Joe Philbin once said, "in nine years offensively in Green Bay we never had one guy come in there as a free agent and really contribute. So, my mindset is more let’s get guys into our culture. Let’s develop our own people. Let’s have faith in our ability to teach, develop and motivate guys.”
Miami fans were certainly sold the bill of goods with the hiring of Philbin. Gone were the failed attempts at buying players in free agency. The Dolphins were turning over a new leaf and Joe Philbin was going to bring some of the ingredients Green Bay used so successfully to build a winning franchise.
Joe’s offense had no need for an alpha receiver, “Part of the philosophy of the offense is to have balance. We want our quarterbacks typically to have what we call progression reads where they’re not necessarily isolated on one specific individual. With that being said, we’re going to play to our hot hand. We’re going to certainly strive to create mismatches and take advantage of the guys that we do have. But the offense, once we install the passing game, is not necessarily built upon okay, you’re the number one guy, you’re the number two guy, you’re the number three guy. As we put the plays together for the quarterback, in his mind there’s a progression of who’s the first receiver, who’s the second receiver, who’s the third receiver."
Even Boss Ross was on the same page, "Free agency certainly isn't the answer. We've all seen that oftentimes there's a reason why a guy is out there as a free agent." But the supposition Jeff Ireland would make the leap along with Philbin was obviously wrong.
It would seem Boss Ross oiled up Joe Philbin with what he wanted to hear, but left Ireland as the man in charge. At least until Ireland proved incapable of leading Joe out of the Greenbay backwoods. This is Miami and in Miami, things are insane, why else would the Dolphins continue doing the same things over and over and expect different results?
Ross isn’t a billionaire from the inability to recognize talent, he sees it in Jeff Ireland. “His football intelligence, his knowledge, his hard work. He has the respect of his peers and he is one of the youngest general managers around. I like dealing with youth and enthusiasm. And I think he has the knowledge and desire. He is smart, and he is committed." Ross understands Ireland didn’t really sign Jake Grove, Justin Smiley, Karlos Dansby, Gabril Wilson, Kevin Burnett, Legedu Naanee, Marc Columbo, Ernst Wilford, those were players Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano wanted on the team.
Jeff Ireland knows where to put the big money, Ross is sure. "Certainly all my resources are there, and if the right players are there, I don't care what it costs, we'll go after them." Ireland knows Wallace won’t be another Dansby, nor could he ever be an Nnamdi Asomugha or Albert Haynesworth. The second guessing matters little now, with the ink on the paper, the hand will just have to be played out.
Where does Joe Philbin truly fit into all these signings. It wasn’t long ago he said, “you can’t necessarily fix everything in free agency nor do you want to. I don’t envision us being deeply, deeply involved. I think when you’re doing things the right way you’re developing your own guys, you’re resigning your own guys so just the business model of the NFL that’s going to prohibit you from being overly active all the time in free agency. Now we’re going to hopefully take the best players that are available based on our film evaluation when the draft comes around later this month.”
Is this a one season, Miami has to spend 89% of the cap in a hogs-gone-wild rampage, or the opposite of the sound business model Joe talks about. The old adage, “actions speak louder than words,” is ringing through the Miami off-season moves. There is another adage heard locally, “either you’re all in or you’re all out.” Where does that leave the fans witnessing the words not matching the actions? Their skepticism is no longer acceptable, no questioning the hole in the boat… The water will stop when the ship hits the bottom, are you in or out Ahab?
The deep rooted and nagging issue is one of desperation, the win or else mentality that rarely leads to success. Perhaps the leadership in the Miami locker room did not undermine Joe Philbin’s authority, perhaps those players questioned the man who cut them loose, Jeff Ireland. The numbers don’t lie, only four free agents signed by Ireland have made a single pro bowl in five years and yet here we are again spinning the free agency roulette wheel.
When a coach plainly states, “my mindset is more let’s get guys into our culture. Let’s develop our own people. Let’s have faith in our ability to teach, develop and motivate guys.” The coach is the first individual football person hired by the billionaire owner. The desperation is apparent in the lack of a contract extension for the GM signed by the former regime. Again, the actions speaking what the words do not say.
The GM ignores the coach’s words, is on the hot seat and makes radical changes… Added up, it reeks of desperation. Jeff Ireland needs Wallace, Ellerbe, Wheeler, Gibson and Keller to show up in a big way or his days in Miami are over. Ireland must also make the right choices in the draft and this should scare Miami fans.
Desperation is never a good formula when selecting the future, it puts too much impetus on the present. A player that could anchor a tackle position or become a franchise TE is overlooked for a luxurious flash in the pan. The thread of desperation, when having “faith in our ability to teach, develop and motivate guys” is the proven formula for success, is worn thin and starting to fray.
For Jeff Ireland the only hope is...
The thread does not turn into a rope long enough to hang himself.