I realize it’s only 5 games into the 2012 season, and the Miami Dolphins are 2-3. It’s easy to sit here and say how this team could be 4-1, but that’s not reality. Yes, the Dolphins have lost 2 games they should have won, but they didn’t. But to be honest, the fact that the Dolphins are 2-3 has a lot of people feeling pretty good about how things are going in Miami. This is a young team that is showing improvement from week to week. They say winning cures all, and to a point it does. One thing I have noticed over the past few weeks is how much the chatter of Fireland has died down.
Ireland has been the point of blame for the recent losing seasons of the Miami Dolphins, and I can see why many fans feel that way. He has made plenty of moves that have not been real popular. He hasn’t handled some things in a professional manner. He has received the blame (as well as owner Stephen Ross) for not being able to land the big name coaches and players in recent seasons. It’s easy to see the many reasons why fans have flown banners over Sun Life Stadium begging for him to be fired, and protestors showing their discust this past March. But when you take a look at how the moves Ireland has made, or didn’t make, have turned out, maybe you can see that Ireland isn’t that bag of a GM. I know that statement just made everyone moan, or even cuss, but take a look and judge for yourself.
In the first draft that he supposidly took control of for the Miami Dolphins (Parcells had full control during the 2008 and 2009 drafts, I’m a firm believer in that) in 2010, he traded down from 12 to 28, and took Jared Odrick. As much as I completely hated this move, Odrick is a part of a dominating defensive line now. I was hoping for Sergio Kindle or Jerry Hughes, looking back now Odrick has worked out better than those two. Most fans wanted Dez Bryant, and to be honest, he has shown he wouldn’t have been a good pick either. Koa Misi was taken in the second round, he has taken a while to develop, but has played pretty well this season since the defense has switched to more of a 4-3 look. In the third round Ireland took John Jerry. He too took some time to develop and still has room to improve. None of those picks went over well, but all 3 of them have turned into starters.
In the back half of that draft, Ireland took A.J. Edds in the 4th, Nolan Carroll and Reshad Jones in the 5th, and Chris McCoy and Austin Spitler in the 7th. Edds was a bust, but Carroll has been solid at times, and Jones looks to be a long term answer at safety. McCoy never amounted to much, and Spitler was a special teams player. From the 2010 draft, Ireland found 4 surefire starters, and 1 who can start when needed. Later in 2010 Parcells exited his position as VP. Right around that same time, Pat White was released, as was Donald Thomas and Patrick Turner. Those were Parcells’ picks who never really amounted to much in Miami, or after they left.
Ireland also found some success in the 2011 draft. He took Mike Pouncey in the first round. Pouncey is one of the best centers in the NFL, and will be a mainstay for years to come. Ireland traded up for Daniel Thomas, which doesn’t seem like a good move now. Thomas was selected ahead of Demarco Murray, who has obviously worked out better. Fans that year were screaming for Ryan Mallett, who may or may not become a starting NFL QB someday. Clyde Gates was selected in the 4th round, Charles Clay in the 6th, and Frank Kearse and Jimmy Wilson in the 7th. Gates didn’t work out for the Dolphins, but at least Ireland let him go. Clay has some potential and is still developing. And Jimmy Wilson has had both good and bad moments.
Quarterback was thought of as the biggest need by most for the Dolphins, and it may have well been. Chad Henne finished his second year as the starter, and didn’t seem to be progressing at all. Ireland passed on taking Ryan Mallett that year. He also engaged heavily in trade talks with the Broncos for Kyle Orton, but the deal never got done. Ireland went into the season with Henne as the starter, and signed Matt Moore to back him up. The Dolphins opened up 0-7, Henne was lost for the season in the 4th game, and Ireland looked like a fool for not getting a quarterback. Well, Orton couldn’t start over Matt Cassell in Kansas City, Mallett wasn’t taken by ANYONE until the 3rd round, and is now backing up Tom Brady, and Moore went on to look pretty good last season, leading the Dolphins from 0-7 to 6-10. Ireland also passed on free agent running backs DeAngelo Williams and Ahmad Bradshaw, opting instead to trade for Reggie Bush. Williams is currently not living up to the contract he got from the Panthers, Bradshaw is still legit, but Bush has worked out great for the Dolphins since becomming the every down back that no one though he could be.
That offseason Ireland fired Sparano. Owner Stephen Ross went after the Jeff Fisher, who was the biggest free agent coach that actually wanted to coach again. Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden seem to love television more. The Dolphins failed to land Fisher. I believe he will do well in St. Louis, he is a good coach. In failiing to land him, the Dolphins opted for Joe Philbin. He wasn’t a big name, but he did have a great reputation for developing players. He brought with him a coaching staff with the same reputation. Kevin Coyle worked wonders with the secondary in Cincinnati, turning players who failed for other teams into a formidable group. Mike Sherman brought with him the experience of being a head coach in the NFL, and the possibility of getting a chance to have the quarterback he had in college make the move with him to Miami.
In the 2012 draft, the Dolphins ‘reached’ for Tannehill in the first round, which doesn’t look like a reach after 5 games. I do realize it’s only a 5 game sample, but it’s tough to not be excited about the future. Jonathan Martin looks like he will develop into a long term starter at tackle. Olivier Vernon had made his way into games this season and has made some plays. Did anyone see him dive and knock down the ball late in the game against Cincinnati? Michael Egnew has been a disappointment so far, but the tight end position takes time to learn. Lamar Miller has shown potential, and will get more opportunities as the season goes on. This draft class could turn out 5 starters over the next couple years.
Ireland did make some heavily unpopular moves as well. Trading Brandon Marshall for two 3rd round picks. Trading Vontae Davis for a 2nd. Cutting Yeremiah Bell when it looked like his replacement wasn’t on the roster. Well, Jones has outplayed Bell, Davis hasn’t made too much noise in Indianapolis, and Marshall, well Marshall is still a stud, but he also could have destroyed the development of Tannehill. Wide receiver is a position of need, but Hartline and Bess are making things work. Maybe Gaffney will make an impact over the next couple weeks.
Ireland and Philbin made the decision to go with a young team that could be developed. If there were players that weren’t buying into what they wanted, they were either traded or cut. If there were players that didn’t fit what the Dolphins wanted to become in the future, they were cut or traded. The biggest questions heading into this offseason were quarterback, wide receiver (after the Marshall trade), the right side of the offensive line, and safety, don’t look as bad after 5 games. The young players are showing improvement, they are being developed by this coaching staff thus far. There is plenty of reasons to be excited about the future in Miami, especially when you look at the potential to have about $40 million in cap space and 10 draft picks next season, with 5 of those coming in the first 3 rounds.
I know it’s only 5 games, but the moves Ireland has made are really starting to look pretty good, and the team is really set up for the future.