Has Jeff Ireland Done Enough This Offseason to Save His Job?

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Has Jeff Ireland Done Enough This Offseason to Save His Job?
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Ireland has been on the hot seat for so long with the Miami Dolphins that you might think he is cold-blooded.

For better or for worse, this is Ireland's last chance with the Dolphins. It has to be, given the subtropical climate in his office. Stephen Ross has stuck with Ireland through thin and thinner. Fans paid good money to fly a banner begging Ross to fire Ireland—the birth of the "Fireland" movement—two seasons ago.

Like Westley in The Princess Bride, Ireland's career in Miami was mostly dead. Somehow Ireland has held onto the job despite an approval rating rivaling that of Congress. Perhaps he is employing Miracle Max.

Miami was better last season, for whatever one game is worth. It was a transitional year that saw rookie head coach Joe Philbin navigate the treacherous waters of Hard Knocks and some veteran insubordination. The defense changed base formations under new coordinator Kevin Coyle.

The Dolphins had a rookie at the helm and gave him few weapons and poor protection, and still wound up under .500 and out of the playoff hunt. The one-game improvement did little to sate a fanbase thirsty for blood.

Still, Ireland's tenure persists. While the team didn't make the playoffs, it is difficult to argue they aren't headed in the right direction, even if the Dolphins seem to be progressing slower than a manatee in still waters.

(Note: Manatees top out at about 13 miles per hour—though there is no distinction between African or European—which is faster than the average human running speed. My apologies to manatees.)

Has Ireland helped Miami take that next step from a personnel standpoint? It all began during free agency.

How did Ireland do in free agency? Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

This offseason has seen Ireland make splash after splash in an effort to give Ryan Tannehill those weapons he has missed and improve the defense.

Miami went into free agency with a truckload of cap space. As Dolphins fans wished, Ireland went immediately about using it up, starting by keeping last season's leading receiver, Brian Hartline.

He followed that up by inking Mike Wallace to a $60 million deal, despite some statistical warning signs and the fact he is not a prototypical No. 1 receiver. The Dolphins needed to upgrade the receiving corps, and he was the best available free agent, after all.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the Dolphins jettisoned Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett in favor of younger Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, respectively. Neither was cheap, but Ireland did have a bunch of cap space to burn through.

Ireland let Sean Smith walk and ultimately replaced him with Brent Grimes. He did the same with Anthony Fasano and Jake Long, replaced with Dustin Keller and Tyson Clabo on one-year deals, respectively.

Of course, Clabo will be on the right side, moving Jonathan Martin to the left, a scary proposition given his rookie year.

All in all, Ireland went from about $47 million in cap space down to about $9 million, currently. There are, of course, some more moves to be made—cutting Dan Carpenter will be one—but much of that money has been spent.

Amidst the free-agent frenzy came the draft preparations.

Ireland got a steal of a deal to move up and get versatile pass-rusher Dion Jordan, then took one of the draft's better cornerback prospects in Jamar Taylor.

To avoid belaboring the point, the draft was a good one for Ireland, who got himself a nice haul. We will find out just how good or bad the draft really was once the players hit the field.

It seems that Ireland cannot escape criticism from certain camps no matter what he does. The beleaguered general manager is one for whom the benefit of the doubt does not apply.

So has Ireland done enough this offseason to save his job? On paper, the Dolphins are a better team. Save for left tackle, currently manned by rookie bust Jonathan Martin, Ryan Tannehill has better talent around him.

Defensively, Ireland turned the front seven into a versatile, attacking group designed to disrupt and harass opposing quarterbacks. It has a chance to be special if the personnel can gel quickly under Kevin Coyle.

But things don't always work out the way they seem. Perhaps the team will gel behind its second-year head coach and make a run at the AFC East crown. With health and a pinch of luck, they will be in the hunt for a wild-card spot.

Given recent history, anything short of a playoff run will doom Ireland. Perhaps he should begin building up that immunity to iocane powder.

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