Joe Philbin and his coaching staff study the tape of every game the Dolphins play after the fact and meet with the team to make corrections. Well, on Monday, the Dolphins coach was in front of his biggest forum -- a group of about 75 media representing more attention-grabbing power than I've ever seen at a club presser -- and he put on his best face to address perhaps the ugliest set of facts ever faced by the franchise.
Philbin had to discuss the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito mess. And below you will find what he said. And below the coach's comments, I will give you my thoughts on what was said as I see fit.
Think of it as going back to the film and correcting the mistakes or issues.
(Opening statement) – “I thought I would start out the press conference by giving you a little of a background on some of the events that have occurred during the last week. Last Monday evening in preparation prior to our preparation for practice against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jonathan Martin left our facility prior to that practice after an incident occurred in our team dining room. Later that evening, he contacted a member of our organization. Soon thereafter I contacted Jonathan personally, requested a meeting with him, at which he readily accepted. I met with him later that evening. We had a good discussion. Throughout the course of the week, I was in contact on multiple occasions with him and members of his family. I spoke to him the day after the game, and I spoke to members of his family over the course of the weekend. As the weekend unfolded, early on Sunday, as you well know, as an organization we released a statement that was 100 percent factual. Soon thereafter, we were contacted by representatives of Jonathan, and before I say that I should let you know that in all my discussions with Jonathan and members of his family, at no time were there any accusations or allegations of misconduct by any members of this team or organization. Later on Sunday, we were contacted by one of his representatives where they in fact had some concerns over player conduct that had occurred. We immediately took those concerns very, very seriously.
Our owner, Steve Ross who has been involved throughout the entire process, contacted the commissioner, Roger Goodell, and requested that the NFL become involved and conduct a review of the work place. We issued a second statement noting we had received information that we were taking very seriously and that we were gathering information on. Throughout the course of the day, we gathered more and more information. At the end of the day, I decided to suspend Richie Incognito based on the information I had at that time. The NFL is going to conduct a review of the work place. It’s going to be comprehensive. It’s going to be objective, and we are going to give as an organization our full and complete co-operation with the NFL. That’s really where things are as of today.
I want you to know as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins I am in charge of the work place atmosphere. Since April 10, 2012 when the players first came here and I was the head coach, every decision I’ve made and everything we’ve done to the facility has been done with one thing in mind, and that is to help our players and our organization reach their full potential. Any type of conduct, behavior that detracts from that behavior is not acceptable and is not tolerated.
Two of my children go to school here right behind here at the University School. As a parent, when they walk through those doors I have certain expectations that the administration, the teachers and the staff are going to create a safe atmosphere where my children can learn and develop as people. This is no different. I take this responsibility very seriously that these players when they walk in this door they feel like they have the best medical care, the best strength and conditioning care, the best coaching, the best fields to practice on, the best technology and the best classrooms to learn in. That’s very important to me. I will tell you if the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is. I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis, and I will do that. Any questions on that?"
Salguero: I find it strange that in this account Martin met with Philbin the same day he supposedly went AWOL. And yet with the troubling issues that caused him to flee the Dolphins still so fresh, the player could not bring himself to tell Philbin what was troubling him. If that is the case, what the heck did the coach and the player talk about? Zone blocking schemes? I mean, your player leaves the team. You bring him back for a meeting. Question No. 2, after how are you feeling, is why did you leave? Did Philbin ask? Did Martin answer in a fashion that the coach was still unaware about why his player left after that meeting ended?
Also, Philbin and the Dolphins talked to Martin's representation and his family. And still the club didn't know what was troubling Martin on Thursday? How about on Friday when Philbin was asked about reports of misconduct and bullying in the locker room?
How is it the media seemed to know and was reporting on what was troubling Jonathan Martin before Joe Philbin and the Dolphins knew? And how is it that after seeing those reports and talking to the Martin camp some more, the Dolphins still believed the reports to be "speculation" until late Sunday afternoon?
I mean, where are the people and communication skills?
(On if he has talked to Richie Incognito and if he is satisfied with his apology) - “I’ve been in contact with Richie. Any conversation that I have with any football player on this team are personal and confidential in nature."
Salguero: Bad answer. Sure, it gets Philbin out of having to explain the talk and thus gives him all sorts of plausible deniability about what was said. But ... I'm sure Dolphins fans might have felt better about their coach's leadership ability if he'd said that he explained to Incognito that evidence against him was strong and that he had no tolerance for the stuff the evidence (ie texts and a voicemail message) shows Incognito to have said and written.
(On if he had an inkling that anything like this was going on in the locker room before last Monday) - “That falls under what the NFL review is here for."
