Meet the Detroit Lions GM candidate: Is Jeff Ireland ready for second chance?

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are in the midst of interviewing a wide range of candidates for both their head coach and general manager jobs. They began GM interviews in early December, and both searches are expected to wrap up in the coming weeks. As part of an ongoing series, here is a look at one known candidate on the Lions’ list:

Jeff Ireland

Current role: New Orleans Saints vice president/assistant general manager college personnel.

Background: Ireland is the fourth candidate the Lions have interviewed who has previous experience as an NFL general manager. He took over a 1-15 Miami Dolphins team in 2008 and built an immediate winner — the Dolphins went 11-5 in Ireland’s first season — but never again had a winning record. Ireland started his career as an area scout with the Kansas City Chiefs and spent seven years as a high-ranking college scout with the Dallas Cowboys. He joined the Saints in 2015 and has led the team’s college draft efforts — the backbone of New Orleans’ recent success — the past six seasons.

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When interviewed: Jan. 8.

Why he makes sense: Ireland checks off two important boxes for the Lions: He has previous GM experience and a truly respected eye for talent. In New Orleans, he led the team’s 2017 draft efforts that netted Alvin Kamara, Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk. And in Miami, he drafted Jake Long, Olivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill (who proved to be a hit only after leaving the dysfunctional Dolphins). A protege of Bill Parcells and the grandson of an NFL scout, former colleagues insist he has learned from his mistakes.

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Why he doesn’t: For as good a talent evaluator as he is, Ireland has questions to answer about his ability to run an organization, something Lions president Rod Wood stressed the importance of this week. During Ireland’s time in Miami, the Dolphins dealt with a bullying scandal, Ireland apologized for an inappropriate combine question to Dez Bryant, and he had a falling out with Parcells after accompanying owner Stephen Ross to interview Jim Harbaugh for the head coaching job while Tony Sporano was still employed. As with any GM, there are draft misses, too, like trading up for Dion Jordan.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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