Dolphins Taking Heat From Protesters Over GM Ireland, Latest Failures In Free Agency
A group of about 25 Dolphins fans yesterday “convened across the street from the team training facility” with a mission to get GM Jeff Ireland “fired and let owner Stephen Ross know the depth of their despair over the team's decade-plus of futility,” according to Ben Volin of the PALM BEACH POST. The protesters “put brown paper bags over their heads and carried signs with slogans” such as, "Fire Ireland, save our team," "Fins Down" and "Taking my talents to Cleveland." Matthew Cozzo, who helped organize the demonstration, said, "It's just one thing after another with Ross and Ireland." Volin writes “frustration has grown as the team's prestige has seemingly sunk.” The Dolphins' unsuccessful courtships of coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher and “failure to sign big-name free agents -- most notably quarterback Peyton Manning -- have encouraged critics to pile on.” But criticism of Ireland is “nothing new.” An NFL source said, "The players in the locker room don't even like talking to him face to face. A lot of people around the league feel like Jeff should've gotten fired when Tony (Sparano) did, and that weakens the respect level people have for him." Ireland said he understands that criticism "goes with the job." Ireland: "I know there are passionate fans out there, and they want results. But I would tell them, 'Look, we don't play until August. We're not all the way through the process. Let it run its course.'" Sources said that Ireland “needs to be more savvy about his image.” One example is following his questioning of then draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute, Ireland “tried to ignore it rather than confront it head-on, a mistake he now acknowledges” (PALM BEACH POST, 3/21). Protester Jason Staum said, “I gave up my season tickets this year. I’m done with this team until they make some changes, until Ireland’s gone. I’m not going to one game until Ireland’s gone.” Fellow protester Rob Rutolo said, “We’re just basically tired of mismanagement within the Dolphins organization.” However, Rutolo said that his family “would hold onto their four season tickets and keep going to games.” The Dolphins season-ticket base “is around 30,000, which would be the lowest since 1970” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/21).
MONEY TALKS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde noted “one common discussion is whether Ireland's approach is turning off players.” Former Dolphins Joey Porter and Channing Crowder have “criticized Ireland's brusque methods.” The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora said that he “has received text messages from players saying they wouldn't sign with the Dolphins.” But Ireland “dismissed this idea, citing free-agent Paul Soliai returning to the team and desired free agents Richard Washington signing.” Hyde wrote Ireland was “right in saying it's often about money” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/20). Pro Football HOFer and former Dolphins LB Nick Buoniconti yesterday said, “There is a monumental weakness in the organization. You can’t possibly lose out on every single individual, whether management or player or coach, without there being consequences to pay for it. They obviously don’t understand free agency.” Buoniconti said evaluating a GM is based "on results,” and the results thus far with Ireland “have been dismal.” Buoniconti: “It’s obviously not just money. It’s the perception of a team that is in a downward spiral. This is what people don’t want to attach their future to” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 3/20). Manning met with the Dolphins last week before signing yesterday with the Broncos, and the N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola asked, “Why would people think that he was ever going to go to Miami? Miami has been a joke for several years” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/20).