In an NFL dominated by the QB position, a GM is defined by his ability to find pro bowl talent at this critical position. Ireland was in the Tuna sized shadow of Bill Parcells and Miami fans will never know whether it was Parcells pulling the strings when Matt Ryan ended up with the Falcons and the decade long search for Dan Marino’s predecessor continued.
Ireland is well aware of the leap of faith he made in the selection of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill critics used the 19 starts, 12 – 7 win/loss record and 12.5% completion percentage on passes over 25 yards to paint the picture of Ireland making desperate leap with the 8th pick in the draft. Dolphin fans have learned over the last five years that Ireland is not impetuous with his draft picks and does not allow fans to dictate the decisions he makes on draft day.
Ireland was convinced Tannehill was worthy of pick, but to say he was staking his career on what many thought was a reach, is a fallacy. The economics of the NFL have changed the definition of a reach when it comes to the QB position.
It is important to understand, Ireland was not alone in picking Tannehill. Joe Philbin had seen his share of pro bowl QBs in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Mike Sherman not only coached Tannehill at Texas A&M, but was head coach at Green Bay when Brett Favre built his legend.
This collective brain trust has seen a lot of QB play over the years and these same men turned down the likes Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn to get to Tannehill. Manning may say he felt comfort in the open arms of John Elway, but those arms were willing to give away the team’s future for instant success that may, or may not come to fruition. The Broncos unceremoniously traded Tim Tebow to the Jets because the organization was unwilling to step on Manning’s toes.
It was truly a stroke of luck when Manning ran into Elway’s open arms. Miami does not need a QB whose legacy was made with a horseshoe on his helmet. Manning will never relive the success he had at Indy and Miami was the beneficiary of Elway’s love affair.
Joe Philbin groomed Matt Flynn for four years and it’s obvious he did not see the makings of a pro bowl QB. Flynn will turn out to be a good QB, but the chances of him evolving into a franchise QB are slim. The same coach saw something much different in Ryan Tannehill because it is doubtful Philbin would agree to the draft selection if there was doubt in the decision.
All of this seems to place the future of Ireland, Philbin and Sherman, squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Tannehill. Nothing could be further from the truth, Ireland has done his job and now he must allow Philbin and Sherman to do theirs. Tannehill’s draft status should not be a driving reason to rush him on the field.
The rookie salary cap does not place the same onus on teams to put their investments on the field. It’s the same reason Jake Locker and Christian Ponder were drafted last year, picking them does not financially strap a team as it would under the old CBA. It makes Jeff Ireland a little more of a fox than the GMs and critics still living in the past.
The reality is, even if Tannehill does not become a great QB it is not the critical mistake it would have been in previous years. Simply comparing Matt Ryan’s contract, to the contract Tannehill is likely to sign, allows Miami to take as much time as possible to groom Tannehill and fans need to be aware of these economics.
The Dolphins could sign Matt Barkley next and a QB the year after and still not pay as much as the Falcons paid for Matt Ryan. Jeff Ireland is well aware of these economics and that means drafting Ryan Tannehill was not only the right thing to do but a coup when placed in the proper perspective.
From this point forward every QB that a coach or GM has even an inkling of a pro bowl future will be drafted early and often. Whether the NFL brain trust is shrewd enough to have planned for the QB bonanza we are likely to see is questionable, but in light of the NFL’s penchant for QB play, it was a brilliant move.
Ireland caught the tip of the craze and many are sure to follow. Whether Tannehill becomes a great QB will not mean the end of Ireland’s career and many may eventually realize... He’s not the idiot they believe.