It may be too early, if it’s not far too late, for Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin to be on any sort of hot seat. But Philbin is embroiled in the team’s endless bullying scandal that has cost the jobs of general manager Jeff Ireland, offensive line coach Jim Turner, head trainer Kevin O’Neill and starting left guard Richie Incognito.
The Wells Report, sanctioned by the NFL office, revealed behavior that was more barbaric than previously known.
It wasn’t just Incognito who tormented left tackle Jonathan Martin and drove him to self-exile. Turns out right guard John Jerry and center Mike Pouncey – a rising star — also joined in hazing and terrorizing Martin, even after he was no longer a rookie.
Meanwhile, according to Ted Wells, Turner and O’Neill contributed to the culture of harassment. O’Neil laughed right along when players lobbed racial insults at his black assistant. Turner gave a male blowup doll to a lineman he suspected of being gay.
Yes we understand the NFL locker room is a unique fraternity with its own peculiar juvenile pranks. But this was Animal House on steroids. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Meanwhile, Philbin did his impersonations of Sergeant Schultz and Governor Christie by seeing nothing, knowing nothing.
One of the many lowlights of the recent Scouting Combine was Philbin meeting with the media to issue his response to the Wells Report. He acknowledged behavior on his team that was “inappropriate and unacceptable.” He promised to be “more vigilant, more diligent, more visible.” He will maintain “a better pulse” on the locker room.
But his media performance seemed lame, as though he had doubts he would be up to the task he assigned himself. Martin apparently was unconvinced. He informed the Dolphins he does not want to play for them next season.
It was Philbin who created the system of locker room management that failed so spectacularly. Instead of personally talking with his players, as Pete Carroll and Rex Ryan do, or asking his chosen captains and assistant coaches about locker-room issues, as Bill Belichick does, Philbin believed in letting the players police themselves.
A “leadership council” of six veterans, elected by the 53-man roster, would run the locker room and monitor off-the-field activities. That’s how Mike McCarthy did it at Green Bay, when Philbin was an assistant coach and a Super Bowl championship was won.
The system failed in Miami because one of the players elected to the leadership council was Richie Incognito.
Latest news on Incognito: he used a baseball bat to smash up his own Ferrari in front of his apartment in Scottsdale, Az. He told police it was “self expression.” Friends say Incognito is not responding to calls and texting and may have checked himself into a psychiatric clinic.
He has seen his public image destroyed after he won the 2012 Good Guy Award from the South Florida Professional Football Writers Association. Though it was his own doing, there were enablers along the way, such as Ireland, Turner and, in a sense, Philbin.
Although Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was quick to banish Incognito, he did not want to fire anyone else before the Wells Report came out. Otherwise, he might be facing criticism for firing the wrong people.
Now that the report is out — and more scathing than expected — it’s too late to fire Philbin and organize an entirely new staff. You’d get only coaches the other teams don’t want. The makeover should have happened before Ted Wells got hired.
Ross should have seen this coming. But of course he couldn’t see because he’s as blind as Philbin. His general manager, Ireland, had been mum because he allegedly had prompted the bullying in the first place by telling Incognito to “toughen up” Martin.
To be honest, Martin, like most of the Dolphin line, was a turnstile. Let’s hope Andrew Luck doesn’t get what he wishes for: the Colts acquiring his Stanford pal.
Imploding with dissension, the Dolphins lost their last two games, to the mediocre Bills and Jets, by a margin of 32 points. Miami finished 8-8, out of the playoffs. Ryan Tannehill, hardly the least mobile of QBs, got sacked a league-high 58 times. Why did Philbin need the Wells Report to know Jim Turner was not doing a good job?
Whether or not he deserves it, Philbin gets a chance to rebuild from the wreckage. But no coach in the league is on a shorter leash. Or should be.