Miami Dolphins Power Rankings: Jeff Ireland's 6 Worst Moves

Jake MannContributor IIIOctober 1, 2012

Miami Dolphins Power Rankings: Jeff Ireland's 6 Worst Moves

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    He is known by many names: the "Unlucky Leprechaun," the "Muffer," "Destroyer of Worlds," though most call him Jeff Ireland. While these terms are pure conjecture, we have submitted them to the Swami, so listen for them on the next episode of Sunday NFL Countdown.

    Coming off an impressive stint as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys between 2001 and 2007, Ireland was made the general manager of the Miami Dolphins in January 2008. 

    Since taking his talents to South Beach, Ireland's team has had mixed success, winning the AFC East in 2008, but going 20-28 in the three seasons since. Over this time, only the hapless Bills have lost more games.

    In 2012, the Fins' play has been equally as mediocre. The team sports a surprisingly effective Reggie Bush-led rushing attack, along with a defense that is in the NFL's top five in rushing yards allowed per game, though a porous secondary has been troublesome.

    In the spirit of frustrated Dolphins fans everywhere, we're going to take a look at Jeff Ireland's six worst moves since being hired four and a half years ago.

    And no, the decision to cut Chad Johnson is not on this list.

6. Trading CB Vontae Davis (2012)

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    The younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae was Ireland's first-round draft pick in 2009. In his first three seasons, the cornerback from Illinois averaged 50.0 tackles, 10.7 pass deflections, and 3.0 picks a year, forming a very formidable duo with draft-mate Sean Smith.

    Yes, the first episode of HBO's Hard Knocks showed us that Joe Philbin and Co. were not too happy with Davis's offseason conditioning and his questionable bladder control, but that does not justify the trade that followed.

    On August 26th, the Dolphins traded Davis to the Indianapolis Colts for a second round draft pick and a conditional sixth rounder, giving Indy GM Jim Irsay even more to tweet about.

    Clearly, Miami has missed Davis in the first four games of 2012, as the team is 1-3, and sports one of the NFL's worst aerial defenses. Consider these statistics: between 2009 and 2011, the Dolphins allowed 231.1 passing yards per game. This year the team has allowed 311.5 PYPG, good for 30th in the league.

5. Drafting RB Daniel Thomas (2011)

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    Daniel Thomas was heavily hyped coming out of Kansas State, as the back rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns in his senior season. 

    In the 2011 NFL draft, Thomas was taken by the Dolphins with the 62nd overall pick, ahead of other ball carriers like DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley, Roy Helu, Kendall Hunter, Dion Lewis and Evan Royster.

    Raise your hand if you'd rather have one of these backs over the Dolphins' pick, either in real world or fantasy terms.

    In a season and a half of NFL action since, Daniel Thomas has amassed a career yards per carry average of 3.5. Of the backs taken after him, none have a career YPC below 4.2.

    Murray and Ridley, the two backs taken immediately after Thomas, have strangleholds over the starting jobs on their respective squads, while the Dolphins have yet to find a reliable complement to Reggie Bush. 

4. Signing LB Karlos Dansby (2010)

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    Karlos Dansby became a household name (or at least a prominent sports figure in the desert) when the Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers in the 2009 NFC Wild Card game.

    The linebacker returned Aaron Rodgers' overtime fumble 17 yards for the game-winning touchdown, ending the highest scoring postseason game in NFL history.

    Apparently, Jeff Ireland was watching.

    In 2010, the Dolphins signed Dansby to a five-year, $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed, making him the richest inside linebacker in NFL history[1].

    Dansby was an important player for the Dolphins' linebacking corps in 2010 and 2011, but it's worth noting that he has never been an "elite" player, on the level of Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis

    In the six seasons he played with Arizona from 2004 to 2009, Dansby averaged 6.2 tackles per game while contributing modestly to the pass rush, averaging a little over 4 sacks a year.

    By comparison, Willis and Lewis have each averaged over 9 tackles per game in the course of their careers, while eclipsing the 10-tackle mark in more than 40 percent of their games. Dansby, meanwhile, has only reached this mark in 14 percent of his career games.

    Since moving to Miami, Dansby has maintained his Arizona-era averages, but this production is undeserving of a contract on the same level as those of Willis and Lewis. 

    Ireland overpaid for this one, plain and simple.

    [1] Until Patrick Willis signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the 49ers two months later.

3. Drafting QB Pat White (2009)

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    In his career at West Virginia, Pat White was truly a special player. He is the only quarterback in Division I college football history to win four bowl games as a starter, and over his career at WVU, White rushed for over 4,000 yards while passing for more than 6,000 yards. In short, he was the definition of dual-threat.

    Unlike many athletic quarterbacks before the era of Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, however, White was tabbed as the rare beast that could make the transition to a full-time NFL starter.

