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Why Ross has faith (for now) in Jeff Ireland; plus Canes, Heat

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Many would say general manager Jeff Ireland is every bit as much to blame, or more, for the Dolphins’ problems as Tony Sparano. So why has Dolphins owner Stephen Ross considered replacing Sparano (and likely will at some point) but not Ireland?

For starters, you rarely see front-office executives fired during the season. But Ross’ faith in Ireland is based on numerous factors, according to people close to the situation. Among them:

Ross believes Ireland is a smart, savvy talent evaluator, even though several of his moves haven’t panned out…. He likes what Ireland did in his first draft without Bill Parcells around (Mike Pouncey, Daniel Thomas, etc.)… He doesn’t hold Ireland largely responsible for the 2008-2010 bad picks, such as Pat White, a player Ireland did not push for. He knows Parcells made a lot of those calls…

He knows Sparano had ample say in some of the questionable offensive line pickups, such as Marc Colombo and John Jerry, because that was Sparano’s supposed area of expertise.… Ross liked the Reggie Bush signing, which was Ireland’s call… He agrees with Ireland for not relenting or giving up too much (draft pick and longterm money) for Denver’s Kyle Orton, whose 80.9 quarterback rating this season is barely ahead of Chad Henne’s 79.0…

Though Ireland was permitted to spend up to the cap, Ross likes that Ireland did not overpay players this offseason and made moves based on what he thought were in the franchise’s longterm, not short term, interests. Miami reportedly still has $10 million in cap space….

Ireland assigns a financial value to players and usually is reluctant to pay more than that value, even if the player can help Miami and even if there’s cap space. Ross sees wisdom in that…. And most importantly, Ireland somehow has convinced Ross that talent is not the problem here, that Miami should have enough good players to be a good team. (Many would disagree.)

After the Chargers game, Ross solicited Ireland’s advice on the coaching situation. Ireland endorsed keeping Sparano, which works out great for Ireland instead of having a coach that demands personnel power or might not want him around.

An associate said if there’s a coaching change eventually as expected, Ross’ inclination at this moment – subject to change, obviously – would be to ask a new coach to keep Ireland, expressing his view that Ireland is good at his job, even if the marquee coach (such as Bill Cowher) has final say on personnel.

But if that coach balks at working with Ireland and wants his own personnel guy (which wouldn’t be surprising), it would be unfathomable to think that Ross would allow himself to lose out on, say, Cowher (very high on Miami’s list) because of faith in Ireland. That’s why Ireland’s longterm future here, beyond April’s draft, remains in question, despite Ross’ faith in him. And as one Dolphins official said, at some point that faith would figure to diminish if the losing persists. 

### Despite the perceived vote of confidence, Sparano’s status is week-to-week, with more discussions expected if the Dolphins lose the Jets game. “He wants to see results,” one Ross friend reiterated Monday. Before deciding to keep Sparano for at least the next game, Ross spoke to several players, who endorsed the coach.

Ross also has been consulting former Chiefs executive Carl Peterson, who told him that it’s difficult to have successful in-season coaching change, according to a friend of both. Still, Ross left Qualcomm Stadium upset and knows dumping Sparano before January would give him a jump on the search to replace him.

 ### Defensive coordinator and former 49ers coach Mike Nolan would be the favorite to be interim coach if Sparano is dumped, though one team source noted quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell also has head coaching experience (at UCLA). For the Jets game, “Tony gives us the best chance to win,” one Dolphins official said, noting Nolan is not an obvious stopgap option because of the defense’s struggles.

      CHATTER

### One AFC scout who studied UM’s Marcus Forston questioned his toughness and bemoaned, “He should be better than this. I don’t know if it means enough to him.”

Forston, projected as a first-round pick by ESPN before the season, has five tackles in three games and hasn’t done enough to fight off blocks. “I challenged Marcus,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “I’m not going to make excuses for him… but he’s in a new scheme, with a new d-line coach and had the surgery in the spring.”

