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The Blame Game: Jeff Ireland


The personnel that make up the Miami Dolphins on the field have as much to do with the outcome of a game as the coaches who are responsible to get them ready for the game.  As much as the coaches are responsible for the players preparation on the field, the teams General Manager is as responsible for getting the proper pieces in place to make the team better.

The Miami Dolphins have been a team that has rarely employed a General Manager that didn’t hold the title of Head Coach as well.  Don Shula was both, Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt was most of his tenure as well.  Then along came Rick Speilman and Randy Mueller. That gave way to Bill Parcells‘ “Football Czar” position and the appointment of Jeff Ireland as the teams decision maker, even if only in title.

The General Manager makes the decisions.  He drafts the players, he signs the free agents.  Both his own and off the street.  He makes the decisions throughout the season that impact the organization both short and long term.  When things go bad, it’s his name that gets mentioned as often if not more than the head coaches.

So, let’s blame Jeff Ireland!

When fans think of a teams GM, the first thought that comes to mind is players personnel and the draft.  A good GM can miss on a draft and put the team in hock for years.  A bad GM can get lucky with a free agent pick up and extend the life of his job for a few more years and put the team in hock.  It’s not so much a chess game as much as it is playing the lottery with inside information about what balls might actually fall.  It’s a numbers game.  No matter how you look at it, everything comes down to numbers.

In the case of Jeff Ireland it gets more difficult.  It’s very hard to simply point the finger and blame him when you really are not sure what to blame him for.  Exactly.  The problem with Jeff Ireland is that he hasn’t been the typical “GM” that most NFL teams employ.  He was brought to Miami as Bill Parcells’ protege.  His eventual successor.  That however doesn’t translate to him being the responsible party for free agent flops, draft mistakes, hits, or positive trades.

To really look at Ireland, you have to look at the entire body of work that has been done in Miami since he came here and then factor in what was done by Bill Parcells.  I would throw out year one of Jeff Ireland because I simply have a hard time believing that Ireland made any real decisions in Parcells’ first season.  So forget about free agent busts and draft mistakes.  Those I think you put Parcells.

That means that BP gets credit for Jake Long as well as Chad Henne and Phillip Merling.  While Kendall Langford is also still a part of this team, gone are every other pick from that draft.  Do you honestly believe that Bill Parcells gave Ireland the go ahead to run that draft?  Not likely.  I was told that Ireland was the one pushing for Henne.

In year two the Dolphins came away with Vontae’ Davis in round one and I have been told by sources in Miami that Ireland fought hard for him.  It’s also been made clear that the Pat White pick was Bill Parcells’ choice.  The way it was told to me was that Dan Henning wanted a QB that could run the WC formation so he didn’t have to pull the starter off the field.  Parcells’ agreed with Henning and saw White with huge upside.  There was also a rumor that Parcells wanted to take him in round 3 or trade up into the back end of round 2 but was afraid Bill Belichick in New England was also eyeing the WV product.

The rest of the draft, as well as free agency busts like Gibril Wilson and Jake Grove are a push.  It’s hard to say who actually punched the cards on these.  The same can actually be said about last years draft as well.  The issue here is that the Dolphins have drafted what Bill Parcells says are “pro-typical” players.  Big players who don’t possess much speed.  Is this Ireland’s opinion as well?

I was told that Brandon Marshall was a trade triggered by Jeff Ireland.  It went against what Parcells stood for.  A “diva” receiver type.  But it’s hard to know who actually was the ring master in any of this.  Not until Parcells completely stepped aside did we know exactly what Ireland was responsible for.  The trade of Greg Camarillo, the roster turnover for the first month of the season, and of course his crass nature.

Ireland is more well known for what he has said then what he has been credited or discredited for doing.  His interview with Dallas WR Dez Bryant before the draft left many shaking their heads when he asked if his mother was a prostitute.  His handling of the Jason Taylor situation went hand in hand with Bill Parcells’ own disliking of the long term Dolphins fan favorite and despite his ceremonial re-signing of Zach Thomas, he has often found himself mentioned only in the negative as a result of not saying anything at all.

In fact, he has almost all but disappeared since that first month.  While Anthony Fasano and Davone Bess both have new contracts, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have yet to be approached about new deals.

Ireland’s legacy in Miami will be one of tainted mystery.  If Stephen Ross makes big changes at the HC spot it’s likely that Ireland will be gone as well.  If that happens, his tenure here will be shrouded under the shadow of Bill Parcells who has managed to escape Miami without falling on the sword.  There is zero mention of his failure in Miami in any of the ESPN Bill Parcells specials.  That’s probably the way he wanted it.

Jeff Ireland may also be a good GM who was nothing more than saddled with cleaning up the egotistical mistakes of his boss.  It’s very possible that Ireland will leave the organization without so much as a fingerprint left in his three years.  Figuring out how much of this mess is Irelands’ fault is nothing more than speculation.  But if he stays another year or two, he won’t have that umbrella to hide under.

Next Up – Tony Sparano