In the last three days I've gotten calls and texts from former players and current players. I talked to people from coast to coast. I've turned on the TV and seen the Dolphins on every broadcast and cable station available.
The Dolphins are a hit!
And it is terrible.
The Dolphins, you see, are a national story now for all the wrong reasons. The team's name? Sullied. Reputation? In the dumpster and on fire. The narrative? When is Joe Philbin being fired, when is Jeff Ireland being fired, when is Dawn Aponte losing her power, when is Stephen Ross selling?
I present the back page of Friday's New York Daily News.
The Washingon Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times have written stories localizing the current Dolphins scandal. The New York Post and Daily News both sent reporters to South Florida to cover the story. One Post columnist told me Thursday, "My newspaper can't get enough of this story."
And the problem with that for you and the Dolphins? People are laughing now. Not with you. Not with them. At them. At you for supporting them. (At me for covering them, by the way). The Dolphins an object of scorn and mocking.
None of this is graceful. None of it has a positive side.
The Dolphins are getting punked.
But don't get the idea that I think they're victims. They are not. Yes, the media is over the top and the attention is hysterical and overblown. But the Dolphins brought this plague upon themselves. It is of their own birthing.
They had Incognito in a position of team leadership. Leadership in the locker room and administration failed to see any signs of wrongdoing -- or at least that's the contention. Philbin? Offensive line coach Jim Turner? No idea? The personnel department was good with both Incognito and Martin on the team and actually counted heavily on both -- because, after all, Martin was supposed to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blindside and Incognito was supposed to protect Martin and help him grow into the job. Really? And Aponte, who edits Philbin's post-game locker room speeches meticulously but fails to remove that uncomfortable part where he's reading from an index card ... Why did she allow the public service announcement at Sun Life Stadium that educates fans on civility and behavior to star ... Incognito?
Look, the people within the Dolphins organization claiming complete ignorance of the apparent tension in Martin's mind over Incognito and others are either lying, which makes them complicit, or out of touch, which makes them incompetent.
Either way, it is grounds for dismissal.
The media didn't put Martin and Incognito in that locker room. The media's job is not to monitor the intimate relationships among teammates. Don't shoot the messenger even if the message gets too loud at times.
The Dolphins are a sad national joke now because the Dolphins put themselves there. That story about Incognito abusing a volunteer golf assistant at a team sponsored event? The team said it would handle the situation and the way it was handled was paying her to keep quiet. The National Football Post today reported Incognito called offensive line meetings at a strip club and fined players if they didn't show up. Sure, you can chalk this up to boys being boys, I guess, if you're a morally corrupt individual. But then you allow Incognito to be a member of the leadership council? You put him on the stadium HD screen preaching good behavior?
A coach, aware of Incognito's penchant for drinking and past drug use, overrides the player vote for leadership council. Joe Philbin this week hid behind it, saying it was players, not him who made Incognito a team leader.
(Note to coach: It's not a democracy. You know this. Did you forget in this one instance?)
Some fans see what's going on. And they've had enough. Fans have been writing to me and telling me they are through with the franchise. Others say they'll never buy a ticket again until major changes in leadership are enacted.
Consider that the Dolphins had 70,660 people at Sun Life Stadium for the season home opener. Then 68,342 for the second home game. Then 60,592 for the third home game. And 52,388 for the fourth home game. Notice the trend?
Fans were abandoning this team in droves before the current scandal. You think any part of the last week is going to convince them to return?
We've seen this kind of situation before. You'll recall the New England Patriots had this little scandal called Spygate. And their reputation suffered. You'll recall the New Orleans Saints had this little scandal called Bountygate. And their reputation suffered.
Both teams got slimed. Both teams forged ahead. Both teams mostly recovered.
But both those teams enjoyed a reservoir of goodwill the Dolphins don't possess. The Patriots had three Super Bowl wins in their pocket. The Saints also recently won a Lombardi trophy. The coaches and owners that presided over those franchises in the time of crisis were the same that presided over the franchise in the best of times. So they got a pass.
The Dolphins get no pass. Stephen Ross has not presided over one winning season during his four-and-one half seasons as owner. Jeff Ireland has not put together one winning team during his four-and-a-half years as GM. Joe Philbin's career record is 11-13.
Fans recognize this. Media recognize this. These facts are not in dispute.
None of this sewage sandwich that is the Incognito-Martin-NFL scandal is good for business or morale or reputation. All of it reeks. And now everyone on the Dolphins smells bad.