Phins.com participated in a Q&A session with Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland at the Dolphins Training Facility in Davie, FL. Jeff took questions about this year’s team and what his plans are to continue building up the team in 2010. http://phins.com/chris/column_011010.html
Q: How do you feel about the progress that was made this year?
A: Ireland: Last year we were talking about philosophy, having a plan, having a direction, knowing where we are going. That plan hasn’t changed. It’s still the same plan. We’ve built a culture in the locker room and we’ve competed hard. We’ve got to stay focused, we’ve got to stay patient. It takes time to build these things. Are we where we want to be? Hell no, we’re not where we want to be. I’m not happy with it. Tony (Sparano) is not happy with it. Bill Parcells is not happy with it. We’ve got to do a better job coaching. We’ve got to do a better job making decisions, finding players. What I do know is that when we watch the tape, we played some pretty good football. We just (didn’t) finish games. We had some of the best teams in this league where we wanted them in the fourth quarter, and we just didn’t finish games. That’s all “coulda, shoulda, woulda”, right? That’s part of not being good enough. We’re close to being a pretty good football team. What’s it gonna take (to get there)? Hard work. We’ve got a head coach that is a battleship commander. The guy is unbelievable. He’s able to do things that I’ve never seen other coaches do. He’s able to motivate these guys week in and week out. We set out to build a foundation, and I think that’s pretty well set.
Q: How do you prepare for the possibility of a “no cap” year in 2010?
A: Ireland: There’s a lot of hypotheticals involved because we don’t know if there’s going to be a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) next year. Right now we don’t know if we’re gonna get one in the last hour, (or) whether there will be an extension like there was last time. So you’ve got to be prepared for anything. Our process is to evaluate every player in the league. Who is going to dump salaries? Who is going to have players on their team that they feel like aren’t living up to expectations or their salaries? So we’re going through the process of analyzing the salary caps (to determine) where a cap casualty might be.
Q: You have fewer holes to fill now versus when you got here. Will your draft strategy change to start filling specific needs?
A: Ireland: Not necessarily. When you set your board up, you have to be prepared for anything. You still have to find out who the best players in the country are. Just because you may not need a defensive lineman, and we have some good young ones, I believe in building that strength. So it may not be a need, a ‘must’, on our team, but I believe if there’s one there available and it builds your strength (at the position), fill it. If there’s a great running back there, why not build that strength? I don’t think you can really focus in one part of the draft. I’m not spending more time, me personally, analyzing those ‘needs’ relative to the draft board set up.
Q: Are you going to continue to draft players, like Pat White, specifically to play in the Wildcat?
A: Ireland: Hard to say. (The Wildcat) is one of the strengths of our team. We’re one of the best in the league at it. It was a strength of our offense last year. If there was another piece that would accentuate that, we would go with that personnel move. Pat White was that personnel move (in 2009). He’s accentuated it. So it depends on what type of personnel is out there in the draft as to whether or not we draft another Wildcat piece to the puzzle or not. There would be more conventional-type of personnel in my mind right now, to be honest with you.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumors that you choose White where you did because you didn’t want the Patriots to get him?
A: Ireland: Nah. I actually heard that after the draft and kinda laughed at it because if I had Tom Brady it would be hard to take him off the field. I personally didn’t think (the Patriots) would do that.
Q: Let’s talk about the secondary. Why did you decide not to re-sign FS Renaldo Hill?
A: Ireland: It came down to monetary reasons. Without throwing him under the bus, we also didn’t think he was good enough for what we were trying to accomplish. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong. He ran the defense back there (well), but we were looking for something a little different. He’s great player and he’s playing great (in Kansas City). You look at it now and he’s doing a heck of a job there, so….
Q: What’s your impression of rookie FS Chris Clemons?
