Are the Criticisms of Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland Fair?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Ireland is the punching bag general manager of the Miami Dolphins. Fans have been screaming “fire Ireland” for years, and after the meltdown of 2013 Ireland’s head is being called for again. The main criticisms of Ireland this year have been how atrocious the offensive line he built is, the infamous linebacker swap of the 2013 offseason and the Dolphins’ rookies playing less snaps than any other teams’ rookies.

These criticisms are tricky, however, as they do not tell the full story. The first criticism, his offensive line, is justified as the Dolphins set an all-time record for sacks allowed and gained less than four yards per rushing attempt. What is not said as often about Ireland is that his offensive lines were one of the best in the league for many years before Joe Philbin wanted to implement a zone running scheme, which requires athletic offensive lineman rather than maulers. Ireland has shown so far that he is not good at acquiring these types of linemen but will most likely have one more offseason to rebuild the line.

Ireland was also roasted for the linebacker swap which he made last offseason. He let two solid players, Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, go in return for two players who were not proven but had good seasons in 2012. The new linebackers were both terrible in 2013 while Dansby had a career season. That was an awful move that really hurt the defense, and with the way they rest of the defense was playing the Dolphins could have had a top unit with better linebacker play.

Is it fair to put that one on Ireland? I don’t think so. Joe Philbin, the stubborn head coach of the Dolphins, wanted a locker room that was united with the word “united” really meaning quiet. Philbin did not want players speaking out against him so he shunned all the leaders from the team — Dansby, Burnett, Reggie Bush, Brandon Marshall, and the list goes on. Ireland was just picking up the pieces from Philbin’s leadership massacre. Those moves become forehead slaps when you realize that the Dolphins lacked leadership all season, especially during the two-game collapse to end the season.

Based on Philbin’s short track record, the rookies will get their playing time next year. Ireland’s 2012 draft was also criticized, yet it produced three starters for the 2013 season. And for the fans who say the players that he picked are just plain bad, keep in mind that Philbin was in the draft room with Ireland the whole time letting him know which players would fit his system. Ireland only picked the groceries; Philbin cooked the meal.

Stephen Ross has some tough decisions coming in the next couple of days. There is no doubt that Ireland and Philbin’s failures directly affected each other, but when Ross evaluates the men, the ultimate question he needs to ask is was it the ingredients that made the meal bad or the way they were prepared?

Danny Williams is an NFL writer for rantsports.com, follow him on Twitter @danwilli45


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  • rymflaherty

    I can’t believe they allow an article like this to be considered content and for the contributor to be considered a “writer”.

    I suppose the answer after reading this is a resounding yes, since the case for Ireland mainly consists of conjecture. You call Philbin a “stubborn headed coach” yet give no substantial claim against this other than a wild guess that it was some sort of conspiracy to rid the locker room of all voices which may offer a dissenting view. Despite no actual person from the locker room ever confirming anything close to this.

    I’ll leave it at that and simply say this – Yes the criticism of Ireland is fair.
    In short – He was given 5 picks in the first 3 rounds and what amounts to a blank check in Free Agency (due to the salary cap) and all he has to show for it is one more win, and arguably more holes than a year ago.
    When I think of a mediocre team moving in the right direction I think of a team that has actual strengths on their team and clear philosophies on each side of the ball….I would love for someone to try to define those for this Dolphins team.

    So does Ireland deserve blame? He has resided over 5 straight non-winning seasons, how can he not? This “rant” while supposedly providing a different view actually does not do that, and all it really does is ask the question – Is Philbin as much to blame as well?

    • Jason

      Two different coaching changes with different styles and you want to blame Ireland? He got Wallace for 12 million cheaper than Minnesota would have gotten him. He got Dion Jordan, upon request from the coaching staff, for less than the actual point value for the pick. He picked up Brandon Gibson and re-signed Hartline. All together Tannehill spread the ball around and demonstrated poise in the pocket and going through his progressions.

      Ireland got Keller after the coaching staff asked for a true seam threat. Ireland let go of Long because of injury concerns and was asked to get faster and younger at the linebacker position. Ireland got what he was asked for. Carpenter was 2 million more than he was worth, and although it was a wasted draft pick, they got a kicker everyone was excited about. Ireland has been working under the confines of specific character, and a specific style. And he’s doing pretty good. He can’t get a rough and tough guy in the middle with a bad attitude that wants to shove people around. Philbin doesn’t want that kind of character around the locker room. He doesn’t like strong personalities which means there are a lot of players he can’t go after. So frustrating everyone wanting to blame Ireland. He’s doing the best he can with what he’s asked to do. The Dolphins have talent, he acquired it and everyone needs to realize that he doesn’t put people on the field, he doesn’t develop players to reach their ceiling, he has nothing to do with that. He gets the players, that’s it!

      • Chad White

        Ireland has been there long enough to make a difference. They were going to take away his power and that is why he gone. Thank goodness, Dolphins are better off without him.

  • Jim

    so, you’re saying that Ireland (GM) let coach Philbin run all over him? that’s INEXCUSABLE! fire both of them

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