Jeff Ireland's tenure as the Dolphins GM was filled with highs and lows. The Miami Dolphins surprised everyone by going 11-5 in 2008 in Ireland's first year as GM, as key acquisitions including veteran free agent defensive lineman Randy Starks, rookie Jake Long, rookie Kendall Langford, and most importantly, free agent quarterback Chad Pennington all surpassed expectations. With such success early on and 2nd round rookie quarterback Chad Henne given the luxury of developing on the bench for his rookie season, the belief was that the team was finally on the right track, in part due to Ireland having the luxury of a highly regarded Vice-President of Football Operations in future Hall of Famer Bill Parcells to offer veteran guidance.
However, after Pennington's shoulder injuries became a recurring issue as they were back during his tenure with the Jets, Parcells' role became a source of contention as fans began to argue over who was more to blame for the team falling short of expectations in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, especially since Parcells resigned from his role near the start of the 2010 season. Several Dolphins beat reporters, including Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, say that Parcells had the final word on most of the Dolphins' acquisitions during his tenure as VP, making Ireland's competency - or lack thereof - difficult to judge during this timeframe without specific information on Ireland's recommendations to Parcells. The stories available about Ireland during this time are embarrassing anecdotes, ranging from his poorly phrased questioning of Dez Bryant about his mother's profession at the NFL combine to a couple of free agents including Ryan Clark claiming Ireland's personality was a turnoff to players.
With Parcells gone, Ireland was the undisputed final decision-maker in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 offseasons. While many fans felt the team's drafting improved in 2011 and 2012, multiple disappointing free agent signings including Richard Marshall, Philip Wheeler, and Dannell Ellerbe, coupled with the failure of most of the 2013 draft class to make a significant impact as rookies amid rumors of Ireland's relationship with the Joe Philbin-led coaching staff souring, led to owner Stephen Ross feeling compelled to put a new voice in charge of Dolphins' personnel.
Ireland was initially offered a "demotion by stealth" in which he would keep his job while relinquishing control over personnel to a "Football Czar," similar to his earlier relationship with Parcells, but Ireland chose to resign instead at the start of the 2014 offseason. That led to the Dolphins' eventual hiring of current GM Dennis Hickey. Ireland's win-loss legacy is a Dolphins team that averaged just under 8 wins per year during his tenure and failed to win a single playoff game - in other words, a team that wasn't terrible but wasn't great, just average. His draft legacy was recently graded by the folks at ProFootball Focus, who concluded that most of his picks weren't terrible but weren't great, just average. Ireland's drafts tended to outperform expectations in rounds 4-7, but fall short of expectations earlier in the draft, in particular in round 2. For every late round steal like Charles Clay, there was an early round disappointment like Daniel Thomas.
Ireland has been laying low for most of the offseason, but today, NFL Network reported that Ireland been hired as a draft consultant for the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. The Seahawks are a team whose core was mostly built on draft picks in rounds 3-7, with key players from their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to their best cornerback Richard Sherman, and even Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith, all being drafted after day 1 of the draft. It will be interesting to see if the addition of Ireland helps the Seahawks continue to find "acorns" later in the draft.