Atlanta Game Justifies Ireland Extension


Dec. 23, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland (left) is seen talking to former Dolphins head coach Don Shula prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While I have mostly been a supporter of Ireland over the past couple of years, I realize that many fans have been calling for his head.  It’s part of his role, and he hasn’t flinched or waivered a bit.  Today, it was announced that Ireland had been signed to an extension, and this is good news for Dolphins fans everywhere.  I won’t say that Ireland hasn’t made mistakes, but his plan and draft skills were no more evident or on display than they were against Atlanta on the game closing drive that Miami orchestrated to put the Falcons away.  Let’s take a look at the drive summary from the point Miami took over at their own 25 yard line following the missed field goal with 4:46 remaining in the game, mostly run from the no-huddle:

  • 1st and 10 – Ryan Tannehill pass, short left to Lamar Miller for 2 yards to the MIA-27
  • 2nd and 8 – R. Tannehill pass, short middle to Rishard Matthews for 7 yards to the MIA-34
  • 3rd and 1 – R.Tannehill pass, short middle to R. Matthews for 9 yards (1st Down!) at the MIA-43
  • 1st and 10 – R.Tannehill incomplete deep right to Brandon Gibson at MIA-43
  • 2nd and 10 – R.Tannehill pass, short right to Michael Egnew for 8 yards to ATL-49
  • 3rd and 2 – R.Tannehill pass, short right to B. Gibson for 10 yards (1st Down!) to ATL-39
  • 1st and 10 – L.Miller rush, 6 yards to ATL-33
  • 2nd and 4 – R.Tannehill pass incomplete deep right to L.Miller at ATL-33
  • 3rd and 4 – R.Tannehill pass, short right to B.Gibson for 4 yards (1st Down!) at ATL-29
  • 1st and 10 – R.Tannehill pass incomplete, short left to Charles Clay at ATL-29
  • 2nd and 10 – R.Tannehill pass deep left to C.Clay for 21 yards (1st Down!) at ATL-8
  • 1st and Goal – R.Tannehill pass, short middle to B.Gibson for 7 yards to ATL-1
  • 2nd and 1 – R.Tannehill pass, short left to Dion Sims – TOUCHDOWN!

Much ado and fanfare has been made in regards to the flashy free agent signings that Jeff Ireland has gone out and landed this offseason, but when push came to shove with the game on the line, the players on offense that stepped up and made the plays that count were a group of players in their first three years that were drafted by Jeff Ireland, along with an under the radar signing that Ireland made that was nearly hidden behind the signings of big name free agents such as Ellerbe and Wallace. Below you’ll find the path each player took to joining this Dolphins team, as a signing or draftee of Jeff Ireland:

  • Ryan Tannehill – 1st round, 2012 NFL Draft
  • Lamar Miller – 4th round, 2012 NFL Draft
  • Rishard Matthews – 7th round, 2012 NFL Draft
  • Brandon Gibson – 2013, Free Agent signee
  • Michael Egnew – 3rd round, 2012 NFL Draft
  • Charles Clay – 6th round, 2011 NFL Draft
  • Dion Sims – 4th round, 2013 NFL Draft

Outside of Gibson, who came to Miami in unheralded fashion as a nearly unnoticed afterthought signing in Ireland’s work to overhaul the receiving corps, every single skill position player that contributed to that clutch game winning drive was drafted by Jeff Ireland over the past three seasons.  What makes this even more impressive is that of those drafted in the past three years, outside of Tannehill, the earliest contributor was drafted early in round three of the NFL draft.  Additionally, two of the offensive linemen who came up key with their pass blocking on the offensive line are Ireland draft picks of the past two drafts.  On defense, 2013 first rounder Dion Jordan appeared to get an “assist” on the game clinching interception by grabbing Matt Ryan’s non-throwing shoulder, knocking him off kilter to send the ball wobbling up in desperation where Jimmy Wilson snatched it out of the air.

This is a scrappy team, but it’s also a young team.  A team that Jeff Ireland has built through the draft, and went out and made the moves necessary in free agency to compliment this team.  He’s done this in the big flashy moves, but may also have done even better with his under the radar moves in both the draft and free agency with his late round picks.  It’s almost as if he stole Biff’s sports almanac from Back to the Future 2 (Special thanks to Chris Nelson for the reminder for which BTTF film this was!), seeing these players for what they are using knowledge garnered from the Sports Almanac of the future as a cheat-sheet.

In all seriousness, this extension is well deserved, and there should be growing sentiment amongst Dolphins fans that maybe, just maybe, those protests of not too long ago were a bit premature.  At 3-0, with a young team on the rise, he may just have built us something special… that can only get better from here.

Fins up, Dolfans!