Ireland Says Owner Not Pressuring Dolphins To Make Any Specific Draft Choices
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland yesterday denied reports that team Owner Stephen Ross is pressuring the club to select QB Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft, saying he does not "feel at all any pressure to draft a need position or anything like that." Ireland, appearing on NBCSPORTS.com's "PFT Live," said, "I don't feel pressure from the owner. He's not pressuring me for that matter. I don't know where that's coming from. He allows me to make the football decisions. ... Steve is very engaged, but he's also very supportive in leaving the decisions to the draft up to ... our football staff." Ireland also said the team's desire to sell tickets does not influence player acquisitions, and that is "one thing Steve is absolutely adamant on." Ireland added, "I understand the ticket sales may be up or down. I don't really get involved with that stuff, but I can promise you from an ownership standpoint this man -- Steve Ross -- wants to win more than anything ... and he's not ambiguous and he supports the people making the decisions from a football standpoint" ("PFT Live," NBCSPORTS.com, 4/23). Ross in an e-mail published on the Dolphins' website yesterday said the football operations staff has "kept me fully informed about their draft analysis, and they have my full support and backing whoever they decide to pick" in the Draft. However, a source yesterday said that members of the football operations staff are "concerned by Ross' increasing involvement in football matters, although not necessarily with the Tannehill decision" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/24).
SOMETHING TO QUIET THE CRITICS? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio reported Sunday that Ross "desperately wants to turn the page on yet another embarrassing offseason, which has seen the Dolphins fail to hire Jeff Fisher as coach and Peyton Manning as quarterback." The Dolphins need to "create excitement, which in turn will sell tickets." Regardless of whether Tannehill "develops into a franchise quarterback, the perception that the team finally has found a potential replacement for Dan Marino will suffice in the short term" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/22). SI.com's Peter King cited a source as saying that Florio "was right on; Ross wants the quarterback." King: "So what will happen here? I don't know" (SI.com, 4/23). However, in Miami, Armando Salguero cited a source as saying that Ross "has not had any conversation with Jeff Ireland telling him which player to pick." The source also called the initial PFT report "not true" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/22). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin wrote, "It's impossible to know who is telling the truth." On the surface, it is "hard to believe Ross would order Ireland to draft a player with the goal of selling tickets in mind -- especially in this case." Ross did not "order Ireland to do whatever it took to sign [QB Matt] Flynn or trade for Tim Tebow, even though those two players would have brought excitement to the team and help sell season tickets." He has "allowed Ireland to take a patient approach in free agency" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 4/23). In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly wrote Ross "might ask questions to better understand the process, but Ross DOES NOT meddle." Ross has repeatedly said that he is "not qualified to make football decisions, and has no interest in becoming the next Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder." Kelly wrote Florio's report "reeked of misinformation (which is common during draft week), and more importantly, character assassination." Ross "will be in the draft room like he has in past years, but it will be as a fly on the wall" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/23).
CULTURE OF DISTRUST CREATED: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes of Ireland's denial of Ross getting involved, "You don't have to believe this. Many probably won't. That's the big problem with these Dolphins -- bigger even than the quarterback question: There's little faith they can get even the simple things right anymore like allowing football people to make football decisions" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/24). In Miami, Linda Robertson notes this NFL Draft is "arguably the most pivotal one in Dolphins history." The perception of the Dolphins' choices will "determine whether a dwindling fan base deserts a franchise it no longer likes or recognizes" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/24).
FISH OUT OF WATER: In Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote the Dolphins "aren’t just behind teams, plural, in their division; they are behind teams, plural, in this town," something that has "never before been the case." It has "never been more difficult to run the Dolphins business," and there has "never been this much of a fight for impoverished South Florida's stretched sports dollar." And the Dolphins, as "has been the case for a brutal decade, are losing." From '95-'05, Dolphins season-ticket sales "were always around 60,000," but a source said that the team is "presently laboring to be at half that number." There is "so much mistrust in the poisoned atmosphere around this team." The "mismanaged Dolphins have given their paying customers the worst feeling possible -- the appearance that they don't know what they are doing." That "isn't accurate, but it is the perception, a perception caused and fed by free agents and coaches not wanting Miami's millions, and that kind of perception is contagious" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/22).