Contempt for Jeff Ireland has been a resounding theme coming from the Miami Dolphin fan base. The reality is far less demonstrative with emotion removed from the equation.
One glance at the perennial playoff teams would be like listing a who’s who of the league’s best QBs. Had one of those names landed in Miami, there would be a love affair between the fan base and Jeff Ireland. Every Ireland free agent bust or draft day miss, forgotten with the right decision at the most critical position on the football field, QB.
Discounting the early influence of Bill Parcells when considering what could have been in Miami is a mistake. In Ireland’s first year on the job, Miami had the first pick in the draft and chose left tackle Jake Long. Matt Ryan, chosen by the Atlanta Falcons is in his fourth year and continues rising up in the QB ranks each season. Most folks don’t remember, Phillip Merling was Miami’s second pick at number 32, and Chad Henne’s selection didn’t come until the 57th pick in the draft. If analysts and scouts across the NFL had any inkling Chad Henne had franchise potential, he would have never made it to 57.
The strategy of building from the interior out, clearly demonstrated Miami’s intention with first two draft picks. The decision to move up in the late 2nd round and draft Chad Henne for his potential was not a reach or a mistake.
Chad Pennington falling in Miami’s lap and the advent of the Wildcat fooled Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano into believing they had a long-term strategy for success. Jeff Ireland tried to bring in the players to fit a failed system. Ireland’s job was to supply his coach with the players needed to make the system work, but the system was flawed.
Many pundits point to Pat White as an example of Jeff Ireland’s inability to judge talent, but this is wrong. The Miami Dolphin coaching staff was selected to coach the senior bowl that featured Pat White, coaching in that game was another unfortunate coincidence that led to Tony Sparano’s demise. Pat White went on to win the game and the MVP. Parcells and Sparano became enamored with White and it is certain they swayed Ireland into drafting him in the 2nd round.
The coaching staff fell in love with Pat White, not Jeff Ireland and yet Ireland took the fall in the fan’s eyes. In hindsight, it is easy to see that game clouded Parcells’ and Sparano’s vision and they went away from their own criterion for selecting draft picks.
Many folks look at the failed FA offensive linemen as a stain on Ireland’s resume. Tony Sparano was supposed to be the offensive line guru; it was Sparano’s evaluation that led to the release of Samson Satele and the subsequent 3-year search for his replacement.
Sparano worked out Jake Grove and Justin Smiley, not Ireland. Ireland signed those players because they were Sparano’s choice. Sparano recommended Mark Columbo because he had worked with him in Dallas. Ireland depended on Sparano’s expertise on the offensive line to sign those players, perhaps Sparano should be the one in the crosshairs.
Stephen Ross, called everything from an idiot (me), to a buffoon, even the Muppets’ Beeker, may be funny looking, but he’s a little smarter than Miami fans think. A GM makes decisions based on the input he gets from football people and brings in players based on a strategy. When the input is poor and the strategy is flawed, the GM is blamed, but the quality of the output is only as good as the quality of the data. Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano are as much at fault for Jeff Ireland’s misses as he is.
Players signed in free agency are largely a product of coaches watching film and making recommendations, the draft is where the GM and his staff make the calls. Miami fans generally believe Jeff Ireland has done well in the draft and missed on free agency. His worst misses in the draft, Pat White and Phillip Merling correlate directly to input from the coaching staff and Bill Parcells.
What little the Dolphins have won came in spite of a flawed system and poor personnel judgment by the coaching staff and Bill Parcells. It is due to the one man who made the proper decisions, Jeff Ireland.
Tony Sparano is a likable man and loyal to a fault, Bill Parcells is an NFL icon; it is easy to see why the media and fans would turn on the remaining member of the tirade as the scapegoat in Miami. Jeff Ireland has survived while the others are gone, because he is not a “weasel” as a headline here labeled him. He has survived because he overcame poor coaching; a flawed strategy and an overrated Czar, to put enough good players on the field to suggest he may have what it takes to lead this franchise.
Okay Jeff, no more criticism here, Miami has seen what all powerful coaches and Czars can do, not much. The ball is your court…