Bill Parcells is stepping back.
Effecitive immediately general manager Jeff Ireland will assume full control over all decisions pertaining to Miami Dolphins football. This according to a short, carefully worded statement just out from the Dolphins.
In other words, Parcells has given full personnel control to Ireland effective immediately as he previously had given Tony Sparano full coaching control. And, yes, this is clearly a first and important step signaling Parcells' intention to eventually depart the organization.
This was his plan all along and he has decided to implement it at this time.
The full statement from the Dolphins reads as follows: "Effective immediately, Jeff Ireland will assume full control over all aspects and decisions in regard to the Miami Dolphin football team and support staff.This was the intent of the structure put in place in the past. Bill Parcells will remain with the club on a daily consultant basis."
Parcells has effectively taken the training wheels off of Ireland, an eventuality he had been planning when he first took over as Dolphins football czar in 2008 but has pushed harder the last few months.
An example of that happened in the offseason when the Dolphins first learned that defensive end Phillip Merling had torn his Achilles' tendon while working out on his own. Ireland called Parcells in his upstate New York home and asked what the team should do.
Parcells basically said, "You want me to tell you what we're going to do? You tell me what we're going to do."
The two men agreed to hang up, give Ireland a chance to study the situation overnight and propose solutions the following morning. The next morning Ireland called back and told Parcells his plan included signing "bridge" free agents on the market.
Parcells approved that plan -- much like a consultant might -- and Ireland put it to work, signing Charles Grant and Marques Douglas.
That was clear indication that Parcells wanted Ireland to fend for himself, think for himself, control the fate of the team ... himself.
The reasons Parcells has taken this step back from control of the team now is uncertain. The timing intrigues. Clearly, he didn't want to leave the team altogether at this time -- not days before the start of the 2010 season.
That would cause an earthquake within the organization that could distract and hurt Miami's chances on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. What effect this announcement and tomorrow's media frenzy that it will cause within the lockerroom is is unclear.
What is clear is that Parcells is backing away and intends to do so further very soon. He is signed through the 2011 season but is free to leave at any time and still collect his salary, according to a source familiar with his contract details.
So this partial step has happened now. It is possible, even likely, Parcells' full disconnect from the Dolphins will happen before the 2011 season dawns, according to a club source.
Parcells is the only one who really can answer when he intends to leave the organization altogether. He does not typically speak to local media.
He does typically work long hours. He has not missed any Dolphins practice this training camp and preseason. Starting every December he locks himself in his office and studies tape of every college player that will become draft eligible.
Until now, Ireland has worn the mantle of general manager, but every personnel move has gone through Parcells. Every player Miami has drafted or signed has passed under the Parcells microscope.
It is unclear if that will be the case going forward.
It is more likely that Parcells will handle Ireland as he has handled Sparano. Parcells makes himself available to Sparano for advice but not necessarily consent. There have been a handful of incidents that Parcells has not agreed how Sparano has handled the team -- one among them benching of a player in the last two years for disciplinary reasons.
But Parcells has never over-ruled Sparano. He had previously disagreed with and over-ruled Ireland. That is likely to change. He is now apparently more likely to give his advice and allow Ireland to make his own decision.
And by the time the 2010 season is over, Parcells will make his own decision that no one else will have the ability to alter -- whether and how he will leave the Dolphins altogether.