After a bold offseason of retooling the Miami Dolphins roster didn't result in a playoff berth in the 2013-14 NFL season, the franchise and general manager Jeff Ireland have both agreed to go in different directions.
The Dolphins' official Twitter account reported on Tuesday, Jan. 7, that Ireland and the organization had "mutually agreed to part ways":
NEWS: The Miami Dolphins and General Manager Jeff Ireland have mutually agreed to part ways.— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) January 7, 2014
Owner Stephen Ross released a statement through the team's official website, expressing gratitude for Ireland's service:
I want to personally thank Jeff for his hard work and dedication in building the team over the past six years. After a series of discussions, we both felt that it was in our mutual best interest to part ways. Jeff was a loyal and dedicated member of the Dolphins and we wish him and his family nothing but the best.
Ireland added some thoughts of his own on the amicable separation:
I’ve spent the last six years with the best organization in football. Steve and I came to an agreement that the best thing moving forward for all parties would be to part ways. I’d like to thank Steve for all his support and kindness. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing people during this time and I’d like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart
Expectations were higher in Miami than what the 8-8 team achieved this season, and it ultimately forced Ireland out after his sixth year with the organization.
As Spotrac.com founder Michael Ginnitti highlights, Ireland spent more than $250 million in new contracts during this past offseason's spending spree:
While injuries played a part in some of the new pieces assembled by Ireland not jelling together, it appears the dawn of a new era is coming. One of the more interesting moves that preceded this one was the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, per the Miami Herald's Adam H. Beasley.
What is the Dolphins' ceiling with the nucleus Jeff Ireland assembled?
Sherman coached quarterback Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M before following him to the NFL in 2012. Results have been mixed thus far for the second-year signal-caller—apparently enough to relieve Sherman of his duties.
Ireland acquired wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson along with former New York Jets pass-catching tight end Dustin Keller to bolster Tannehill's supporting cast.
The bullying saga that unfolded also saw two starters on the offensive line in Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito miss a significant portion of the 2013 campaign, while also causing a major distraction off the field. In November, a report by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk revealed some of Ireland's role in the locker-room issues.
While Ireland can't really be blamed for the woes that befell the NFL's 27th-ranked offense, he did make a controversial draft-day trade to acquire pass-rusher Dion Jordan at No. 3 overall in the 2013 draft. Jordan had 26 combined tackles and two sacks in his rookie year.
The GM brought in Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to bolster the linebacker corps as well as ex-Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes. Alas, Miami was eighth in scoring defense but gave up 359.4 yards per contest—21st in the league.
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey felt that Ireland's time to get the pink slip should have come sooner:
Two offseasons in a row, I’ve called for Jeff Ireland’s head. Team finally got it right...— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 7, 2014
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe implied the move to oust Ireland was in the interest of the majority of Dolphins fans:
Wow, #Dolphins announce that they have fired GM Jeff Ireland. The fans finally get what they want— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 7, 2014
It would have been interesting to see what Ireland was about to do with one more draft to fulfill his vision of building the Dolphins into a surefire contender.
However, this could be the change Miami needs to get over the hump and legitimately challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC East.