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2 posts from January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014

News and opinion on Jonathan Martin interview

First the news, although in this case there is precious little: In his interview with NBC, Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin claims when he became uncomfortable with what appears to be verbal abuse he told coaches "above me" of his discomfort but "didn't get into specifics because you're not supposed to quote unquote snitch on your teammates."

That suggests Martin told Dolphins offensive line Jim Turner of something going on but obviously was not specific.

Martin also confirmed he never talked to head coach Joe Philbin about his issue, which has been reported here multiple times and Philbin has claimed throughout.

"There was persistent comments of a racial nature, aggressive sexual comments related to my sister and my mother,'' Martin told Dungy in the interview, portions of which aired on NBC's TODAY Wednesday morning. "I’ve spoken to my former teammates in other locker rooms across the NFL and I asked them, does this stuff go on? Is this normal rooking hazing? The consensus was, this is not normal."

Martin claimed he had no issues with pranks (perhaps because he participated in those and pulled them on other teammates also) but said the verbal abuse was "personal."

 "I have no problem with the normal hazing that you see in the NFL," Martin said. "'Get a haircut,' stuff like that, little pranks. The personal attacking nature, I don’t think there’s any place for that."

That's it. That's the news. The full interview with NBC's Tony Dungy will be aired on NBC Network's PFT at 6:30 Wednesday.

Now my opinion ...

At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, Jon Martin, your weak act is officially old. Go away. Just do what you did best as an offensive lineman on the field and back away. Just do what you did when you left your teammates unexpectedly during the season and simply disappear.

Every single step taken by you in this saga feels manufactured and authored by a lawyer as a step toward a suit. And that makes sense because you definitely have gotten excellent legal advice from your family and the lawyer you added to represent you in this matter. And I, for one, would be surprised if your legal team isn't preparing a suit.

The dramatic throwing down of your lunch tray and departure? No other teammate did that when you were among the players standing up and leaving them alone at a lunch table. So the fact you chose that harmless act to make your departure statement seems contrived now.

Seeking medical help? Please tell us where exactly? Please provide the details of what you were treated for? Because it seems you had some issues you're not eager to share. Furthermore, my understanding of classic ambulance chaser strategy is he or she demands you get "medical treatment" so your coming lawsuit can show damage, thus giving the legal action more bite. Give details, please.

The well-timed and slow leaks of allegations of wrong-doing, all of them done anonymously by your camp? Classic. They slimed the parties you intended be slimed and it was done with plausible deniability that you had nothing to do with it. It's brilliant, actually, using a media hungry for a story to feed the narrative of Martin as victim. You did it through the national media, of course, because you wanted to get your "story" out to as many as possible as quickly as possible. But you also wanted to use that vehicle because the national media wasn't going to question your motives. The national media wasn't going to form an opinion that is politically incorrect. And the national media wasn't in the locker room the week before you left when you were stewing and clearly unhappy about getting moved from left tackle to right tackle -- which in hindsight seems like another reason you left the team.

And now this NBC interview? Timed, coincidentally of course, during Super Bowl week. It is the NFL's biggest attention grabbing week of the year. And so that's the week you pick to go public with your first interview. Because that's the week it will get noticed most.

Well, this interview so far, is a dud, big guy.

The most hurtful thing you can point to as reprehensible behavior by the Dolphins is verbal abuse. So where's the "physical attack" your lawyer claimed happened? Why not give details to that? Where's the evidence of code reds?

You mean to tell me the full extent of the "bullying" your camp has alleged comes down to a pattern of mean texts sent and mean and unfeeling insults uttered by your teammates about your race or your mom or your sister?

Are you 11 years old?

You went to Stanford. You know how to communicate. Why didn't you take your tormentors aside and tell them in no uncertain terms the verbal abuse had to stop? Why didn't you tell your head coach, who definitely would have stopped the abuse and done so in-house so as to not embarrass you, your teammates or the organization? And failing that, why didn't you make an open show of one of the abusers in a full-on locker room takedown that would have definitely gotten everyone's attention -- including your coaches -- and screamed something had to change?

