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Replacing Sherman, Ireland, Right Moves for Dolphins

Mike Ferguson

General manager Jeff Ireland joined offensive coordinator Mike Sherman as a scapegoat for the Miami Dolphins' dismal finish. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel)

Miami Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross has been noted for his loyalty. Unfortunately for Mr. Ross, in today's NFL, loyalty gets you beat more often than commended.

This week, the Dolphins made two very notable moves -- one on the coaching staff and the other in the front office.

On Monday, Miami parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after two years with the team. Sherman led an offense that finished just 27th in total offense and 26th in rushing this past season.

Despite improved play from second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who Sherman coached at Texas A&M and the signing of a big-play receiver in Mike Wallace, Miami saw little statistical change from 2012.

Of course, Sherman should not have bore all the blame. Two prominent pass-catching signings of the offseason, receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller, each went down with knee injuries and the entire left side of the opening day offensive line was lost to the first locker room bullying scandal in NFL history.

Probably the two biggest reasons for Sherman being let go however, was the play-calling and the dismal finish to the season for the Miami offense.

Sherman has certainly been around the game of football for a long time, but at times, Sherman lacked creativity. As far as play-calling goes, at times, they've been downright befuddling.

The stretch play to Daniel Thomas on third-and-short against New Orleans in Miami's first loss of the season comes to mind as Thomas was pulverized well behind the line of scrimmage. The decision to call a pass play with the Dolphins leading Buffalo 21-20 and at midfield with under three minutes to play was also a real head-scratcher as Tannehill was sacked and then fumbled to set up the Bills' winning field goal.

The most recent stumper was a fourth down run to Charles Clay in the season finale against the Jets in Dolphin territory. Miami was trailing 14-7 and needed just inches to keep the drive alive. Clay was given just his seventh carry of the year and was stuffed at the point of attack. A simple sneak by Tannehill seemed like the most high percentage call at the time.

Though Sherman's play-calling was at times suspect, the fact that the Dolphins needed just one win in the final two weeks against teams with losing records and managed a grand total of seven points may have ultimately done in Sherman. Against division foes Buffalo and the New York Jets, who each had nothing to play for, Miami was embarrassed losing by a combined 39-7 margin.

After being held to just 103 yards of offense in a 19-0 loss to Buffalo, the Dolphins turned the ball over three times in a 20-7 loss at home to the Jets to end the season. It marked the first time in more than five years that Miami was held to single digits scoring in consecutive weeks.

It was also learned on Tuesday that general manager Jeff Ireland and Miami had decided to part ways. For Dolphins' fans, it was certainly a long time coming.

After tying the NFL record for the greatest turnaround in league history in Ireland's first season of 2008, it was all downhill. In the final five years with Ireland as the team's general manager, the team went just 35-45 and without a winning season -- the longest streak without a winning record in franchise history.

Center Mike Pouncey was the only player drafted by Ireland during that stretch to make the Pro Bowl while perennial Pro Bowlers like Brandon Marshall and Jake Long were either allowed to walk or traded.

After whiffing on big name free agents in years past like Ryan Clark and most notably, Peyton Manning, Ireland spent big money prior to the start of the 2013 season. The result -- an 8-8 finish and a one-win improvement from 2012.

While loyalty is a virtuous thing in the real world, it appears as though owner Stephen Ross did the right thing by shaking up the personnel.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill certainly has the physical tools and seems to have the mental makeup to succeed in the NFL. Though he and Mike Sherman had a history together, it is possible and perhaps even likely that a new, more innovative offensive approach could serve him well.

Ireland on the other hand was never the most popular guy in South Florida and his departure has been awaited for some time. With beaches, warm weather even in the most bitter of winters and no state income tax, Miami should become an attractive destination for prominent free agents once again.

The Miami Dolphins have not won a championship in now four decades and have not appeared in a Super Bowl in nearly three. Hopefully for a once proud franchise, this week's changes are just the beginning of an awakening in the southern part of the Sunshine State.

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