If a Mount Rushmore of Dolphins players existed, Zach Thomas would be up there with Dan Marino and Larry Csonka and a couple of others. He was a Dolfans' favorite player from the second in 1996 he stepped on the field as a short, no-neck-having, self-deprecating rookie to the day in 2008 he packed his belongings and left.
And to this day Zach Thomas remains a South Florida resident, a fan of the Dolphins, and someone the organization admires enough that it considered him to join the new radio team being assembled to work on a new flagship station -- the team by the way, would not consider me as a commentator because I'm not enough of a homer.
Anyway, the point is when Zach Thomas is peeved with the organization, well then, something is wrong -- not with Zach, but with the organization.
And Zach Thomas is steaming about how the Dolphins have treated his brother-in-law Jason Taylor (married to Zach's sister Katina). He's upset about the handling of the latest Taylor saga in particular and and about the way the Dolphins handle inconic players in general.
Yesterday on the Sid Rosenberg show on 560-AM here in South Florida, Thomas pulled back the curtain on how Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells handled his departure when he was waived by the Dolphins.
"The only thing that was like a punch in the gut to me was the day I was cleaning out my locker, the day they cut me, [agent] Drew [Rosenhaus] asked them if I could just say thanks to the fans through the media at the Dolphins facility and their answer was, 'No, he's not a Dolphins player anymore, he's got to do it off premises.'" Thomas said. "That's when you know, like, 'Wow,' the whole loyalty and everything they preach with team and things like that goes out the window."
None of this is commentary on how the Dolphins make football decisions. There is no arguing it was time for Zach to go. He didn't fit the Dolphins scheme. He was getting up there in years. He was coming off a year in which he had concussion issues.
But this is commentary on what happens after the football decisions are made. A player like Zach Thomas basically gets kicked to the curb in much the same manner as Abraham Wright would.
After he was waived, Thomas had to find a way to say good-bye to Dolphins fans. He had to call media members one by one, me and many others included, to say his farewell to ... you.
That is wrong.
This regime doesn't like making exceptions. They like to treat all the players the same. The Dolphins, for example, are one of the few NFL teams that do not welcome new free agents with press conferences because the team doesn't want to make it seem like the new players are more important than the ones already on the roster. The Dolphins also don't get mushy when former greats such as Thomas or, yes, Jason Taylor leave are or forced to leave.
And that is fine if you're talking about Shawn Murphy being traded. But if Jason Taylor is being traded, that needs to be handled differently.
The strange thing here is that general manager Jeff Ireland is aware of how great players should be treated. He sometimes talks about how he doesn't want to do anything that would sully the organization's great name or history.
Ireland's stepfather was a Hall of Famer E.J. Holub. His grandfather Jim Parmer was a former Philadelphia player and Bears executive. Those men knew the importance of legacy and standing. Those guys respected those ideals.
But Ireland, under Bill Parcells, isn't really holding up his end very well in that department. The Dolphins fumbled on the Zach Thomas dismissal two years ago. They dropped the ball again in the manner they treated Jason Taylor this offseason.
Their football decisions were probably correct in both instances. Their people skills were lacking both times.
"You've got to know to respect great players," Thomas said. "You've got to know that. Jason is going to be a Hall of Famer. He's going to be in the [Dolphins Ring] of Honor. His name is always going to be in Dolphin Stadium, and that's big. And you know what, you can do it in a different approach. It might not be their approach. But I get disappointed when I see guys that have put everything on the line for the Dolphins organization and have a Hall-of-Fame career like Jason Taylor and it goes down like it has the last couple weeks...
"I'm not trying to be hard on Jeff Ireland. But he's saying it wrong, especially for a guy who has so much history with the Miami Dolphins. He's the all-time sacks leader among active players, and you're going to talk about him like he's a first- or second-year player. He should know how to respect guys that have been great to the game. ... It's fine if you don't have a need for him. But you tell him up front. And you don't go through the media and act like you're shocked that it's being brought up. I don't like the organization to look bad that way."
Here is a quick suggestion to the Miami Dolphins, an organization that thinks it knows it all: Sign Zach Thomas for a day. Hold the press conference now that you refused to grant him in 2008. Allow Zach to say good-bye the right way.
You can't do anything about how you handled Jason Taylor's departure. Right the wrong you did with the Zach Thomas departure. And do it soon.