by Chris Shashaty, Columnist

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“Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?” – Jimmy Johnson


Mike Pouncey is a very good football player. In the opinion of most, he’s the best interior lineman in this year’s rookie crop. He is projected to start right away, probably at center, a “need” position for the Miami Dolphins. Some are comparing him to all-time great Dwight Stephenson, even before the guy has put on an aqua and orange jockstrap or hit a blocking sled.


Daniel Thomas, a running back, is also a good player. He’s ranked by many as one of the top 5 in this year’s draft class. To get him, the Dolphins traded away three lesser picks for a second rounder, a steep price for a team in need of fresh talent. Some compare him to Larry Johnson. Wow!


Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins GM, is a happy man today. He let the draft “come to him”, he proudly boasted. He didn’t take any big chances and, by his own account, made “safe” picks at need positions.


Some in media actually think his work deserves an “A”.


Not me. Not for a second.


Ireland deserves an “F”, not because he picked a batch of stiffs but because he didn’t do the right thing. Instead of making the hard decisions needed to set the franchise firmly on the road to the Super Bowl, he stuck to the same old plan that has netted a 25-23 record in three seasons.


He had two jobs: find a quarterback and improve team speed. He failed miserably at both.


His first and most important job in this draft was to fix the team’s sorry QB situation. Nothing else was more important. Nothing. He had to find and draft their QB of the future, a championship caliber guy to compete with incumbent Chad Henne. Ireland thought he had this issue solved when he drafted Henne in the second round in 2008. We’ve since learned, painfully, that this is probably not the case.


Last season, a 7-9 debacle left coach Tony Sparano within a whisker of being fired. A lot of it had to do with an inept offense, due to mostly inept QB play. Yet Ireland had the gall to tell us that he “didn’t feel like we were desperate” for a QB, so he did nothing.


Pardon me?


What’s truly exasperating (and sad) here is that this was a deep draft of talented QBs. Getting a conviction about one, or more, shouldn’t have been an issue. All that was required of Ireland was the courage to move into position to net that one man.


Instead, Ireland moved into position to net a running back that, right now, we’re having a hard time distinguishing from Lex Hilliard or Ronnie Brown. In other words, a guy the Dolphins didn’t need.


In the wake of outrage from Dolfans, the Dolphin spin machine is working overtime. Some are reporting that Ireland really meant well, with “an inside source” coming out after the draft to confess that the Dolphins really wanted Ryan Mallett but couldn’t find a way to trade up in the third round to get him.


If you believe that Fish story, I’ve got some land west of Krome Avenue I’d like to interest you in.


So now Ireland and Sparano get their wish. The Robot remains your starting QB. And you know what’s coming next, don’t know? That’s right; a trade for someone else’s cast off QB. How about it, Jeff? Planning to send a second rounder to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb? Don’t mind that Kolb was promptly beaten out by a guy who spent almost two years in prison, or that his passer stats were very Henne-like prior to his losing his job on merit. You make that trade!


Not sure how? Just call Randy Mueller or Rick Spielman. No desperation here, remember?


Pardon me for the thick sarcasm, but we’ve seen this movie before. Over and over and over again during this post-Marino era. And it always ends the same.


OK, moving on. The other job Ireland was supposed to do, but didn’t, was improve overall team speed. At season’s end, he and Sparano lamented how slow their offense was and how urgent it was that they improve that situation.




So what was Ireland’s answer in this draft? An offensive lineman, a running back who runs a 4.6 40 yard dash, and a fullback. Only a fourth rounder receiver (Edmond Gates) shows any promise of making the offense faster, but he’s about as unpolished as Ted Ginn was when he arrived in Miami in 2007.


Where does all this leave your Miami Dolphins today? Back where they were when the season ended, I’m afraid.


Yes, Pouncey should help solidify the interior of the line. But Thomas may not prove better than what they had in Brown and Ricky Williams. And there’s no assurance that the other picks will contribute much in 2011 beyond special teams.


Sadly, the Dolphins remain a slow, plodding team with an inconsistent QB. That combination usually ends up 8-8 or worse.


In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if the Dolphins finish dead last in the AFC East in 2011. The Pats are stronger, the Jets have been in the last two AFC Championship games, and the Bills are improving faster than the Dolphins are.


What is the common denominator here? All of them have a good QB. The Dolphins do not. Yet Ireland said he felt “no desperation” to get a QB while the Patriots were more than happy to start grooming a potential heir to Tom Brady (yes, Mallett).


I know; Ireland still has free agency to come. But given his shaky track record in the past in free agency with guys like Gibril Wilson, Jake Grove, and Ernest Wilford, how confident can we be that he will get it right this time?


Is there a free agent QB out there who anyone feels like is the long term answer for this team? If Carson Palmer can’t win in Cincinnati with better offensive weapons around him, what makes us think he’ll be any better in Miami? Is tossing a mega contract at a DeAngelo Williams the right thing to do? If it is, why did Ireland waste picks on Thomas?


While it will take three years for us to judge the quality of the players taken in this draft, it is not too soon to judge the path Ireland chose for the Dolphins this past weekend.


He’d rather be good than great.