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Chad Ochocinco signing shows shift in Dolphins' philosophy

When Bill Parcells and Jason Taylor infamously clashed in 2008 over Taylor's decision to spend his offseason on "Dancing with the Stars," it set an immediate precedent of expectations in the Miami Dolphins organization for the years to follow.

Parcells wanted the 53 players on his roster to be hidden by their facemasks, heads down in their playbooks, showing up to the team's facility each day with one priority -- and only one priority -- on their football-obsessed minds.

Fast forward four years. On Monday, general manager Jeff Ireland signed wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to a one-year contract, adding arguably the most colorful player in the entire NFL to his own roster, a player who openly and clearly has enough outside business ventures to fuel his bank account for life.

You want good football drama? You want an intriguing plotline for HBO's "Hard Knocks" that digs far below the superficial? Forget about the fun and lovable antics of Ochocinco, which surely will help drive up the ratings.

The real storyline was on the other side of the negotiating table Monday.

What has taken place within the Dolphins' organization over the past four years -- specifically as it pertains to Ireland's transformation -- has been seriously intriguing. What would Parcells have done Monday? Better yet, what would Ireland have done if Parcells were still the overlord of his decisions?

This is another interesting day for the Dolphins, and not simply because Ochocinco will provide HBO with a character unlike any other on the team's roster. It is interesting because, unlike any of the decisions before this one, it paints a picture of a changed general manager with a slightly altered set of philosophies.

Don't get it wrong, either. This does not appear to be a decision made with any influence from owner Stephen Ross, but instead a decision made by a general manager opening his mind to different possibilities.

Let's start with the specific player. Ochocinco is 34. He's 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, hardly the big-bodied frame so desired in the past. He has just one 1,000-yard season in the past four. And he has a major affection for the spotlight. From a Parcellsian standpoint, there's nothing in there that would be appealing at all. In fact, it contradicts most of his beliefs.

Combined with the fact that Ochocinco couldn't muster proper production under another Parcells disciple in New England with a proven coach and a proven quarterback, this is borderline shocking to those closest to the situation.

Now, that's not saying it's a bad football decision by any means, particularly considering the risk/reward of an affordable player at a position of need who can easily be waived if he doesn't show enough upside during training camp. It nonetheless simply isn't a decision anyone would expect the Ireland of old, specifically the one who answered to Parcells, to make.

So does it mean that Ireland has sold out? Hardly. If anyone was going to suggest that, it would have been when he boarded that plane to California to meet with Jim Harbaugh when Tony Sparano was still his coach. Those days are gone. In this case, it is simply added proof that Ireland is adjusting to becoming his own man.

And that's not a bad thing at all.

Parcells undoubtedly aided Ireland's rise to this position. He provided great guidance and bestowed priceless lessons. But Ireland isn't Parcells, and he wasn't going to succeed by following his philosophies to a strict degree. In turn, the Dolphins weren't going to succeed under a failed general manager.

Far too often the past two years, Ireland's desire to follow the book, to abide by a set of rules injected into his brain like software installed on a robot, has put him in situations that have created the place he's currently escaping. Whether it is the strict guidelines to roster acquisitions, the brash approach with players or the lack of transparency in the public eye, it simply hasn't worked.

This should not be perceived at all as a knock on Parcells. The Hall of Fame coach built a career on beliefs that made him a legend. But it needs to be understood by all involved that Parcells' unique and original personality is also what added to that legacy. That's not something anyone, including Ireland, could duplicate.

Perhaps we're over-thinking this. Ireland is probably reading this story, laughing about the idea that a small-priced player on a one-year deal at a position of need could be evidence of a changed personality.

Whatever the case, when those cameras flip on and HBO begins to film, it might be wise to turn the lens away from Ochocinco for just a few minutes and begin to tell the story of Ireland, as well.

In terms of real football drama, it doesn't get much better than this. Especially if it works.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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