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  Bizarre Decisions Threaten Credibility
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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You remember it, don’t you? Owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland professed a “bold” effort to upgrade the quarterback position, to win championships…nice juicy red meat for the fans to encourage hope (and ticket sales).


Since then we’ve seen effort, just not a bold one. Or, some would argue, a competent one.


First there was Peyton Manning. The question as to how the Dolphins engaged him and just how serious the courtship was remains a matter of speculation. But it is clear that the Dolphins were not top level contenders for Manning’s services, which the Broncos eventually won.


With the Manning courtship in progress, Redskins owner Dan Snyder showed Ireland what true boldness means when he agreed to trade three first round picks, plus a second rounder, to the Rams for the right to draft Heisman QB Robert Griffin III and solve his QB problems once and for all.


Meanwhile Ireland showed us what he thinks boldness is, just not the way Dolfans would hope: Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall, traded away to the Bears for a cup of coffee and a doughnut (a.k.a. two third round picks). Not even Marshall’s recent legal troubles can justify the fire sale of a rare talent like his.


Sadly, there’s more.


After Manning was all but lost, the Dolphins turned their attention to Matt Flynn, whom they preceded to court in a restrained manner. Without question, Ireland was not going to pay a mint for a guy who may not be better than incumbent starter (and probable 2011 Team MVP) Matt Moore. If this were true, why court him at all?


No matter. In the end, Ireland held fast and Flynn escaped to Seattle.


Without dredging into the Plan C QB names, some of whom were conditional and none of whom are better than Moore, it is clear that their efforts to upgrade the QB position through free agency have completely failed. Almost certainly, anyone signed at this point will be nothing more than training camp competition for Moore in August.


So much for the ‘boldness’ that Ireland promised. Instead, cruelly, mockingly, it’s another black eye upon the QB-starved Dolphins, Stephen Ross, and especially beleaguered GM Ireland.


The QB chase is not over yet, but the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords. The avenue of last resort is the April NFL draft, which is now just weeks away. Does redemption await them in the form of Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill? Like Flynn, the Dolphins know more about him than any other team.


Yet it remains to be seen if the ever-conservative Ireland will be bold enough to move up the board if need be to get him if needed. That is, if the Dolphins have conviction on Tannehill at all.


Many team watchers have been struck dumb by this chain of events. Some insist there must be some secret plan in the works to solve the QB need, a plan that will reveal itself in short order, that Ireland cannot possibly be this incompetent. Others knowingly shake their heads, like those who paid for a plane to fly a banner over SunLife Stadium imploring Ross to fire Ireland and “save our Dolphins”. To them, none of this is much of a surprise. Still others, a vigorous minority, defend Ireland’s football acumen to the last.


Whichever camp you sit in, it’s best to wait until after the draft before you judge the team’s overall efforts.


For now, give Ireland an “A” for re-signing NT Paul Soliai. Former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson used to say that Rule #1 of free agency is to re-sign your own good players. While it was a risky play letting Soliai test the market, especially since elite NTs are among the hardest of positions to find, Ireland judged Soliai correctly in the end and got him back for two more years for a cool $12 million. This after most of the local media declared Soliai all but lost.


Nevertheless, Ireland’s weakness as a GM these past four years continues to be free agency. So it probably isn’t an exaggeration to say that re-signing Soliai was perhaps his best free agent move as Dolphins GM.


It also shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he has whiffed on just about every desired player thus far. Blame Ross for that because Ireland is his man, and he knew what he was getting when he retained Ireland over the din of Dolfan protests.


This means that Ross, the big talker but tight spender, has his credibility on the line right now with the fans and his people. At the end of the process what can Ross say if his GM and coaches tell him that they are going forward with Moore, even if it was the right choice all along? What will his staff say if they are forced to try and sell tickets again without a marketable team?


More importantly, what message have these bizarre events sent to the fans? Can they trust this owner to get it right? If not, the very base of support of the team could be compromised.


Remember, football is king in South Florida. Yet the incompetence of the last decade has been so torrential that it has left the Dolphins one NBA championship away from taking a back seat to the Miami Heat. It’s up to Ross and Ireland to change that perception now, before it’s too late. 


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