Keeping Jeff Ireland Precludes Dolphins from Drafting QBs Barkley or Griffin

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Baylor Bears at Cowboys Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Lost in the news of the Miami Dolphins firing head coach Tony Sparano and announcing the retention of general manager Jeff Ireland was what it really means for the future of the team.

One obvious consequence is that Miami will likely be unable to hire a "big name" coach such as Bill Cowher or Jeff Fisher. Either coach will likely want final say over personnel situations or the hiring of their own general manager.

This won't happen now that Ireland is staying. Believe it or not, being unable to hire a "big name" coach might be for the best because it could force Miami to look for an up and coming coordinator (Pete Carmichael Jr., the offensive coordinator of the Saints has my vote).

Names don't always win Super Bowls especially with their new teams. Just ask Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, how Mike Shanahan, Joe Gibbs and Steve Spurrier have worked out.

But this article isn't about prospective new coaches. Rather, it's about what Ireland staying on means to the Dolphin's seemingly eternal need for a franchise quarterback. 

Ireland could have easily been shown the door with Sparano and given his track record, many critics argue he should have been.

Ireland has to be on a short leash with owner Stephen Ross and an even shorter one with the fan base. Point being, he needs to win now and drafting a quarterback in the first round of the draft won't give him the immediate contribution he needs out of that pick.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans conducts the band after the game with the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 50-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dun
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Skeptics might point to the impact that rookie quarterbacks have had in 2011. But, really what impact have rookie signal callers had this season? Cam Newton might have piled up some nice numbers, but the Carolina Panthers are still 4-9.

Christian Ponder has flashed some ability, but the Vikings have just two victories and Ponder was benched last Sunday.

Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert haven't had virtually any impact. Locker, because he has barely seen the field and Gabbert because he has been on it too often.

Andy Dalton, an early second-round pick, has led the Cincinnati Bengals to a 7-6 record but they are far from a playoff lock and Dalton has been more of a game manager than anything else.

As much as I like the pro prospects of Matt Barkley and especially Robert Griffin III, both are going to need time to acclimate to the NFL. That's time that Ireland doesn't have. One more thing: Don't buy into the idea that both Ireland and Griffin are connected by their Baylor Bear days. It's completely irrelevant.

What will Ireland do instead of selecting one of the two quarterbacks? I've heard a couple of suggestions that would seem to be logical given Ireland's situation.

First, he will go after a veteran signal caller such as Peyton Manning or Packers back-up Matt Flynn because it gives the team the best chance to win right away.

Manning seems unlikely because the Colts still own his rights, his questionable health and his probable desire to go a team that is closer to a title. But, he would sell tickets and—if healthy—could clearly provide a short-term boost to Miami.

Flynn is the more likely option. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and he has some upside. The Dolphins could also stick with Matt Moore and try to sell fans on what he has accomplished already without a true offseason to work with his teammates.

Regardless, I fully expect Ireland to use the Dolphins' Top 10 or Top 15 pick on an offensive lineman such as Iowa's Riley Reiff or Stanford's Dave DeCastro or Jonathan Martin.

Why? Because Ireland has seen that he can get an immediate impact out of a lineman, not once but twice in Miami with Jake Long and Mike Pouncey. In fact, those two players are the only ones that are guaranteed a future on the Dolphins' offensive line.

Even if Miami goes in a different direction than offensive lineman, it won't be down the path that so many fans are waiting for—following the yellow brick road to a quarterback such as Matt Barkley or RG3 in the first round of April's draft.