(Sorry people, but sometimes a man has to be a man and defend himself and his honor with whatever tools are available. Yes, flight is one of those tools, but that one pretty much sealed Martin's fate in Miami. He'll never play on that team again. He had to know that.)

Another thing:

Please Tony Dungy, you're a nice man and a Christian. So where is your discernment in all this, my brother? So far this interview shows no moment where you ask Martin why at the height of his frustration he didn't simply get face to face with whomever was tormenting him and do what men have done since David faced down Goliath -- they stand up for themselves.

No, NBC would probably frown upon this line of questioning because it would fly counter to the politically correct demasculinization of men in the 21st century. But if Martin's response to the abuse was always to grin and bear it, or even join in the abuse of others to be part of the group, that speaks poorly of the abusers, no doubt, but it also shows how weak Martin is in a den of Alpha males.

Dungy, by the way, is part of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross's committee that will look into establishing a code of conduct in the locker room. That the Dolphins need such a committee speaks poorly of the coaching staff because it is their job to establish that code and make it clear to players in no uncertain terms. Discpline on the field is born off the field, folks.

Dungy should be removed from this committee because he no longer seems impartial.

One more thing:

None of this gets Richie Incognito off the hook. He's a meathead. He displays all the signs of a bully -- loud, obnoxious at times, demanding attention. He will not be and should not be in any future Dolphins locker room. His abuse of Martin and perhaps others within the Dolphins organization is reprehensible. And his text messages? Who talks like that? But because he's something of a bully, he can be stopped dead in his tracks.

Early in training camp in 2013 he started calling another reporter a "nerd." One day as I'm standing in the middle of the locker room, he walks by and starts joking about me looking like I was lifting weights (which I don't) and then started speaking gibberish as if in mocking Spanish.

I asked Incognito politely, but firmly and seriously to stop. "Just stop."

He did. Never again.

The prepared messages from Ross, Hickey

The Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey as their general manager on Sunday. He found out right after he got out of church.

And he, owner Stephen Ross and the rest of organization had two days to prepare for the press conference they held on Tuesday. That gave everyone time to get away from the idea of saying Hickey was the best man for the job because, well, he was the third man offered the job. It gave Ross time to figure out how to explain why he made a change in parting ways with Jeff Ireland and why he picked Hickey. Obviously he wasn't going to say he picked Hickey because he believed him the best candidate because, again, the organization offered the job to others.

And Ross also had time to explain the so-called structure issue that alienated multiple candidates although not Hickey.

What follows is the prepared statements from Ross and Hickey. This was their message unfiltered. It was edited by the Dolpins for mistakes -- such as when Ross said Hickey worked eight years with the Bucs when it was really 18.

I have taken the liberty to bold what I believe are the most important points:

