Posted: 10:29 am Monday, April 23rd, 2012
By Post Staff
First, a bit of news: NFL.com reports this morning that the Dolphins will release defensive lineman Phillip Merling today. Merling, the 32nd overall pick of the 2008, had just 3.5 sacks and five starts in four seasons and was one of the biggest disappointments of the Jeff Ireland-Bill Parcells era. The Dolphins had signed him to an original-round restricted free agent tender on April 10, which would have paid him $1.26 million this year. Instead, Merling will become a free agent, and the Dolphins have another vacant defensive lineman spot to use on a pass rusher in this week’s draft.
Now, back to the big story of the day….
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has made it clear several times this offseason that he trusts general manager Jeff Ireland to build the best football team possible, and that there hasn’t been any pressure on Ireland to find players who could help bring buzz to the team.
“Jeff is in charge of personnel,” Ross said in no uncertain terms back in December when the team fired Tony Sparano.
“I think he’s done a great job with the draft. He’s a great talent evaluator,” Ross said last month at the NFL owners meetings. “You’re not going to bring someone in just to sell seats.”
But depending on whom you believe today, Ross may be sticking his nose in Ireland’s business this week leading up to the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night in New York City.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Ross is “pushing for Ryan Tannehill,” the Texas A&M quarterback who is a bit raw as a prospect but many believe can become a franchise quarterback. Florio wrote that Ross “desperately wants to turn the page on yet another embarrassing offseason,” which entailed not landing Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn or Jeff Fisher.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, meanwhile, writes that he also heard that Ross wants Tannehill, but that Mike Sherman, Tannehill’s coach in college and now the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, “isn’t standing on the table for him.”
Completely on the other side is the Miami Herald, which reported through an unnamed team source that Ross has unequivocally not told Ireland whom to draft.
It’s impossible to know who is telling the truth. A lot of this could be a pre-draft smokescreen designed to encourage a team to trade up above Miami’s eighth pick. But on the surface, it’s hard to believe Ross would order Ireland to draft a player with the goal of selling tickets in mind – especially in this case.
Ross didn’t order Ireland to do whatever it took to sign Flynn or trade for Tim Tebow, even though those two players would have brought excitement to the team and help sell season tickets. He’s allowed Ireland to take a patient approach in free agency.
“We want consistency here,” Ross said last month. “I want to be in the playoffs every year. I want to be in the hunt, and you’re going to do that with consistency. You’re going to do that in the draft. You’re going to do that by being smart and having the right people there. I think we’re building a nucleus of that.”
But now, with the “damage” of the offseason already done — really, how could the Dolphins’ national perception get any worse? — Ross is going to order Ireland to abandon his principles and take Tannehill? And Ross supposedly thinks Tannehill is the guy who’s going to sell tickets and bring a buzz back to Sun Life Stadium? A guy who started just 19 games in college, needs at least one year on the bench to develop and can go anywhere in South Florida without being recognized?
Perhaps season ticket sales have been so poor that Ross is now panicking and forcing Ireland to take a quarterback with the eighth pick, come hell or high water.
But it doesn’t exactly add up, either.