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Ireland on hot seat as season begins; Fins, Heat, Marlins chatter; Reaction to UM loss

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins must emerge from 2012 knowing exactly what they have in Ryan Tannehill, but also critical is this: Owner Stephen Ross must decide whether Jeff Ireland is the right man long-term for the franchise’s most important position, aside from quarterback.

Ross made clear he expects a winning team in 2012, though some of Ireland’s moves suggest he’s far more concerned with 2013 than 2012. A friend of Ross believes Ireland will be in serious trouble if the Dolphins bomb. He insists Ross does not have “blind faith” in his general manager.

Another close business associate of Ross said Ireland probably would not survive a 5-11 season but cautioned there could be scenarios in which the Dolphins have a losing record but Ross still keeps Ireland.

Such as: If Tannehill plays very well; or if Joe Philbin convinces Ross that he and Ireland work well together and have this franchise on the right track, with the prospect of huge 2013 cap space ($60 million) and two second-round picks.

“Steve really likes Jeff personally and gives him the benefit of the doubt,” that associate said. But now that Ross has a coach in whom he has far more faith than Tony Sparano, he presumably will begin to question Ireland if Miami isn’t a playoff contender – which is Ross’ expectation.

Not only are the Dolphins carrying $15 million in dead money (for players acquired, then dumped), but Ireland released six of the nine veteran free agents he signed this offseason.

The shame here is that for teams that make the right personnel moves, there is precedent for quick turnarounds from 6-10. Surprisingly, more teams that finished 6-10 over the past 12 years – like Miami did in 2011 – made the playoffs the next season than finished with a losing record again (12 to 10). Of the 32 teams that finished 6-10 between 2000 and 2010, 17 had a winning record the next season and six won at least 11 games.

Last spring, Ireland told us he hoped to emulate the 49ers’ rise from 6-10 to 13-3 last year. “They needed new inspiration and new leadership and that’s what we would like to be,” he said. “They’ve got a good defense, really good offensive line. That’s what you aspire to be.”

That notion of a 49ers-type turnaround seems highly far-fetched now. Here’s some perspective: The Dolphins entered March eager to upgrade at nine positions. Of those, there is reason for hope that they are better, long-term, at two: quarterback (Tannehill) and right tackle (Jonathan Martin). That must play out.

At backup defensive end, Miami had no plans to keep Jason Taylor even before he retired and decided not to outbid Buffalo for Mark Anderson (10 sacks in 2011), opting for Jamaal Westerman (later released) and Olivier Vernon. Vernon, as a rookie, will be hard-pressed to match Taylor’s seven sacks, but he could pan out long-term. There's certainly hope there.

But at six other need positions, the Dolphins either regressed or didn’t upgrade at all for 2012, including tight end (coaches do not believe Michael Egnew is ready); linebacker (the Dolphins wanted to find a challenger to Koa Misi but cut spring addition Gary Guyton); safety (they cut Yeremiah Bell, then signed and cut Tyrell Johnson).

At right guard, they passed on more than a dozen established, healthy veterans, ultimately replacing Vernon Carey with a player who retired (Eric Steinbach), another (Artis Hicks) who developed a neck condition and another (incumbent John Jerry) who keeps underwhelming. At cornerback, they offset the addition of Richard Marshall by trading Davis, which gives 2013 free agent Sean Smith more leverage in negotiations, leaving Miami needing maybe two corners next spring. (The free agent class, besides Smith, includes Brent Grimes, Quentin Jammer, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib.)

And finally, there’s the disappointing situation at receiver, where Brandon Marshall essentially has been replaced by journeymen Legedu Naanee and Anthony Armstrong. So what happened there? To refresh, Ireland opposed spending on pricey free agent receivers -- Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Vincent Jackson --- and watched Laurent Robinson cancel his visit when the Jaguars gave him $14 million guaranteed.

Miami then decided its young receivers were good enough that it didn’t need the next-best, cheaper tier of free agents: Brandon Lloyd (three years, $12 million from the Patriots), Eddie Royal (three years, $13.5 million from the Chargers) or Mario Manningham (two years, $7.3 million from the 49ers).

And though the Dolphins liked several receivers in the draft (such as T.Y. Hilton), they always had other players rated ahead of them until they chose sixth-rounder B.J. Cunningham, who was cut. They compounded the problem in June by signing Chad Johnson over Braylon Edwards, who is expected to start for Seattle and has been "very, very good," coach Pete Carroll said.

