|A banner plane with a message to owner Stephen Ross and General Manager Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins fly's over Sun Life Stadium prior to taking on the New York Jets on January 1, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)|
It was one thing for the Dolphins to lose out on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. That happened to a dozen other teams, too. But to whiff on Plan B, former Packers backup Matt Flynn, was the latest setback for a club in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. The solution: general manager Jeff Ireland signed David Garrard, who missed the 2011 season after the Jaguars cut him in September. (He eventually underwent back surgery and was just recently declared healthy.) Needless to say, long-suffering Dolphins fans were apoplectic.
But Ireland, who has been under heavy criticism in recent weeks for his inability to improve Miami's roster, tells NFL Network's Jeff Darlington that reality doesn't quite mesh with perception. Specifically: the Dolphins haven't spent the first few weeks of free agency in continual swing-and-miss mode.
"I haven't missed out on too many players I've gone after," Ireland said earlier this week during the annual league meetings. "Peyton Manning? I'm a small piece of that situation. Matt Flynn? That was half his decision, and it was half our decision."
Ireland wouldn't go into details, but sources tell Darlington that Miami was only willing to give Flynn around $4 million a year because they weren't convinced he was the long-term answer to their quarterback problems. The Seahawks doubled the Dolphins' offer and Flynn promptly headed to the Pacific Northwest.
Ireland did say that he's only offered one player a contract this offseason: Flynn.
"Sometimes you bring in guys to get to know them," he said. "Just because you bring him in, it doesn't mean you're absolutely going after him. Sometimes, you bring him in to see if there's chemistry between him and the coach. Sometimes, I bring a guy to take a physical. Sometimes, they don't pass a physical. But I'm not able to disclose situations like that. It's a perception that I think is wrong, that I'm losing out on guys."
The only other player the Dolphins were aggressively pursuing in recent years who turned down a contract offer from Ireland? Safety Ryan Clark, who ended up re-signing with the Steelers. Incidentally, it was Clark who tweeted earlier this month that "NO ONE" wanted to play in Miami.
Hours after the Garrard signing Darlington said that "internally within [the Dolphins'] building some are starting to wonder exactly what's up general manager Jeff Ireland's sleeve."
Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter, who played in Miami from 2007-2009, offered up his opinion during a March 19th appearance on NFL Network's Total Access.
"He's a guy that -- I don't think when you come in being recruited by him you really believe the things that are coming out of his mouth," Porter said. "I think he's a guy that's not trustworthy. He's a guy that doesn't really hold up to what a GM is supposed to be. He has the right tools to lead that franchise in the right direction but obviously nobody's buying into it."
Ireland and rookie head coach Joe Philbin found an ally in the unlikeliest of places: agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents recently released Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell. Bell was cut a month after the team assured him his roster spot was safe.
"Just hanging around Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin, you get the sense that they're very confident despite all of the negativity perhaps in the media and surrounding the club this offseason," Rosenhaus said on WQAM. "Those two guys in my opinion are operating with a lot of confidence and are executing the plan that they have."
It's nice that Ireland has supporters but the bottom line is winning. And right now, the Dolphins are a worse team than the one that finished 6-10 last season. Lucky for Ireland, owner Stephen Ross sounds like a patient man.
"We are right in the middle of the process," Ross said about his GM. "It's an unfinished product. And I think to judge him at this point in time is not the right thing to do by anybody."
Tony Sparano might disagree.
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