Please forgive the length of my post, as well as the formatting (which I can't fix despite several attempts). I've seen repeated rants on how awful a job Jeff Ireland has been doing, what with him failing to land big fish like Peyton Manning, Mario Williams etc...I've tried to provide some perspective in various threads, but to no avail thus far. I realize that a lot of you are beer-swilling dudes in your early 20s whose lives are nearly ruined with each Dolphin failure (I know; I was just like you a long time ago), so (at the risk of sounding presumptuous) you may not know a lot about the history of this franchise, particularly when it comes to player/personnel decisions. With that in mind, I thought I'd provide you with some perspective about Miami's first round draft picks since 2000, the first season after Dan Marino retired. I'm focusing on the first round b/c the consensus is that's where the best talent is acquired. This data is broken into two sections: 2000-2007 (the Rick Spielman/Randy Mueller years), and 2008-present (Jeff Ireland).
- 2000 - No pick: 23rd pick traded to Carolina; had a few chances to draft some dude named "Tom Brady"
- 2001 - 26th pick: Jamar Fletcher, CB out of Wisconsin, and a complete bust (QB Drew Brees was picked by SD 6 players later as Miami had already settled on QB Jay Fiedler)
- 2002 - No pick: 25th pick traded to New Orleans for Ricky Williams trade
- 2003 - No pick: 18th pick conveyed to Arizona via trade from New Orleans (Rick Williams again)
- 2004 - 19th pick: Vernon Carey, OT from the "U," never has lived up to initial hype (passed on Vince Wilfork, picked by NE two players later)
- 2005 - 2nd pick: Ronnie Brown, solid but unspectacular RB from Auburn whom one of you, based on your screen name, thinks should be president (passed on, among others, DE DeMarcus Ware & QB Aaron Rodgers)
- 2006 - 16th pick: Jason Allen, S out of Tennessee, and a complete bust (9 of the remaining 16 players taken in rd. 1 have been to the Pro Bowl)
- 2007 - 9th pick: Ted Ginn Jr, WR from Ohio St., a complete bust w/a really high rd. 1 pick, but hey, at least we got his entire family through the draft (Patrick Willis & Darrelle Revis went within the next 5 picks)
Upon Ireland's arrival (1st two years w/Parcells)
- 2008 - 1st pick: Jake Long, LT from Michigan, probably going to the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy (passed on, among others, QB Matt Ryan, who probably isn't going to the Hall of Fame)
- 2009 - 25th pick: Vontae Davis, CB from Illinois, one of the better CBs in the league & will likely be a Pro Bowl selection if he can focus/keep his mouth shut
- 2010 - 12th pick: traded down to SD's 28th pick & 40th pick overall, where they selected DT Jared Odrick from Penn St., and LB Koa Misi from Utah. Odrick came on strong last year after missing nearly all of his rookie year due to injury, the jury is still out on Misi (although I'm not impressed by what I've seen thus far)
- 2011 - 15th pick: Mike Pouncey, C from Florida, excellent rookie season, will likely be a Pro Bowl selection at some point, possibly soon
Looking back, there is a clear difference in the quality of picks. The Spielman/Mueller years yielded 3 complete busts, an under-perfomer in Vernon Carey, and one Pro Bowl player in Ronnie Brown, all over a span of 8 years. Spielman tried to make a splash in trading 2 first rounders (and other picks) for Ricky Williams, who was an excellent RB. However, Williams helped the team win exactly ZERO playoff games, and his career in Miami was loaded with off the field trouble; he was the epitome of a "high risk" acquisition. Conversely, Ireland has picked a likely Hall of Fame player, and the other three have a good chance of getting to the Pro Bowl in their careers, and exactly ZERO busts in the first round, all in half the time!
Some of you lament Miami passing on QB Matt Ryan. Looking at the numbers, Matt Ryan has been solid, but unspectacular, this despite superior skill position players in TE Tony Gonzalez (possibly the best TE in NFL history), WRs Roddy White & Julio Jones, RB Michael Turner, a solid O-line, and better coaching (can you imagine Matt Ryan under Sparano/Henning - yeesh). With this advantage, Matt Ryan has exactly as many playoff wins as Chad Henne; ZERO. I think the lesson here is that no team is ever just "one player away" from winning a championship. I think Ireland understands this, and he's not willing to mortgage the future of the franchise on a big name. Think about it; do you think perennial contenders like the Patriots, Steelers, Giants, Packers, & Falcons wouldn't love guys like Mario Williams & Vincent Jackson? Of course they would, but they understand it takes 57 players to make a team, not 3 or 4. Would you rather be a jills fan rooting for a team that felt the need to make huge investments in a less-than-stellar QB, a questionable "#1" WR and a great, but oft-injured DE, or would you rather root for a team that builds through smart draft picks & finds role players through free agency?
Now, a counter-argument might be "yeah, that's just the first round - go look at the subsequent rounds of the draft under Ireland." Fair enough; I know he's made some bad calls (Pat White immediately comes to mind, and I know there have been others), but again, go look at the latter rounds under Spielman/Mueller. This post would take an hour to read if I went that far in depth, but I'll save you the time and just say player/personnel decisions (draft, trade, free agency) are absolutely horrendous from 2000-2007, definitely worse than 2008-present under Ireland.
But let's just say, for argument's sake, that Jeff Ireland really is bad. Can you name a bunch of great GMs in the league? Do you even know all NFL GMs without looking them up? Yeah sure, you may know a few names (Ted Thompson in Green Bay, Scott Pioli in KC, maybe Mike Tannenbaum in New York come to mind, and even A.J. Smith in San Diego). Do you really think A.J. Smith is good?
Look at San Diego's roster in the last 6 years; they were the most talented team in the league, and now they have holes almost everywhere. And go look on gang green nation to see how nyets fans feel about Tannenbaum. Also, do you really know how good other NFL GMs are? Do you follow their player/personnel decisions & franchise history as closely as you do the Dolphins? I mean, you're on Phinsider for a reason, right? But let's just say every other NFL GM is better than Ireland, which they are not. How many of them are just dying to come down here & work for Stephen Ross? Well...how many? Bottom Line: if you want to know why this franchise has fallen so far, I think you need to look at management prior to Ireland as the main culprit; Ireland has a lot of fixing to do, and working for a boob like Ross (the Daniel Snyder of the AFC) doesn't make it any easier. While he should be held accountable, Ireland deserves credit. Anyway, this has gone long enough, so I'll end it here. Thanks for reading; flame away.