The hope is that Miami can lure a potential 2013 free agent such as Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz or Malcom Floyd. But Dolfans know, by now, not to get their hopes up.       

CHATTER

### Ireland still has support among Dolphins colleagues. One, defending the Davis trade, cracked: “I must have missed Vontae’s Pro Bowl appearances.”… But a veteran Dolphins player, still bemoaning the Davis trade, expressed more concern about Miami’s predicament at corner than receiver.

### Don’t underestimate how much respect Tannehill has earned from teammates. “Every part of what you want in a quarterback, he’s got,” Matt Moore said. Beyond the physical skills, “he’s extremely intelligent, not your typical rookie. Some rookies are shy, but he’s not. It’s awesome to see how he communicates.” Guard Richie Incognito put it this way: “He’s got a level of confidence in himself that some rookies don’t have. It shows in the huddle.”

### Ex-Dolphin Taylor called out Reshad Jones this summer, saying he needs to pay more attention in meetings and “can’t play the young card forever.” But teammates cite Jones among the most improved young players (with Smith, Nolan Carroll and Daniel Thomas).

“Jason probably meant I need to be more of a student of the game, which I’ve done this offseason,” said Jones, who said he has assumed the leadership role vacated by Bell. “Coaches and the guys here know I can play. I can cover, hit, run. I wan to be the quarterback of the defense.” When asked who in the secondary has emerged as a leader, Philbin named Jones first.

### MLB officials privately express disappointment and concern that the Marlins haven’t drawn better. Marlins attendance ranks 12th in the National League and 18th in baseball. “It’s not what we wanted it to be, but we’re to blame, not our fans,” Marlins president David Samson said on his 790 The Ticket radio show. “It’s pathetic how bad our team is.”

### One veteran Marlins baseball official, on speculation that owner Jeffrey Loria will demote executive Larry Beinfest: “Jeffrey can’t blame Larry for the guys Jeffrey wanted,” including John Buck and Heath Bell. “You have to look in the mirror sometimes. Jeffrey was a big George Steinbrenner fan, but Steinbrenner eventually realized he needed to let his baseball people make the decisions.”

### Chris Bosh is adding bulk (six pounds of lean muscle) to prepare for the rigors of playing a full season at center.... The Heat is still giving thought about whether to sign former Knicks centerJosh Harrellson, who worked out for them the past week.... Knicks center Marcus Camby told Newday that even though he considered the Heat this summer, "I knew it would have been very hard for me to put on that Miami Heat uniform, especially with all the battles we used to have back in the days with [Allan] Houston and those guys."

### The last word to local agent David Canter, who represents six Dolphins: “I’ve had enough interaction with Joe Philbin and been around the league long enough to know he’s smart enough, with their fan base, not to pump his fist after field goals.” (Unlike Sparano).

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FYI: For a look at what former Canes greats are saying about UM's embarrassing loss Saturday, and postscripts and thoughts from the game, please see our last post.

Comments

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dave

A whole 6 pounds for Chris Bosh? He needs at least 20 if we will make that move permanent.

Eddie

I'm convinced any smart Dolphins fan would have made better personnel moves than Ireland.

Penguin

Finally, I find Samson's candor refreshing. Nice to know he can take it, and not just dish it out.

Feliz

The amazing thing about Ireland is how he gets rid of his best players with no plan to replace them.

C2wjones

Stellar job by Barry Jackson here on Ireland and the 'Phins. Precisely honest and inescapably hardhitting with no frills accuracy. The state of the club is indeed sad but true. One of the better articles I have read on the topic.

(At least we can count on Barry to spare us the cheerleading when the substance for it isn't there.)

This would pass as a snapshot into a true report card for Ireland without a hint of embellishment. Wish it weren't so.

C2wjones

Tannehill, whom ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski recently remarked had "Marino'ish" poise and mechanics (height, strength, confidence) might end up being a real bright spot amongst a roster increasingly scant of them.

Watching Tannehill develop along with some hard running by Reggie [Bush] will have to be worth the price of admission this season. (If only Tannehill had Brandon Marshall, whom could very well be Pro-Bowl bound again.)

Ross and Ireland have just not provided a whole lot more to place stock into. That is, unless someone blossoms unexpectedly to shore up the gaps.

