Clabo struggled the first part of the season, Martin quit, Incognito got suspended, and the team had to trade for Bryant McKinnie.
Ireland was right about one thing, the offensive line this year was much deeper. And he had the money in space to spend it.
We can’t determine what Jeff Ireland would have done in this years free agency but we can say he would have attacked the offensive line. Last year he tried to trade for Branden Albert but deemed the price too expensive for a guy he could get for free this year. So fast forward this to Dennis Hickey.
Hickey came out of the gate with the Albert signing and quickly found a replacement for Paul Soliai in Earl Mitchell. He re-signed Brent Grimes and Randy Starks while adding Louis Delmas and Shelley Smith. He still has two gaping holes on the right side of the line and Shelley is no guaranteed starter.
This is not to say that Ireland would have done better. I have no idea and while Ireland got some things right he got a lot wrong as well. This is to show that Ireland had a plan and it’s hard to tell exactly what plan the Dolphins are moving forward with today. Shelley Smith doesn’t fit a prototype Joe Philbin lineman any more than Earl Mitchell is a guaranteed replacement for Soliai. It just all feels weird.
If the Dolphins “plan” is to go all in with the draft then it’s a bad decision. Miami sits at 19 and there is no guarantee that a top RT or guard will be available when they pick. It could leave them reaching for a player that is projected much later in round one or even two. When you enter the draft with serious needs, you run the risk of leaving the draft with serious needs. Miami has a serious need on the right side of their line.
What I find interesting is the fact that many of this years free agents were players who could anchor the line for another four or five years. Not stopgap options for a year or two at the max. Now the Dolphins are looking at their options as being just that. Short term deals to develop their draft picks. In the two years since Joe Philbin has been here I am not so sure I believe he can develop the talent he has. I hope I am wrong.
I wonder if Stephen Ross has said anything about spending this season? Perhaps the team sees better options next year or feel the draft is going to 100% fall into their favor. Maybe Ross is wanting to scale back to give his next HC the freedom to spend with more funds in the bank. Who knows. The reality is you don’t have to agree with whatever plan is being implemented in Miami. Would just be nice to know that there is one.
Free agency is a long way from over but the Dolphins options to fix not placate their offensive line issues are drying up very quickly. The team seems content to keep things as they are, a team who was one win away from making the playoffs. Maybe that is the only goal right now. One more game. Trouble is the AFC has become almost entirely a two team race between the Broncos and Patriots. It’s March. I know this. I never cared for speculation on something that won’t play out for another 11 months from now. It’s still hard to gauge what direction this team is moving in.
I don’t want Jeff Ireland back in control. I want Dennis Hickey to show he has control. Show he has a plan, a direction, an agenda. I see players who fill needs not players that will change the game. I see players who make the team better because their absence would make the team weaker.
It’s hard to be a new GM that came into his job with a HC already in place. He has to work his own fingerprint into the team while supplying the incumbent HC with the players he wants. Players that may or may not be who you want. Perhaps that is his direction. Give him enough and make him prove that he can win one more game without cutting your own throat in the process.