Few men associated with the Miami Dolphins have received as much criticism and ridicule as has Jeff Ireland.
The one-time ball boy for the Chicago Bears, who came over from Dallas with Bill Parcells in early 2008, has been reviled by Dolphin fans for the past several years, for a multitude of reasons. Shortly before the 2010 draft, he infamously asked Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant if Bryant's mother was a prostitute. Though the question was reportedly taken out of context, it mattered little; Ireland was all but tarred and feathered in the court of public opinion, and the Dolphins, never a favorite of sports news outlets around the country, took it on the chin from the press for months. Though they had a crying need at receiver, the Dolphins ultimately decided to pass on Bryant, who today is regarded as a top-five wideout in the NFL. Miami traded down and selected DE Jared Odrick, and sent two second-round picks to the Bears for the talented but enigmatic Brandon Marshall.
During his time in Miami, Ireland, like many of the Dolphin GM's who preceded him, could never quite seem to get much of anything out of his second round picks. He chose running back Daniel Thomas in 2011, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin the following year and Jamar Taylor in the now legendary Great Lost Draft of 2013.
He also whiffed on several high-profile free agents, such as Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Even his signature acquisition in free agency, Mike Wallace, proved to be a poor fit after coming over from Pittsburgh. Although Wallace actually played much better than often was believed by the public, he never really got on the same page with Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill on long passes downfield.
By the end of another disappointing season in 2013, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had seen enough, and Ireland was fired. He worked for a time as an advisor to the Seahawks' front office, and for the past two years has been a scout for the New Orleans Saints.
This year, though, Jeff Ireland has to feel at least somewhat vindicated, as he's watched several of his former draft picks hit the lottery in free agency. Both Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon signed contracts for tens of millions of dollars, and Sean Smith, who in 2013 signed a three-year, $18 million dollar deal with Kansas City, has now been signed to a second contract, this time with the Raiders, for a whopping $40 million.
Other players, such as fellow cornerback Nolan Carroll, safety Chris Clemons and wide receiver Brian Hartline, continue to ply their trade with other NFL teams. All of these players were drafted by Jeff Ireland, and while the team has yet to make it back to the playoffs, Ireland's record, in hindsight, looks a whole better today than it did when he left two years ago.