With UM allowing 202.5 rushing yards per game (105th nationally), D’Onofrio admitted it has been more difficult than he expected to get players to eliminate bad habits. Defensive players also are sometimes resorting to technique they learned under the former staff; this staff has changed a lot of that technique. One issue with Forston specifically, coach Al Golden said, is “what the last coach told him shows up.” In fact, Golden said it has been easier to teach the new players than the veteran ones because of that.

### D’Onofrio defended his maligned unit Tuesday, saying, “We’ve given up seven touchdowns in four games, and we’ve played more people on defense this year than they’ve ever played in the past. They didn’t play any [young] linebackers [much last year]. That’s why a lot of these guys playing didn’t have any experience. Brandon McGee didn’t start one game, and I’ve got three corners playing who didn’t play college football at Miami. You’re not going to move your defense forward if you’re not willing to play these guys."

### D’Onofrio said even with Ray-Ray Armstrong back, JoJo Nicolas will remain at safety for now because he has played well there…. Golden said he wants to give more playing time to running back Eduardo Clements. "Eduardo is more reliable" than he was previously, Golden said.... Linebacker Ramon Buchanan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday, will get a medical redshirt to return next season.

### Though Edward Mujica said the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez told him he expects to be back in the big leagues, the Marlins have serious doubts whether he will be allowed back in the country in the foreseeable future. Even if he is, there’s sentiment to trade him.

“There is [another] closer on our roster now,” executive Larry Beinfest said, from a group of Mujica, Ryan Webb, Mike Dunn, Steve Cishek and Jose Ceda. “Whether we choose to do that, it’s too early to know. We can always look in free agency.”

### Heat employees, who took a 10 percent paycut July 1 when the lockout started, saw their paycut increase to 25 percent this week, which will be the case for five months or until the lockout ends, whichever comes first... Shane Battier and Grant Hill – who are on Miami’s list of potential free agent targets – both have interest in talking to the Heat after the lockout, friends say.

Comments

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JDOE

I, for one, am not impressed with Ireland's picks. We could have had Ingram and probably Mallett instead of an apparently decent lineman and an already oft-injured, mediocre runningback.

Darren Sproles would have been a much better (and cheaper) free agent pickup than Bush. Everyone and his brother knows that. Especially after watching Sproles this season. He wouldn't have costed a draft pick either.

For being an expert on talent, I'm left unimpressed. I also don't want him asking anymore players if their moms are prostitutes again, or any other ridiculous questions either.

octavio de armas

Is Mr. Ross blind or what. Ireland is not good at evaluating talent. His moves have been 85% more questionable than assets to this team. As long as Ross remains the owner of the Dolphins this will be a 3rd rate franchise. We have now become one of the worst franchises in sports. What a sad predicament for what was once one of the premier franchises in sports.

Rich-LA

How can you keep a GM that in 4 years has the worst OL in the NFL - that while having a gift pick to get his LT. He also has a team that plays a 3-4 yet has 1 true NT on the roster and he is a waste! How do you play a 3-4 and have only 1 NT on the roster - especially when that guy is a FA next year. Who are you developing? His WR's are way overrated - they cannot get off of tight coverage to save their lives which is one big reason in the redzone we suck. And how about bringing in a true safety?

Ireland has not improved this team much. Instead of getting an impact guy he signs practice squad guys off of other teams rosters - really??? Because that is the problem - your 52nd and 53rd player on your team is the problem. That is where you should focus. Not that your starting 22 is a problem at all.

sickandtired

Thanks Barry for essentially ruining my day and removing the last shred of confidence and support that I had for this team. Is Ross blind, stupid, or both? All these reasons he mentions for keeping Ireland in this story and for endorsing Sporano the other day are not even accurate! Talent on this team, where? Players playing hard for Sporano, where? We are doomed!

