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Is Jeff Ireland Facing Unfair Criticism?

Has there been a more tenuous off-season in history for the Miami Dolphins?

From the Orlando Sentinel

Currently, there are throngs of Dolphin fans in Davie “protesting” outside team headquarters calling for the immediate firing of Jeff Ireland. With clever signs and chants that rhyme “Marino” and “Ireland’s got to go!” the Dolphin faithful are clearly demonstrating their recent frustration with how the once storied franchise has been diminished into the NFL’s most recent laughing stock.
In the past few weeks Miami’s taken several body blows in free agency. First, in an abrupt fashion Pro Bowl MVP wide out Brandon Marshall was traded to Chicago for a measly pair of third round draft picks. Peyton Manning called to politely tell owner Stephen Ross that he didn’t want to go to prom with him afterall. Matt Flynn left Miami’s facilities without a contract after feeling snubbed with a pedestrian contract. He then tied the knot with Pete Caroll in Seattle only to say today that he chose the Seahawks because they are “being led by the right type of people”; a massive slap in theface to Miami’s front office.

In a bizarre turn of events associated with the Manning sweepstakes, a disgruntled Alex Smith found himself in south Florida looking to find a new deal after feeling betrayed by his former club. Subsequently he was offered a contract not too dissimilar from Flynn’s, he’s now looking back to the West Coast where Jim Harbaugh is waiting outside Smith’s window with a boombox raised over his head playing “Baby Come Back.”

To top it all off, Miami’s quarterback issues have finally been concretely addressed in a severely underwhelming signing of aging David Garrard who first rejected a Miami offer last year (Money. Is. A. Major. Issue.).

Making matters worse has been the almost unanimously arrived perception of the Dolphins as a backward and dysfunctional organization. ESPN analysts are quick to point out that Ross has failed to bring coach Jim Harbaugh or Jeff Fisher to SunLife Stadium and that it was only a logical progression for Manningto avoid the Dolphins as well. Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark tweeted that “no one” wants to come to Miami, a now popular sentiment across the league.

Pro Football Talk is even taking shots at the franchise, which is nothing terribly new considering their anti-Dolphin bias (Seriously, look at the past few weeks’ photos of players. Nearly every one of them have said player scoring on the Dolphins). Even the NFL Network’s audacious Warren Sapp talked football with Joey Porter only to start a cackling session over the Dolphins recent failures.
Why would anyone expect anything less than Ireland’s firing? Is it surprising that fans want this guy gone? No. But does it mean it’s the appropriate reaction? Also…no.

Surely I’ll get some negative feedback for this, but it’s no secret that Miami has the most reactionary fans out there. Ireland has his faults; he’s notoriously arrogant and isn’t a people person. One thing he’s not is dumb. He’s terrific with talent evaluation has made some great moves in the past. This is not to say that he’s been dead on with every move and it’s no secret he’s whiffed but it’s nothing to suggest that he’s incompetent and out of touch.

Let’s examine the recent moves here:

Peyton Manning is a no-brainer. The owner wants him and is ready to break the piggy bank to get him to Miami. Listen, they tried…and it didn’t work. End of story. We can speculate all we want that Manning was immediately turned off because of the league-wide belief that Ireland and Ross are foolish and incapable of being trustworthy, but it’s not productive.

The Brandon Marshall trade shouldn’t have been as shocking as it came off to fans. Apparently Miami had been flirting with the idea for quite some time. After the front office heard news that Marshall had been in another brush up in a New York club they actively started shopping him around. Can you blame them? Yeah…that guy diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder reportedly punched a woman in the face to “protect” the same wife who stabbed him in the gut nearly a year ago(Marshall then lied to the police in the hospital) while in a club not too dissimilar from the one he found himself in several years ago where a shooting occurred that killed his teammate which was most certainty intended for him.

Let that sink it.

We all love our certain nutcases and will defend them much like Dolphins fans did when Marshall chucked a ball toward the sideline during a game a couple years ago, but there comes a time when enough is enough.  It’s very likely that Marshall will be suspended and may have to face charges. The only regret should be that Miami didn’t get more value for him. Even then, it was done relatively quickly with little harm that sent Marshall to a place where he’d be happy that would inflict little risk to Miami.
Then there’s the case of Matt Flynn, this year’s version of the quiet nerdy girl who got rid of her glasses over the summer and put on a dress to look stunning on the first day of school. Here’s what Dolphin fans need to keep in context when looking at Flynn: Besides maybe Mike McCarthy, there’s no one who knows Flynn better than head coach Joe Philbin. While it makes sense to bring in a guy from a quarterback factory in Green Bay to a former Packer offensive coordinator, the team needs to consider the talent factor.

Miami clearly wanted Flynn, but for the right price. After seeing the debacle Arizona got themselves into with Kevin Kolb, the wrong model is to throw a lot of value and money into an unproven product. Reportedly Flynn was offered money in the ballpark of $8 million, obviously his agent felt that he could go for far more than that. Now he’s in Seattle with a bigger bank account than he would’ve had in Miami but the strange things is that Pete Caroll’s not even guaranteeing Flynn the starting job. So Seattle signed a quarterback for $10 million guaranteed and potentially up to $26 million for a guy they won’t even put in front of Tavaris Jackson?
If they shouldn’t, neither should Miami, especially considering the above average play Matt Moore has put up toward the end of last season. Miami would have offered him more if they felt he was the right guy. Signing Flynn would make him a costly commodity that would be part of a lukewarm reunion with Philbin leaving Miami with no certainty of who would be starting this upcoming season.

