INDIANAPOLIS — Jeff Ireland isn’t going to answer ‘yes’ and simply try to blend in and do things a certain way just because that’s the way they’ve always been done.
No, the New Orleans Saints new director of college scouting didn’t show up and start throwing elbows. But he also isn’t going to sit back and be quiet when there’s an opinion shared that he doesn’t agree with or has an opposing view on how a player might fit with the Saints.
“Debate is healthy,” Ireland said. “In any kind of draft room, debate is going to be healthy,” Ireland said in a video posted to the team’s official website. “I know what I’m looking for in players, and (coach) Sean (Payton) and (general manager) Mickey (Loomis) know what they’re looking for.
“We’re trying to marry that together, and obviously those voices count a lot more than mine. But I’m going to debate the process, because I’ve seen lots of things in my career that may have worked.
“It’s just trying to find out what we’re looking for and not what everyone else is looking for.”
The fact that Ireland has experience with other teams and brings a unique perspective was something that appealed to Loomis after he parted ways with Rick Reiprish last month. Before joining the Saints, Ireland served as the general manager of the Miami Dolphins and before that was a longtime scout for the Dallas Cowboys.
Ireland’s chief role with the Saints will be to oversee the scouting and drafting of college players, but his experience as a general manager has also come in handy. Loomis said earlier this week he’s taken advantage of the opportunity to bounce ideas of Ireland when he has questions and goes to him for his insight.
“He’s got some things that he does that I love that we incorporate with what we do,” Loomis said. “It’s an exchange of ideas.”
Ireland agreed that his experience has been helpful in his new role.
“I think experience is very important — especially in the draft process, having someone who has been through it before,” Ireland said. “I’ve learned from some great people through my career. I’ve been in that seat before. I know the challenges that you can face with running a draft, on draft day, and the process that it takes to get the board right.”
Outside of a stint last season where he served as a draft consultant for the Seattle Seahawks, Ireland has been out of football since 2013. Because of this, there has been a bit of a learning curve as he tries to get up to speed.
Not only has he had to familiarize himself with a new set of scouts and set up a way things will be done, he has a whole year’s worth of information and scouting to catch up on.
Ireland said he spent his time away from the game watching college players and forming thoughts on them, but he was not filling out scouting reports, so there are no documented thoughts for him to fall back on. He called the process a “grind.”
“I’m familiarizing myself with the players but also getting them right on the board,” Ireland said.
“We’re trying to separate the men from the boys right now and trim the board from the guys that fit, the traits that we’re looking for.”
Ireland has some familiarity with Payton from their days together in Dallas and said they have a “respectful” relationship and are working to “create a vision for the player.”
But on a personal level, Ireland said he’s happy to be back in football, doing what he loves.
“I’m blessed,” he said.