vaustn

ROSS IS AN INCOMPETENT FOOTBALL OWNER PERIOD! FIRING ANYONE BEFORE THE SEASON WON'T MAKE MUCH SENSE ANYWAY. HE ALREADY BRIBED SPARANO TO STAY AFTER HIS F-UP WITH HARBAUGH. IRELAND IS DEFINITELY AS RESPONSIBLE AS SPARANO IS FOR THE MESS! ACCORDING TO THE ARTICLE, ROSS IS WATCHING HIS BOTTOMLINE AS I SUSPECTED FOR YEARS NOW. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR - A SORRY PRODUCT. BUT NOW THE IDIOT IS LOSING MORE MONEY BECAUSE HE CHOSE TO CUT CORNERS ON PERSONNEL! THIS IS NOT REAL ESTATE, IT'S PRO FOOTBALL DUMMY!!

bigtrav1

If Ireland is brought back to this team to F*@& up another draft, season ticket holders should boycott the 2012 season.

Kevin

Ross has a lot of people telling him what to do far he does not no. He is not Jerry Jones who gets all involved with player personnel decisions as well as hiring and firing coaches. He tries but he does not have it. A blind man can see change is needed at the HC level and GM. 0-5 and we still want have change. Ross is to cheap to change and the fans are to willing to keep allowing this to go on! Fans do not go to the DENVER game and send Ross a message!!

Roy

"Ireland has not improved this team much. Instead of getting an impact guy he signs practice squad guys off of other teams rosters - really??? Because that is the problem - your 52nd and 53rd player on your team is the problem. That is where you should focus. Not that your starting 22 is a problem at all".

Posted by: Rich-LA | 10/05/2011 at 12:12 PM

WTF?

God Help Me

It goes on and on. If I were to produce that kind of junk at work,chances are I would be FIRED!!!!! How much longer are we going to have to watch this piece of s*#t team. I say if we want change we have to suck it up and not watch or go to the games. When Ross starts to see his investment going down the toilet maybe then he will bring people to Miami that can put a winning team on the field...

Louis F

Welcome back Barry, always enjoy your columns and hope you're back to stay this time!

Fintasy

Sure they saved $10M in cap space, however they're losing many times that in years of lost sales.

Sure he picked a couple fair players, but they don't offset years of complete busts of drafts.

Sure he is respected by some, however the franchise is disrespected by almost all.

Sure he signed Soliai, Bush, Colombo, Moore, and Burnett. However he signed Soliai, Bush, Colombo, Moore, and Burnett.

mohammer

I still don't get how this guy pay so much for Soliai after one good season,which happens to be his contract year. I somehow think that with Ross its about the money and not about the rings.

Red

I could not agree more with everything written above. For this team to turn around, we need new players, a new coach, a new GM and most of all, A NEW OWNER! He has ruined what was once a proud franchise. The decline of this franchise started with Wannstedt (or WannSTACHE as we call him) and has bottomed out with the big 3 buffoons, Ross, Ireland and Sparano!

miamivice13

Nice article. Really. Insightful. Bluntly, the Dolphins, an organization with a great history, earned respect,by other teams, fans and players, have fallen to depths beyond just mediocrity. We are now Into the abyss. Not seeing much hope at this time. Maybe this should be carved in stone at the stadium as long as Ross is the owner... "Abandon all hope, ye who enter"....
Ross? Really?? His next moves with coaching, GM and draft will speak volumes. Not going all in to acquire the best possible players who are available is not only ignorant. Its a disservice to the team and fans. Never ever give up. In it to win and be the best possible or get out... Players deserve better and so do the fans.

jj

The owner is more concerned with Hollywood pizzaz than with football. Until such time as that thought process changes, Dolphins are going NOWHERE!!

William

Wow here we go again. Last year when the fins had a Monday night game, I was watching the game on a TV while at the Airport in Fort Worth. The fins were getting destroyed by New England. This Monday night game I will be away from home at McGuire AFB. I hope history does not repeat itself and I have to watch the fins get destroyed again this time by the Jets rather than New England. I have lost fate in them being a force in our Division.

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