A: Ireland: He’s a big, fast player. He’s still learning the defense; sometimes players learn things differently, at a different speed than another player. Chris came in here and did a nice job competing. Getting him in the games had been a little bit of a struggle, not for him but for us. Once we lost Pat Cobbs, we finally could get him in the games because (of special teams). He’s played well. He’s very fast, probably one of the fastest guys on the team. He’s got great ball skills. He’s tough. He was seeing things sometimes for the first time, so his reaction time was getting better (as the season progressed). As you saw him playing more, it’s because he was reacting to things faster.
Q: What’s your take on CBs Jason Allen and Nate Jones?
A: Ireland: Jason has a role. Is it the role that you’d want from a first round draft pick? It’s not typically what you’d want first round draft picks to do. Jason’s very successful in the role that he’s got. He’s probably one of our best special teams players. He comes in and works his tail off. He’s doing what we’ve asked him to do. I’m proud of him and I like the role that he’s in. We’ll see what his future is as time goes by.
Nate’s a guy we’re very familiar with. We drafted him out of Rutgers seven years ago in Dallas and we brought him here when we got here. Nate’s one of those guys that’s been a fifth corner, a nickel, played the dime, plays special teams. He’s one of those that just knows everything (on defense), he’s dependable. Great kid, passes the word of the head coach on to the younger players and teaches those guys. You just know what you’re going to get with Nate Jones.
Q: What about OLB Cameron Wake, his productivity, and his playing time?
A: Ireland: It’s like with Chris Clemons. It’s not that we ignore the pattern. It’s not that we don’t see what you see. There’s things that these guys have to learn; you have to be comfortable and (they) have to be dependable. You have to know exactly what you’re going to get. Early on, Cameron was a player that we knew what he could do going up the field. But playing the run, we needed to get some things solidified that way and be more dependable in that regard. I think we’re there now, so that’s why I think you’ll see him more.
Q: What’s your assessment of WR Ted Ginn, Jr.?
A: Ireland: Ted Ginn is a player I like very much. I think if you ask the head coach the same question he’ll say the same thing, and this why: Ted busts his tail. Did he drop some balls and not come through for us a couple of times? Sure. There’s situations that he’s been in that you wish he’d have finished better. He’s like the rest of the members on the team; we’ve got to finish better. I like Ted. Everyone in the world is saying to bench him, but we don’t win that Jets game if we bench him. I hand it to the head coach. He said, ‘You know, I’ve just got this feeling he’s going to spark us somehow, that he’s going to make a big play. I’m not going to sit him’. That explosiveness is why they drafted him number one. That explosiveness is why he’s still playing. That explosiveness is why he has a place on this team. When you’ve got a player that is that explosive and can turn a game around, you’ve got to give him chances. You’ve got to let him grow. You’ve got to let him gain his confidence back. Hey, I don’t like some of the plays I’ve seen out there. He knows that. I’ve told him that. He’s got to get better. If there’s one thing about this regime, if you walk into our office you’re going to hear exactly what you came in there to hear. That’s the thing about our head coach; he’s brutally, BRUTALLY, honest. He’s brutally honest with me, and that’s what I love about him. We’re brutally honest with each other. And Ted, when he walks into that head coach’s office or my office, we tell him exactly what he came in to hear. Don’t walk in that door unless you want to hear the truth. That’s what I love about this head coach. He communicates as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. You can bet that these guys are held accountable. I’m proud to be by his side. He’s not even here and I’m talking about him like he’s God. I do like the guy.
Q: Going into your second year as GM, what do you find most enjoyable about your job?
A: Ireland: Sunday around 7 o’clock, after we’ve won (laughter). I love my job. There’s a lot of great things that come with doing this job. Now I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that it was a pretty stressful job day in and day out. But you just go with it, learn from it. I enjoy very much being in a room with Bill and Tony and learning from Bill and hashing it out with Tony, talking about players. Tony and I talk every single night, sometimes two to three hours talking about personnel, talking about where the direction’s going. I enjoy that very much. Those nights I talk to Tony, when I’m out on the road scouting, that’s probably the most enjoyable, second to (winning).