Salguero: So earlier in this very presser Philbin says Martin told him nothing specific of the issue and now he's refusing to answer the question? Raises suspicion.
(On if he personally had any idea incidents were going on) – “Again, I want to make clear this. My focus right now is on the men in the locker room, preparing our football team to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I will give my full and complete and total corporation with the NFL. When that takes place, the timeline on that I don’t have the specifics of. I will tell you I will be in full and complete co-operation with them. I will answer everything honestly to the best of my knowledge. But what I would like to make sure what everybody understands is that there are not going to be comments during the course of this investigation until we get all of the information and we come together on that information."
Salguero: Philbin is basically saying "I'll tell the NFL what I know. You, the media, not so much." What he needs to start realizing is something Jimmy Johnson and Don Shula knew almost instinctively: When you are speaking at a press conference, you're not really talking to reporters. You are talking to your players. You are talking to your opponents. You are talking to your organization. Most importantly, you are talking to your fans. When he blows off questions, he's blowing off opportunities. And he's blowing off fans.
(On how he missed incidents of what could be deemed hazing or bullying from Richie Incognito on national television last year) - “What was that?"
(On Richie Incognito’s incidents on television last year where he hacked into Facebook accounts and talking about someone’s girlfriend) – “I never saw it."
(On if he never saw the incidents with Richie Incognito on Hard Knocks) - “I never saw it. What was it on TV, on Hard Knocks? I never saw the show, not once. I was working at the time.”
Salguero: The coach has said numerous times he didn't think Hard Knocks helped the Dolphins or hurt the Dolphins at all last year. Except he apparently formed that opinion without even knowing what was on the show? Hurts his credibility.
(On if incidents staying inside the locker room are part of the NFL) - “Again I think each locker room has its own culture, it’s own identity. I can’t speak to other locker rooms and how they do things.”
Salguero: Excellent escape. But everyone it recognizes for what it is -- avoiding the question.
(On if he has seen rookies getting picked on in a locker room) - “I personally think laughter in a work environment is a good thing. Not at the expense of an individual, but I think laughter can be a healthy, productive thing. But not in a demeaning way at the expense of an individual.”
Salguero: Good answer.
(On what he saw Sunday night that made him say Richie Incognito needed to be suspended) - “Again, the information that I received I took under consideration and I felt this was the appropriate action. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what it was, but I had enough information I felt to make a good decision. That’s exactly what I did."
Salguero: Coach's on a roll. Two good answers in a row. Can he do three?
(On if Richie Incognito being on the team’s leadership council was a trust that was misplaced) - “The leadership council is selected by the players. I have a lot of confidence in our players. I have a lot of confidence in the locker room, the character of the men we have in the locker room. He was selected by his teammates."
Salguero: Three in a row!
(On if there is racism on his team) - “Again, that’s going to fall under the review of the NFL.”
Salguero: Again, a terrible answer. By not answering, you are basically opening the door to the possibility there is racism on your team. If your answer to this question cannot be a resounding, emphatic "Hell no" you did something wrong in the building of your team.
(On if he has addressed the team about the situation) - “We’ve addressed it in a team meeting, yes.”
(On if he spoke with Richie Incognito after his initial conversation with Jonathan Martin) - “Again, I’m not going to get into discussions I have had. I don’t do that with any situation.”
Salguero: Crappy question. Already been asked. And coach, you would be wise to acknowledge that you spoke to Incognito because he's your player, too (for now) and he deserves fair treatment and an audience with you. You gave him that audience. It's alright to admit it. It's not a revelation of state secrets to admit to talking to a player.
(On if he thought it was a serious matter based off his initial conversation with Jonathan Martin) - “He never mentioned to me any accusation of any inappropriate behavior. (It) was never mentioned to me at any point, not in the meeting I had with him, not in the phone conversation I had with him."
Salguero: Honest. Forthright. And a terrible fact for Philbin and the Dolphins because, again, the media found out before you did, Joe.
(On if Jonathan Martin’s representation presented evidence against one player or multiple players) - “A player.”
(On how likely it is that Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito play for the Dolphins again) - “Again, right now the focus is on the football team, the men in the locker room right now (and) preparing our team for Tampa Bay. There will be a time and a place for all of that stuff."
Salguero: Don't want to nitpick so this is fine.
(On if the last four days have been miserable for him) - “Absolutely not. It’s a privilege to serve as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. I feel fortunate every single day I come to work. I work with a great group of men, a great staff, support staff. Absolutely not.”
Salguero: Best answer of the entire presser. Philbin finished strong.