    With Chad Henne and Chad Pennington already on the roster, Ireland and the Dolphins drafted White with the 44th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, as team officially stated it had plans for him to compete with the duo for the starting QB job.

    The reason that this move was so questionable at the time, was due to the fact that Miami had drafted Henne one year earlier in a similar spot, and had been thought to be grooming him for its starting job under center.

    Most likely, the the Fins front office had envisioned White as a player who could run its infamous Wildcat offense, but league-wide defensive adjustments rendered this vision an afterthought.

    In the 2009 season, White rushed just 21 times for 81 yards, and failed to complete a pass in five attempts.

    Prior to the 2010 season, the former college superstar was cut from the team, and has failed to hold a roster spot in the NFL since.

    Here are a few notable names that Ireland passed up on to build his flawed White/Wildcat experiment: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Mike Wallace, TE Jared Cook, CB Ladarius Webb.

    The Dolphins could have used their 2009 second round pick to shore up any number of positions on their roster, but instead, Ireland decided to use it on a QB3 who was cut one year later.

2. Trading WR Brandon Marshall (2012)

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    In the 2010 offseason, the Dolphins acquired former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall in exchange for two second-round draft picks. Before joining Miami, Marshall had put up some truly "mile-high" statistics in Denver, and was coming off three straight 100-catch, 1,100-yard receiving seasons.

    In his following two years in South Beach, the wideout's numbers were a bit closer to sea level, but impressive nonetheless. In '10 and '11, Marshall eclipsed the 80/1,000 mark each season, though he only scored 9 touchdowns in 30 games total. 

    Clearly, Marshall's inability to find the end zone was a result of his team's offensive struggles, as he was forced to work with the trio of Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, and Matt Moore under center...not exactly the most strong-armed group of quarterbacks out there.

    Going into the 2012 season, in which the Dolphins were expected to draft a rookie QB to compete with Matt Moore, Marshall was expected to be heavily relied upon once again.

    The hiring of Joe Philbin had many South Beach patrons imagining that a Jordy Nelson-esque season could be in the cards, as the former Green Bay offensive coordinator loved big bodies in the end zone.

    That's why the events that followed were so flabbergasting. 

    In early March, Marshall was traded to the Bears for two third-round picks, just days after he was allegedly involved in a fight at a New York City night club.

    Early reports noted that Marshall may have punched a woman in the face, though the wideout's camp emphatically stated "a fight broke out NOT involving Mr. Marshall or his friends."

    In the police investigation that followed, law enforcement officials were unable to find any evidence that Marshall assaulted anyone, closing the case in early May.

    It appears that Ireland, Philbin, and the rest of the Miami front office overreacted to the incident, and lost their most important offensive player due to a misunderstanding.

    Without Marshall, the Dolphins' receiving corps is undoubtedly thin, regardless of how well Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are playing in 2012 thus far.

1. Numerous PR Disasters

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    After analyzing Jeff Ireland's first stint as an professional general manager, it's not fair to simply call him an awful talent evaluator.

    On the whole, the Dolphins have had successful drafts since '08, obtaining talented college players who have been able to make the leap to the NFL. Some of these picks include: QB Ryan Tannehill ('12), C Mike Pouncey ('11), TE Charles Clay ('11), DE Jared Odrick ('10), CB Vontae Davis ('09) CB Sean Smith ('09), WR Brian Hartline ('09), and OT Jake Long ('08).

    As mentioned throughout this article, however, it is clear that Ireland has made many subpar moves in the offseason marketplace, via free agency and trades. Even more troubling, at least from a public relations standpoint, is that the Dolphins' GM has a few too many head-scratching episodes in the media.

    In an interview with eventual Cowboys' first round pick Dez Bryant before the 2010 NFL draft, Ireland asked the maligned wide receiver "if [his] mom's a prostitute" and "if she still [did] drugs," and an apology did little to heal the PR nightmare that ensued.

    In the team's Week 2 win against the Raiders this season, Ireland was in hot water after reportedly calling a fan an "asshole" at halftime. Again, an unenthusiastic apology was in order.

    Equally as disturbing are multiple accounts that Ireland's lack of moral fortitude has harmed the Dolphins' reputation amongst NFL players themselves.

    It's no secret how Joey Porter feels about his former boss, or how Channing Crowder, another ex-linebacker for the team, has said that Ireland is "disrespectful" and "not a good person." 

    Heck, even players from other teams are joining in on the action, including Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who has stated "no one" wants to sign with Miami, tweeting: "Not a good guy making decisions."

    We could go on all day, but as one of the old-school NFL's most revered franchises, the Miami Dolphins have a responsibility to shape up their front office, preferably by shipping Ireland out. 

    Questionable roster decisions are one thing, but a never-ending stream of bad PR moves are another. The damage may have already been done, but it's never too late for a turnaround.