FZB

Ireland has only been in charge two years and he is doing a good job, of course you guys can't remember what you had for dinner last night let alone remember back 5 years and realize that Parcells made all the decisions in 2008,2009 and 2010.

but hey, Ireland is the reason for what's gone bad and let's forget what Parcells did which is set back this franchise years, Parcells stole money from the Dolphins and left the franchise in worse shape that when he inherited.

so keep firing away, who knows Ross may make a change just to appease you guys.

Barry Chitwood

In today's NFL, you can't win by being penny wise. Now, we look pound foolish.

gman

Barry Jackson is the only dolphins reporter i can read with any respect.

also, lets keep tabs on how well these receivers who got big money do for there teams.

going young. thats all there is to it.

Philbin is about the draft and keeping good players and getting rid of trouble, bad characters, ect.
Ireland is simply the bad guy who gets blamed for it. Which is why Philbin will still want him around. As long as he can draft good drafts that is....

and oh, btw, if you think getting rid of Ireland is the answer to filling the seats, your crazy! Winning wont even fill the seats. Miami is a beatdown town when it comes to football.

Jakester

Parcells did Dolphins no good and he's gone....Ireland has done no good and he's still here....we have not "improved" enough to give any fans hope that this org. is turning the corner. Ross is the laughing stock of NFL owners and we can't get rid of him sadly enough. We will never be the type of team we fans have been watching other teams transform to. Our only hope is Ross sells the team to another billionaire. They aren't lining at Sun Life so maybe he can be found on the Trump golf course! Arison, any thoughts for another project?

Stuart

I won't hold my breath, but maybe some young players will break out. Maybe we will be better than the worst team in the league...which is what USA Today thinks of us heading into Houston for WK 1.

Stuart

And yeah....get the ball into Reggie Bush's hands as much a possible!!!

steve

Ireland should start on a 4 game probation and go from there. Fins start 4-0, 3-1, or even 2-2, he gets another four games. Fins start 1-3 or 0-4, Ireland gets the heave-ho immediately. Some of the other business staff should probably go as well for letting it get this bad. They may be good business peoople but it all starts with the product and that is the team on the filed.

canes_5rings

"Not only are the Dolphins carrying $15 million in dead money (for players acquired, then dumped), but Ireland released six of the nine veteran free agents he signed this offseason."

FZB... There's the bad... plus some stuff I already pointed out about the guy (no WR, cutting Bell, asking players if their moms are prostitutes in interviews), where's the good you keep talking about?

If Ross fires Ireland just to appease the fans, then definitely fans, keep it up. Don't settle for this clown!

Stuart

We already have an advantage!! We are definitely THE underdogs and teams will take us lightly. That alone should be good for a few wins!!

Stuart

Truth be told...if Tannehill plays well and continues to grow...he may save Ireland's job.

andyk

Ireland is an arrogant jerk in way over his head...how else to explain getting rid of Marshall, then doing NOTHING to try and replace your #1 receiver

J

Lakers are salivating at the thought of Chris Bosh having to match up with Dwight...

Gildo

I hope he gone after this season for good he ruining this team

vaustn

WHAT IS MORE AMAZING about ROSS with IRELAND is HOW FREAKING DENSE HE SEEMS TO BE about ireland's ability to do his job! EVERYBODY ELSE in the world can see how incompetent ireland is at the job. that is EVIDENT BY THE NUMBER OF players he signs then cuts over the years.
WORST even, if ROSS IS TOO STUPID TO REALIZE Ireland is horrible he shouldn't be owner. Makes you wonder how he became rich without STEALING AND SWINDLING money.

Neil's GhosT

Ross
Loria
Samson
Schmuck
Schmendrik
Schmegeggi

ED

2-14

Harry Palms

Finally Ross wakes up after this clown spends years ruining the team? Who's really been paying Ireland...the Patriots?

Here you go: "We want to be like the 49ers"...words of a LOSER. Why not be like the DOLPHINS who won using players who were smart and could play, rather than being a copy cat loser and drafting "measurables" and what Mel Kiker says. DUMP THIS LOSER ASAP.

dorsey1

Bowling ball time at SunLife stadium!


No one cares and no one will be going to these boring games with these present day Miami Dolphins.


The season is over, say goodbye.


Have a great time at Club Liv!

Tony Sparano

Anybody miss me yet?

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