Jeff Ireland, tan and trim, faced the media for his annual predraft news conference Thursday, and that defensive guy who was afraid to answer questions directly or really say much of anything that we saw years ago was missing.
Ireland didn’t divulge any state secrets, and at one point he said he didn’t want to “pigeon my hole,” into picking an offensive lineman — whatever that means.
But this Ireland was comfortable. He was in command. He was even refreshingly candid at times, admitting without shame that the same offensive line that has been addressed so often by Miami in the past will be addressed somehow in this draft.
Ireland basically gave the impression he is capable of facing this coming draft — the one in which he has five picks in the first three rounds and 11 picks overall — and deliver enough hits to give the Dolphins a chance to finally stop losing next season.
I left the 27-minute news conference without issues.
Well, maybe one issue.
At one point in the session, Ireland was asked if he’s more interested in adding quality talent or quantity talent to the Miami roster.
“Both,” he responded after a taking a moment to think about it. “We’d like to have a bunch of good players. That’s what you’d like to come out with.”
The Dolphins have good players. Most NFL teams have good players. And the Dolphins have enough of them to be more or less mediocre.
So we don’t need more of the same. Spare me the priority free agent walk-ons that surprise and inspire because Vince Papale never took the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship.
What the team lacks, what so many drafts have failed to deliver, is elite players. Miami has not drafted one in a long time, and getting just one of those should be the goal glowing in neon this draft.
The Dolphins have drafted only one Pro Bowl player since 2008, when Ireland joined the team under Bill Parcells and with coach Tony Sparano.
In the five drafts, and through 41 players Ireland has had a role selecting, only Jake Long ever went to the Pro Bowl. And Long, diminished and perhaps declining, didn’t make the postseason all-star game last season and isn’t on the team anymore.
So five drafts and the Dolphins today have no Pro Bowl player to show for the trouble.
That’s not all. The truth is the franchise’s struggle to draft a difference-maker of significance stretches well before Ireland ever came on the scene.
The last truly great, great pick the Dolphins made in the draft came in 1997 when Jimmy Johnson nabbed Jason Taylor in the third round with the 73rd overall selection.
And while a lot of players have come and gone in the 16 years since Taylor showed up all tall and skinny and full of game-changing plays, the Dolphins have drafted a lot of good ones, some busts and even a couple of Pro Bowl guys.
But no one else who was truly great.
No one else whose name comes up in a Hall of Fame conversation.
How much longer does the franchise have to wait before that happens again?
None of this suggests Ireland has been incapable of adding Pro Bowl players and game-changers by other means.
Cameron Wake, signed as a free agent after playing in the CFL, has been a defense-saver. The signing of Richie Incognito delivered Pro Bowl returns last season. The hope is the recent free agent addition of Mike Wallace will pay dividends, too.