Jeff Ireland’s Top 10 Worst Moves As Miami Dolphins GM
Jeff Ireland's Top 10 Worst Moves As Miami Dolphins GM
After repeated misses in free agency and the draft over the past six years, the Miami Dolphins have finally decided to part ways with GM Jeff Ireland.
The Dolphins only qualified for the playoffs once, limped to four losing seasons and only won 46 games compared to 50 losses on Ireland's watch. Many other factors played a role in Miami's mediocrity during Ireland's stay, but it had become painfully obvious that he just wasn't getting the job done when it came to molding a complete team.
Ireland was able to equip the Dolphins with a decent amount of talent at several positions which was almost sufficient for the team's first playoff berth in five years in 2013, but it was still a flawed roster thanks to numerous gaffes he made in free agency and the draft.
The Dolphins will look to hire a more trustworthy GM in the near future, but before we turn the page on Ireland's tumultuous tenure, let's highlight his 10 worst mistakes in Miami. We'll limit his mistakes to personnel decisions only, withstanding a few controversies that come to mind for off-the-field issues he was involved with.
It should be noted that only the last three years of personnel moves by Ireland were under consideration for this list. Bill Parcells' influence was prevalent until he stepped down as Vice President of Football Operations in September 2010, relinquishing full control to Ireland.
Without further ado, here are Ireland's 10 worst moves as GM of the Dolphins.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
10. Signing Marc Colombo
In 2011, Ireland looked to give quarterback Chad Henne reliable protection on the right side of the offensive line by agreeing to terms with veteran tackle Marc Colombo. The signing was another addition to the Dolphins in an exodus of sorts of former Dallas Cowboys to Miami that began under Parcells.
Colombo was a solid starter for the majority of his 10 seasons in the league, but he was a complete disaster in Miami. In 16 starts, Colombo surrendered nine sacks, nine quarterback hits and 35 hurries.
9. Drafting Michael Egnew
The Dolphins acquired two third-round picks when they shipped Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears in 2012, and Ireland used one of those selections on tight end Michael Egnew. As a rookie, Egnew struggled mightily in his first training camp, and as a result he only dressed for two games during the regular season.
Egnew improved in year two but still only managed seven catches for 69 yards and graded poorly as a run blocker according to Pro Football Focus. After two seasons, he appears to be a waste of a third-round pick. It's not a move that reflects positively on Ireland, especially when you factor in how Egnew was essentially acquired by trading away one of the league's most productive receivers.
8. Signing Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace provided something to the Dolphins' offense in 2013 it hasn't had in quite some time -- a legitimate deep threat who is capable of blowing the top off of the defense on any given play. He also consistently required safety attention which opened up opportunities for the likes of Brian Hartline and Charles Clay. But he's not worth $60 million.
Ireland made Wallace the league's fourth highest paid wide receiver last March, overpaying for a talented but one-dimensional playmaker who hasn't recorded a 1,000-yard season since 2011. Wallace may have passed that milestone with ease if quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't miss on so many deep ball attempts, but the speedster ranked fifth in the league in drops with 11 and seemed to lack desire at times when it came to fighting for the football.
If Tannehill improves his deep ball during his third season as starter Wallace could be poised for a much more productive campaign in 2014, but he'll likely never measure up to the lucrative deal Ireland signed him to.
7. Letting Jake Long, Reggie Bush Get Away
Ireland committed over $100 million of guaranteed money on new contracts during the offseason of 2013 in an effort to return the Dolphins to their winning ways. He let two players walk out the door who could have helped put Miami over the hump and into the payoffs, though. Left tackle Jake Long and running back Reggie Bush took their talents elsewhere as free agents. As a result, Tannehill was sacked more times than any other passer in the history of the franchise, and the Dolphins only averaged 90 rushing yards per game.
Obviously, the decision to not re-sign either wasn't the only reason Miami struggled to protect Tannehill and run the football, but it definitely played a significant role in said shortcomings. Jake Long ranked as Pro Football Focus' eighth overall offensive tackle as a member of the St. Louis Rams while Jonathan Martin and Bryant McKinnie both ranked near the bottom of the league replacing him. At running back, the 1,512 total yards Reggie Bush put up for the Detroit Lions in 14 games was 164 more than the 1,348 total yards Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas managed combined.
It's safe to say that Ireland downgraded at left tackle and running back by letting two talented players like Long and Bush get away.
6. Invisible 2013 Draft Class
The Dolphins' 2013 draft class cannot be written off after only one season. But it sure wasn't a promising first year for the group as the nine rookies Ireland selected combined to play the fewest amount of snaps of any rookie class in the entire league. Some of that can be attributed to coaching -- especially in Dion Jordan's case -- but rookies Jamar Taylor, Will Davis and Dallas Thomas clearly didn't look ready to handle significant roles in 2013.