(Stephen Ross statement) – “Thank you Jason and welcome everybody. I’m very happy to be here.  I know this is our first press conference of the year and I’m looking forward to a very successful year and it’s been an exciting first part of the year for us.  Probably looking for a general manager is probably one of the toughest jobs I’ve had because it really involves something that…it’s kind of hard to prepare yourself for. You’re interviewing people that really haven’t had the responsibility you’re asking them to have and so you’re looking to find somebody who’d be a perfect fit for an organization.  Before I started this search, I spoke to probably some of top successful General Manager (and asked), what characteristics do you really look for in the general manager as opposed to naming names and all that.  But, how do you find the right person?  And the words that came out of his mouth, 'You have to find somebody who can be joined at the hip with your head coach. Somebody who puts the team and the organization first and can be totally compatible with the head coach and let the head coach be the representative of the team to the public.  With you have to find evaluation skills.  That’s obviously is finding personnel and everybody has evaluated players, but how do you really determine when someone else has made the picks how good evaluation skills that person has.  That makes it really difficult.  Obviously, you want someone with real passion for football and having a lot of integrity. ' So that was really the characteristics we were looking for and I’m really happy today to say that I really feel that we have found the person with all four of those characteristics.  Dennis Hickey has spent 18 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting at the bottom of the personnel department and rising to be the Director of Player Personnel.  We spent a lot of time talking to him.  Getting his thoughts.  Kind of determining if he would have that compatibility with the Coach (Joe Philbin), because to me that was the most important thing.  You all know we made change and the reason we made the change wasn’t because I didn’t think highly of Jeff.  Because I have a lot of confidence in Jeff.  He was a good friend, but we needed to have harmony within the organization.  We had to think as one organization where everybody had respect for each other.  That operates in the same mindset at all times in all situations.  So we started our search, I was joined by Carl Peterson and also Matt Higgins and Tom Garfinkel, our CEO, as well as with Dawn Aponte. Everybody really looked at the organization first to try to decide what would be the best.  Dennis Hickey, as I said, has performed that task.  That’s where he started and I think his knowledge and his dedication and is willing to work and spend the time, I thought was a perfect fit for the Miami Dolphins.  In terms of what the organization will be, Dennis will be the General Manager.  He will be responsible for the 53-man roster and he will work with the rest of the organization.  Dawn Aponte will be reporting to him and assisting with him in making this organization or working Coach Philbin to bring the Miami Dolphins back to the prominence that we all want.  I know if anybody at all who wants to see them win more than I do and provide whatever resources are necessary for this organization to regain its past.  With that let me introduce Dennis and then we’ll have a few questions after.”

(Dennis Hickey statement) – “Thank you Mr. Ross.  I’m truly honored and count it as privilege to be named the General Manager of the Miami Dolphins.  It was a thorough process.  Challenging process.  But it was key for me as I went through the process, I wanted to get a feel for just the level of commitment to bringing a championship back to Miami and through every interaction that I had with Stephen and through the whole interview process I found a person that was totally dedicated to committing whatever resources needed to bring a championship team back to Miami.  Just I was impressed with his knowledge.  We had numerous conversations and his knowledge of not only of his own team but also my team and players and we had one interchange where he was asking me about the high school achievements of one of the players we drafted and I was very impressed with that knowledge and just a passion and just his commitment in know that he will commit whatever resources that we need to make us a winner.  Also want to thank the Glazer family and the Buccaneer organizations. Spent 18 years, almost half my life as part of that organization and through it all, even though I was with the same organization all those 18 years, worked under several different head coaches, several different GM’s and was truly blessed to learn from some great men and great football minds and great people -- starting with Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Coach Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano in addition to the General Managers that I’ve worked under, Rich McKay, Bruce Allen, and Mark Dominik.  Again, I took it upon myself as a young scout to just be a sponge.  There was so much knowledge in the building that I always wanted to look and learn and not only learn from successes but learn from failures and continue to hone my craft not only as an evaluator but also with the thought of eventually becoming a GM and how I would detail my processes that would lead to good decisions. I was truly blessed to be in the Bucs organization and also have a good relationship with Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. I only worked under them for a couple of weeks before this opportunity presented itself.  I’m also blessed to have my family here.  The scouting profession, like the coaching profession is very challenging and a lot sacrifices have to be made by the families.  I’m blessed to have a beautiful and lovely wife that’s a special person, that’s my soul mate, and really my guardian angel here on earth that has been with me and really helped me through this process.  Being patient for my opportunity.  The talented and beautiful daughter, Brianna, age 14 who will always be daddy’s little girl.  Then my son, what I call my mini me, Barrett.  Upon learning that I accepted the job we were leaving church.  We were in my wife’s minivan and got the call from Mr. Ross and Coach Philbin and the excitement and he’s like okay, when do I get my jersey?  So we made sure that drove down to the local sporting goods and got him his (Ryan) Tannehill jersey. They’re a part of, a big part of me and I’m so thankful for their support throughout the years.  I’m also thankful for my mom and my dad who passed away a couple of years ago and just the foundation they laid for me, making me the person that I am.   Appreciate my two brothers.  As I had an antidote as we talked with a lot of staff over at the stadium today that they taught me competitive nature at an early age.  Two older brothers, we competed about everything and that kind of drove the competitive nature that drove me to want to play sports and when I was done playing sports to get in the sports profession.  I think as a competitive environment as there is in the world and just excited to be part of that.  My brothers, Bart and Brett, they’re both very successful in their endeavors and they’re a big part of shaping who I am.”