Is Alex Smith any different? In my estimation, he’s a stronger-armed Chad Pennington that’s finally found himself in a good groove after changing offensive coordinators every year of his career. There’s no point taking away any consistency from Smith with the expectation that he’ll adjust comfortably to a new environment. Surely the Dolphins would have made a more serious offer if they felt he’d provide a serious upgrade. They didn’t and frankly, I think they were wise.

With regard to the recent move of cutting Yeremiah Bell, a fan favorite, it should be noted that this saved $4.3 million in cap space for the Dolphins. As much as we will all miss Bell’s steel-mill-made biceps, he had a dip in production last year and he’s only getting older. After today’s press conference, Ireland revealed that the break up with Bell was amicable and promised that if there wasn’t a respectable interest in him the Dolphins would take him back under a more advantageous contract.

After all this hemorrhaging, Ireland’s only positivist move was signing Garrard. Not a big splash, but it was for pennies on the dollar of what Garrard’s camp demanded last year. He’s definitely not the future of the franchise but he’s a great veteran that brings experience and knowledge of a West Coast system to the team.

So why all the rage? Why the cries for revolution? There’s DOZENS of angry fans on sidewalks right now begging for cars to honk their horns.

It’s all very easily explainable. After Colts owner Jim Irsay made it public that Peyton Manning would be a free agent, the Dolphins became a sexy and logical destination to pick him up. Overnight Dolphins fans started salivating at the idea of 18 connecting with 19 for 6 over and over. There’s no doubt that the fervor for Manning brought Miami’s expectations probably as high as they’ve been since Bill Parcells decided to intervene and maybe even higher.

After eagerly awaiting word from Manning’s camp, Dolphins fans began to realize that the four-time MVP would not be bringing his talents to South Beach. After Marshall’s trade, fans saw the absence of a true go-to receiver and worried how diminished the talent pool had become.

Hoping for good news from either Flynn or Smith proved fruitless and now, after insanely high expectations, the bar has dropped to a new low. It’s an incredibly unfair scenario. Even the Dolphins’ status quo on March 6th would look like a failure after Manning’s “No thank you,” and after a few moves fans are grabbing their pitchforks.

Ireland’s certaintly not the best, but he’s not the worst and maybe after a few Ricky Williams’ inspired deep breaths the fan base can calm down and realize that all is not lost. There’s still a draft to look forward too and free agency isn’t all over yet. Sure, be critical; the club must be kept accountable but giving up on a product that’s unfinished isn’t the right response.

Miami’s swung big and struck out a few times on some big deals, but the fan base should at the very least be encouraged that Ross and Ireland have grabbed their bats unhesitantly and stepped up to the plate each time. Ross has made it clear that he’ll spend all the money in the world to get the right people to Miami and Ireland has curbed any brash and reckless decisions. The only thing that hasn’t been check has been Dolphin’s fans’ collective knee-jerk reactions to perceptions of failure.

The new issue the front office has to combat is the perception that they’re undesirable and on the brink of collapse. With some deeper inspection, we can see that Miami isn’t as remedial as the perception may seem.

“No one” wants to come to Miami, eh? It’s only fair to point out that last year Ryan Clark was very close to signing the dotted line right under Jeff Ireland’s own signature.

5 comments

  1. Jerry

    This article really made rethink being so upset. Kudos to you. Pretty well thought out.

  2. Fins4ever

    Ross has a PR nightmare to deal with whether he likes it or not and the only solution may be to replace Ireland. The media seems to enjoy the Fin bashing. Not a day goes by that the “incident” with Dez Bryant or Harbaugh is not brought up.

    Besides not being likable, Ireland also has the “Bill Parcells” Cowboy stigma. Many want ALL former Dallas people gone. Many people, myself included lost respect for Jeff when he got on the plane with Ross to try and replace his like time friend Tony Sparano.

    I have been a supporter of Ireland, but have been mixed on his production. IMO, Ross should terminate his contract and try and hire Bill Polian. Besides selling the team,It is the best chance he has to try and rebuild the reputation of the franchise.

  3. SohailJouya

    You’re dead on about the PR disaster, but my contention here is that perception is not necessarily rooted in reason.

    He’s made some good decisions especially in this last draft, I can’t see wanting to pop this guy off without seeing how he does in the entirety of the offseason.

    When you look at his whole resume, he’s done enough to warrant maintaining his status, but again the issue is the residual frustrations that come with the failures prior to the Parcells involvement. Everyone looked to the “Big Three” as a trio of magicians that could instantly transform the organization.

    After tasting success in ’08, Miami has sunk back to mediocrity. With that in mind, the “Cowboy” way has proven to be a failure. Will the Philbin-influenced Packer methodology work better? I think it will, but at the very least we have to give it a shot.

    It wasn’t like McCarthy was winning titles when he first took over and he actually did pretty poorly.

    What the Dez Bryant deal is can really be looked at as microcosm of the situation we’re in now. A layman will hear that Ireland asked Bryant if his mom’s a hooker and instantly be horrified. But once you’re more informed about how the question came about (Dez saying that his dad was a pimp and his mother worked for him), you realize that it was an innocent logical progression.

    Same with this off season: Ireland is viewed as a failure for not landing a QB but when you look at the nuts and bolts, they just weren’t good enough to pull the trigger on.

    I think Polian would be a GREAT move, but if Ross didn’t go after him before Peyton was released by the Colts…he won’t go after him now unless every draft pick ends up being a major bust.

    The best way to rebuild the franchise is to get W’s…and we haven’t given them a shot at it yet.

  4. phins4life

    Great article… This is a must read if ur a true phins fan

  5. badfishy

    Damn that chick is crushing those sandals. For real though I think all the angry people need to take a step back & breathe. Where were you for the 7 years b4 when huizenga was keeping us in the cellar. And what makes you think that new ownership would run the team better?

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