Taylor and Davis were frequently beaten out for playing time by roster fringe defensive backs, and Thomas was only activated for six games despite the offensive line's obvious need for bodies. The coaching staff may be partially responsible for failing to develop its young players, but it certainly looks like Ireland struck out on several selections last April.
5. Trading Vontae Davis
During training camp and the preseason in 2012, the Dolphins' coaching staff became increasingly frustrated with former first-round pick Vontae Davis. A lack of discipline and maturity, in particular, was clearly irking head coach Joe Philbin and the team's defensive assistants on HBO's Hard Knocks. The Indianapolis Colts sensed an opportunity to steal Davis from the Dolphins, and they did just that when Ireland agreed to trade Davis in exchange for a second-round pick.
According to Pro Football Focus, Davis ranked third in the entire league in overall efficiency in 2013. His coverage grade of +12.8 ranked second. Given the stellar season Brent Grimes just had, the Dolphins would likely own the league's top cornerback duo if they hadn't given up on Davis. The coaches unquestionably deserve blame for the move as well, but at the end of the day it's Ireland who has the final say on all personnel moves. It's Ireland who must be held accountable.
4. Trading Brandon Marshall
In another move likely encouraged by Philbin and company, Ireland traded Brandon Marshall to the Bears in 2012 for two third-round draft picks. Being that Marshall was acquired by Miami for two second-round draft picks only two years beforehand, it seemed as though Ireland could have landed more for the stud receiver's services.
Marshall only managed nine touchdowns in the two years he spent with the Dolphins and dropped a combined 27 passes, but he produced 2,228 yards catching passes from Chad Henne and Matt Moore. In Marshall's two years in Chicago he's put up 2,803 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns with more reliable quarterback play. There's no question that Ryan Tannehill would benefit from throwing to a big body, large radius receiver like Marshall.
To make matters worse, Ireland selected Michael Egnew and Will Davis with the two picks he acquired from the Bears for Marshall. Egnew could become a camp causality in 2014, and Davis only dressed for five games as a rookie.
3. Drafting Daniel Thomas
2011 second-round pick Daniel Thomas only registered 1,312 rushing yards on 3.6 yards per carry over the past three years for the Dolphins. He's a big runner who attempts to run like a scat back, rarely lowering his shoulder to pick up tough yards or breaking tackles his frame suggests he should be able to break. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if Miami's new GM releases Thomas during the 2014 offseason despite one year remaining on his rookie deal.
Back in 2011, though, Thomas was so coveted by Ireland that the Dolphins traded away three picks to move up to the No. 62 overall selection to snag him. Miami chose Thomas over backs like DeMarco Murray and Stevan Ridley who have both gone on to have vastly superior careers thus far.
2. Infamous Linebacker Swap
Ireland attempted to get younger, faster and more attacking on defense during the 2013 offseason by replacing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Instead, he bought two linebackers who severely struggled to defend the run. Ellerbe ranked 50th of 55 eligible inside linebackers and Wheeler finished 35th of 35 eligible 4-3 outside linebackers by Pro Football Focus.
Meanwhile, Dansby had perhaps his best season as a pro for the Arizona Cardinals, racking up 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions, two touchdowns and a fifth overall standing at his position according to Pro Football Focus. Burnett wasn't as impressive with the Oakland Raiders, but he still finished as Pro Football Focus' second most efficient run defender among 4-3 outside linebackers.
The swap was incredibly detrimental to Miami's ability to stop the run as the unit plummeted to 26th in the league defending it by season's end. The Dolphins easily could have found themselves among the AFC's six playoff teams with better linebacker play.
1. Drafting Jonathan Martin
Ireland made plenty of mistakes during his three drafts in complete control, but his selection of offensive tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round of 2012 takes the cake as his worst pick. Martin was routinely beaten on the field to the tune of conceding 13 sacks in 23 games. Whether he lined up at right tackle or left tackle, Martin was completely outmatched by many of the league's most explosive pass rushers.
But as you are well aware, the ramifications of this pick far exceed Martin's porous play. An unprecedented bullying scandal unfolded only two months ago shortly after Martin left the team after claiming to have been mistreated by Richie Incognito and other teammates. It was an embarrassing several days for the franchise in which headlines around the country were dominated by the controversy. Regardless of who you blame for the fiasco, one thing seems quite clear: Martin will never play for the Dolphins again. He was a waste of a second-round pick and the worst move of Ireland's tenure.