Do we trust the Dolphins yet? More to the point, do we trust general manager Jeff Ireland?
Those are really the questions that should resonate across South Florida today in the wake of a Thursday night first-round NFL Draft decision by Miami that was instantly surprising, questionable and polarizing. It might have been smart, too. Brilliant, even! We can’t know yet. That’s where the matter of trust comes in.
Miami traded up from the 12th overall selection to the third, a canyon leap, a bold move. Miami did that to draft Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, a pure “edge” pass rusher, a guy who is supposed to scare Tom Brady. Ireland looks at Jordan, this tall, thin, quick young man, and thinks he sees the second coming of Jason Taylor.
So the question isn’t so much whether Jordan the sacker is that good. The question is whether Ireland the evaluator is that good.
If it’s the Packers or Bill Belichick making the decision Miami just did, it might be hailed as genius. Or at least not questioned. But the Dolphins are still wavering between benefit of doubt and just doubt. That’s why the consensus of opinion ricocheting among Dolfans right now is not a referendum on Jordan as much as it is a verdict on whether the beleaguered Ireland has won back the faith or not.
Momentum is something sensed more than easily quantified. You feel it, and I think the Dolphins have begun to have it. Finally. After a long stretch of fan-numbing mediocrity the franchise seems to have lifted itself and begun moving forward again.
Last year it was the hiring of coach Joe Philbin and the drafting of quarterback Ryan Tannehill that reset the foundation. This year it was the free agent signing of receiver Mike Wallace. Even something as outwardly insignificant as the redesigned logo and new uniforms unveiled Thursday represent a symbol of change. Of a fresh start.
This was the framework that made Thursday night’s first-round pick in Miami’s 48th franchise draft an important one. Momentum can be a fragile thing, can’t it? The Dolphins needed a selection — especially after a big trade-up — that excited or at least stood out as unequivocally solid and smart. What they did not need (especially after a big trade-up) was the kind of pick that made fans look at each other and go “Huh?” The kind of pick that might have invited new doubts about the GM Ireland.
This draft is important for a club not only trying to win games, but trying to win back fans. Trying to reassert itself in a market it once owned, but a market usurped by LeBron James and the champion Heat.
I’m not sure Miami’s first-round decision Thursday night delivered on that.
But whether that doubt is about Jordan or about Ireland remains to be seen.
The trade-up itself was a bargain for Miami. Swapping a No. 12 overall pick for a No. 3 by having to throw in a second-round pick (42nd overall) is a modest price — especially when you have another second-round pick and two third-round picks.
The issue is whether we trust Ireland had NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announce the right name.
The talking heads on ESPN were all sure Miami had traded up to select Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson to replace departed Jake Long. That would have made sense … unless Ireland was privately confident the trade with the Chiefs for tackle Branden Albert (for that other second-round pick) still will happen.