Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the visitors' locker room at the Meadowlands, the Miami Dolphins celebrated their incredible AFC East championship Sunday. They'd defeated the New York Jets, 24-17, and clinched a postseason invitation.
Off to the side, in a room used by trainers to repair the troops, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a voyeur. He leaned against a wall and proudly watched his players enjoy their astounding payoff.
I asked Ireland if he'd be willing to grant a rare interview. He gladly moseyed over to talk about the team he helped build.
Can you put into words what you're feeling right now?
Jeff Ireland: I can't sum it up in words. It's a remarkable feeling. I'm so proud of these coaches, these players. Coach always asked us and the players right there in training camp, "Why not us?" Well, Why not us? I'm just so proud of the coaches and what they've done.
At what point did "Why not us?" evolve from mere words?
JI: These players took ownership of what Bill, Tony and myself were trying to get turned around. They took ownership right away, and they got it done. It seems like it's been maturing from Day 1. This whole team has just done a great job.
How proud are you to pull this off in your first year as a GM?
JI: It's nerve-wracking. You put your heart and soul into something, you put your life into this. To sit here and look back and watch these players as happy as they are, these coaches as happy as they are, I feel the same way. It's an unbelievable feeling to watch these guys bounce around. To do what they've done is a great feeling.
How did your team of so many castoffs come together?
JI: They love football. What we did when we came here was find the guys that love football. You really found that out about his team pretty early on. They want to be around football. They wanted to take ownership of something, and they absolutely did that. It's a great cast, and our coaches did a hell of a job of putting them in positions to be successful. That's why coach [Tony] Sparano is coach of the year, in my opinion.
Have you spoken to Bill Parcells yet?
JI: [Dolphins owner] Wayne [Huizenga] and I both called him together. He was excited for about 30 seconds, and then he said, "Let's get back to business."
Is it too soon to start thinking about the Ravens yet?
JI: We're going to let this soak in for 12 hours. Then we'll get back to work. You've got to be thinking ahead. We're a proactive group here.
The Ravens have beaten you already, but Tony Sparano noted in his news conference the Jets had beaten you before, too. Is next week a continuation of the "Why not us" theme?
JI: Why not? Hey, there's an old cliché, "Any given Sunday."
What was the scene like in the locker room before the reporters were allowed in?
JI: A lot of emotions. A lot of hard work that comes out in these emotions. You just can't say enough about what these players have gone through from last year to this year. The emotion came out. It's a great feeling to see these guys do what they've been able to do.