There is a contingent of Miami Dolphins faithful who are pinning the team’s collapse in 2013 on head coach Joe Philbin while resolving GM Jeff Ireland of blame. Those who hold this opinion point to a roster they say is too talented to miss the playoffs with. I respectfully disagree with this stance, as I believe Ireland’s inability to build a roster hindered the team more than anything else and that he should be fired on the NFL‘s Black Monday or sometime relatively soon.
While poor coaching certainly held the Dolphins back this season, the talent of their roster is being overrated by Ireland apologists. In fact, Ireland has constructed a below-average offense and defense. Take for example the Dolphins’ mediocre standing in most statistical categories.
Miami ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing yards, rushing yards, opponents passing yards and opponents rushing yards in 2013. Coaching certainly played a role in the Dolphins’ underachievement, but a roster as talented as some say it is would have excelled in something. The Dolphins were mediocre in virtually every way.
Yes, they were one win from making the postseason and actually defeated four of the AFC‘s six playoff teams, but that is more of an indictment on the conference itself than any endorsement of Miami’s talent level.
Look at the roster unit by unit. How many above-average corps do you see? Let’s begin on offense. Ryan Tannehill could be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback, but has yet to cement himself as such. The offensive line is one of the league’s worst, as evidenced by it conceding the most sacks in franchise history and doing little to help field a productive rushing attack.
The playmakers, while capable, still left something to be desired with a below average set of tailbacks and variety of one-dimensional pass catchers.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins possess one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, but their linebacker corps was perhaps the league’s worst and the secondary is only average.
The damage Ireland did this most recent offseason should be all the evidence owner Stephen Ross needs to part ways with the GM. Ireland spent big money to upgrade Tannehill’s weapons, only to virtually neglect the offensive line. The revolving door that followed handicapped the Dolphins’ offense all season and put Tannehill in danger of significant injury as he was sacked 58 times. It was an irresponsible act.
On defense, Ireland’s attempt to remodel the linebacker position severely backfired. Replacing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler clearly made the Dolphins a worse defensive team and was one of Ireland’s worst decisions of his five-year tenure. Ellerbe and Wheeler’s inability to disengage from blockers, consistently tackle and cover downfield turned a decent defense into a below average one.
Some of the Dolphins’ issues could have been less detrimental if the team would have gotten some contribution from its rookie class. Instead, Miami’s top picks struggled to earn playing time all season as third overall selection Dion Jordan managed a whopping two sacks and second- and third-round cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis were beat out for playing time by fringe players all year.
The jury is still out on these rookies, but it wasn’t a promising first season for the 2013 draft class.
Ireland’s free agency and draft selection gaffes have plagued the Dolphins for long enough. Philbin and his staff deserve plenty of blame for Miami’s collapse in Weeks 16 and 17, but the lack of execution by the players Ireland hand selected is the biggest reason why the Dolphins aren’t going to the playoffs. For that, Ireland must be removed as the team’s GM.