In response to Tuesday’s disclosure from Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports that Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland asked receiver Dez Bryant whether his mother was a prostitute, we’re getting mixed feedback from league insiders regarding the man whom V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells hand picked and carried with him from Dallas to Miami.
One source teed off on Ireland, claiming that he’s got little or no people skills — and that he is a solid talent evaluator who holds a title that surpasses his skill. We’ve also heard that some agents have shied away from directing players with options to Miami, given the overall “our way or the highway” atmosphere that pervades the organization.
Another source defended Ireland. “Jeff is one of the classiest and most down to earth people in this business,” the source said. “He’s a straight shooter and it’s refreshing because a lot of other decision makers beat around the bush and aren’t always truthful.”
Lost in the discussion has been, so far, the role of Parcells. Though the Tuna supposedly gave Ireland “final say” over the team’s roster in 2008 in order to lure him away from the Cowboys in a manner that complies with league rules, it’s widely believed that Parcells runs the show. Why, then, is no one mentioning the strong possibility that Ireland was merely the messenger for a question that Parcells wanted Bryant to be asked?
Rumors about Bryant’s mother had been snaking through the NFL grapevine in the weeks preceding the draft. Presumably, Parcells, Ireland, and company had caught wind of the scuttelbutt. Is it a stretch, then, to conclude that the notoriously blunt and confrontational Parcells eventually may have said to Ireland, “Why don’t you quit wonderin’ about it and just f–kin’ ask him about it?”
With so many incoming rookies consulting with guys who tell them what to say and how to say it in pre-draft interviews, teams want to crack through the facade and get to the real guy. They also want to see how players, like Bryant, with vaguely defined character concerns will react under stress. It’s a boot-camp mentality aimed at commencing the process of breaking these guys down in the hopes of finding out whether they ultimately can be counted upon to do what they’re told in practices and games.
Still, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. And even though rookies technically are not yet members of the union before they’re drafted, the NFLPA immediately should commence the process of negotiating with the league acceptable limits on the types of questions that may be posed at the Scouting Combine or during teams visits and workouts.
In turn, the league should be happy to agree to such restrictions. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will miss six or more weeks of the 2010 season because his conduct, at its core, makes the NFL and its teams look bad. How can the question that the Dolphins posed to Dez Bryant be viewed any differently?