On the second day of 2008, Jeff Ireland got the type of big-time NFL gig he’d always wanted, leaving the Dallas Cowboys’ personnel department to serve under football czar Bill Parcells as the Miami Dolphins’ general manager.http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=m ... sday042710
“We might pop a bottle of champagne!” Ireland’s elated mother, Sandi Holub, told The Miami Herald’s Jeff Darlington upon learning of the hiring. Holub explained that Ireland, the grandson of longtime Chicago Bears personnel guru Jim Parmer (and the stepson of E.J. Holub, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker/center), had yearned for such an opportunity from a young age.
I wonder how Sandi would feel about the story I’m about to share, one which simultaneously illustrates the Dolphins’ organizational arrogance and the NFL’s complete disconnect from society when it comes to such things as respect, decorum and class.
In fairness to Ireland, the Dolphins’ habitually brusque treatment of their current and prospective players is purely a Parcells production. Unfortunately for the general manager, he’s about to be unmasked as an A-list A-hole.
Last Wednesday, the night before he was selected 24th overall by the Cowboys, former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant(notes) told me that during one of his predraft visits, a high-level executive of one NFL franchise had asked him if his mother, Angela, was a prostitute.
“No, my mom is not a prostitute,” said Bryant, whose background – including his mother’s lifestyle and past legal troubles – was under great scrutiny prior to the draft. “I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it.”
I’ve since been told by a source close to Bryant that Ireland was the person who asked the question during a meeting in the GM’s office. On Monday, Ireland declined to comment on the allegation. Harvey Greene, the Dolphins’ senior vice president of media relations, said: “It’s our organizational policy that we don’t discuss publicly the process we use to evaluate potential draft choices.”
That’s a wise idea given the demeaning, offensive and possibly actionable evaluation process that was used to assess Bryant’s fitness to catch passes for Miami, a franchise that apparently holds nothing sacred in such contexts.
“I don’t care who you are or who you’re talking to – that kind of question usually gets your [expletive] teeth kicked in,” says former NFL lineman Kyle Turley(notes). “I mean, where do these people come from? That’s just completely [expletive] classless and totally unprofessional.”
I’ve been covering the NFL for more than 20 years, and when I think back to the best, most passionate players I’ve encountered during that time, I’m convinced that a high percentage of them would have had Ireland up against the wall by his collar in that situation, or at least have been very close to doing so. Ronnie Lott, Ray Lewis(notes), John Elway, Junior Seau(notes), Michael Strahan(notes) and Warren Sapp(notes) come to mind.
“They’re trying to break people down in ways they’ve never been broken before, to see if a kid will snap,” Sapp says. “They know exactly what they’re saying, and it’s a darn shame we’re still at this point.”
In March, free safety Ryan Clark(notes) – one of Miami’s top targets in free agency – paid a visit to South Florida, dining with head coach Tony Sparano and spending the following day meeting with various officials at the team’s facility. Clark, who’d spent the previous four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, told the Herald’s Darlington upon his arrival in South Florida that he didn’t want to leave without a contract, saying: “I’m praying it goes well.”
It didn’t. A few hours before a scheduled dinner with Dolphins assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles, Clark called an audible, heading for the airport to catch an earlier flight and telling his agent, Joel Turner, he wanted to re-sign with Pittsburgh. After inking a four-year deal with the Steelers, Clark didn’t offer up many specifics, and Turner didn’t reveal the impetus for Clark’s action, either. The agent portrayed staying in Pittsburgh as a family lifestyle choice, insisting, “Honest to God, it wasn’t about the money.”
That may not be completely true – it’s possible Clark wanted to remain with the Steelers all along and used the Dolphins for leverage. Perhaps he felt a sudden wave of attachment to Pittsburgh and rushed back to make sure he was still wanted in Steeltown.
Or maybe he paid a visit to Ireland’s office and got the Dez Bryant treatment ....