This is obviously a big offseason for the Miami Dolphins - one that is filled with numerous story lines. Many of those have been discussed at length already. But one aspect of the offseason that I feel might be getting overlooked right now is the role of general manager Jeff Ireland.
The Dolphins have some major questions that have to be answered and major holes that must be addressed. The guy who will now be heading the decision making process, Jeff Ireland, will no longer have the security blanket around him that he has had for the past three offseasons. Bill Parcells is essentially done in Miami. He's moved out of the facility and all reports indicate that he has very a very small - if any - role with the team. That means Ireland, for the first time in his career, will be the guy who either gets all the praise or gets all of the criticism for the decisions made between now and September.
"I’m excited about it," Ireland told the Miami Herald. "I’m the one that’s making these decisions on the new move down the path, and there’s a commitment to get it done. I have an obsession of beating the Jets and the Patriots and winning this division. That’s the first and foremost thing. We’re going to try to do that this year."
It's clear to me that Ireland implies he wasn't the guy who was previously making most of the personnel decisions. That's what I take from the above quote - which is why this offseason will be a defining one for the young general manager.
Since Ireland has been in Miami, the Dolphins have had quite the mixed bags of draft and free agency hits and misses. Some of the hits that stand out include signing Chad Pennington back in 2008, drafting the young cornerback tandem of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, finding a blossoming starting defensive end (Kendall Langford) in the third round, signing Randy Starks, and signing undrafted free agent Davone Bess. Some of the misses, though, include drafting Pat White and Patrick Turner. There are also a number of people who consider passing on Matt Ryan as a bad decision - despite using that pick on an elite left tackle.
The Palm Beach Post also highlighted one of the moves that this regime can be most proud of - Cameron Wake. The article even goes one step further, giving the Dolphins front office credit for passing on Clay Matthews in the draft just months after signing Wake - instead drafting Vontae Davis, who has shown he could develop into one of the league's top corners.
Did the Dolphins choose to pass on the pass rusher from USC because they were confident in what Wake, the two-time CFL Defensive Player of the Year, would eventually become? Maybe. Or maybe the just got lucky. Either way, it's never been clear exactly who should receive credit for these personnel decisions. Was it Ireland? Or was it the "Godfather of Football Operations," Bill Parcells?
With Parcells now out of the picture, all of the decisions made by this organization will come from Jeff Ireland. There isn't going to be any gray area anymore. The media and the fans will all know who to blame - or praise - for the personnel moves made by the Dolphins.
Despite the contract extension he was given, Ireland's job is probably on the line in 2011. Another disappointing season, and both he and head coach Tony Sparano could be shown the door. To his credit, Ireland seems to understand this - and isn't backing down.
"We’re going to do what we need to do to get this thing done," says Ireland. "I know there’s a lot of passion involved in the fan base, and I understand the frustrations. I understand it. I feel the pressure as much as they do. But we’re not going to sleep around here until we get this thing turned in the right direction."