“You know as we went through this process there were so many things that as I did my research on the Dolphins organization and the past and the present and the future it struck my first time in the building I was let through and seen, you know all the pictures of the Dolphin greats.  Because that’s the one thing about this organization.  It has a very proud past.  History of not only good players but great players.  Not only great players but legendary players.  Not only good coaches but great coaches.  Not only great coaches but legendary coaches.  Not only good teams but great teams.  Not only great teams but legendary teams.  And just the excitement to join in that organization and embracing all of the great names and seeing the pictures of Dan Marino, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas.  Just knowing the rich tradition that has come before me and come before our future team because I think it’s so important that as our players, that they embrace the greatness that has been part of this organization and that was a huge part of my draw to the organization. That’s my personal commitment is to return and build a, continue to build a team along side Coach Philbin that is a team that our passionate fan base can be proud of on the field.  That’s successful on the field but also that our community can be proud of off the field.  And that can bring, look I’m about winning.  Okay.  My competitive nature as they asked me, ‘What is it about you that separates you’ and that’s competitive nature.  I no longer play.  My competitive outlet is scouting, evaluating players, being innovative, looking at different things, different ways to approach team building that can be better than the other 31 teams.  It starts with unified vision, detailed proven processes and surrounding yourself with as many talented people as you can.  That’s the goal and that was the other draw of the Dolphins organization.  I had come to know Coach Philbin, just as an area scout in the Midwest going through Iowa and as an area scout you watch a lot of practices, you see how coaches interact and the ones that develop and develop players and teach are always the ones that kind of stood out and I always felt that Coach Philbin was one of those and as I followed his career it was no surprise to me that he continued to climb the ladder, had success at every point.  And that was a big draw to the Dolphins organization for me was the opportunity to work a long side Coach Philbin with commonality as I went through the interview process and kind of laid out a vision of who I am.  My beliefs, my core beliefs, my philosophy.  What I believe in, an organization of trust and integrity.  A group of passionate people that will work hard, that will use innovative methods to become a winner and as we sat there it was kind of like, yes, this fits.  As I came back and talked to my wife I said it went great.  I feel like we’re already on the same page and our philosophies are the same and we just want to build a winner and do it together, collectively and there’s no magic pill to building a championship team.  I was fortunate in my time in Tampa to watch a championship team being built and it took the entire organization working together and it was a process.  And it was built one decision at a time.  That’s going to be the same way it is here but the goal is to be a winner and to win championships.  One of the other draws to the organization and why I felt it was a fit for me was I thought it had a good nucleus of young players that I felt could develop into a championship quality roster.  And so I was excited about that.  I was excited about the people.  As I interacted with them over the last couple of days and I’m actually in the building and working with the people, all of my impressions have been confirmed.  Just the talent, as I sat down with Dawn Aponte and went through out salary cap structure and again that was another appealing, the salary cap flexibility under her direction and her command of the salary cap.  I was fortunate to participate in a GM Symposium over the summer at the Wharton School of Business and she presented on a couple of different salary cap topics and I was always impressed on her knowledge of the cap,  her abilities to work numbers and also just her, the presence and ability to work together with people.  So all those things were draws at every point.  I just felt it was a perfect fit for me.  It was a perfect fit for my family and I felt it was place that I could come in and through good decision making, one decision at a time that we could build a winner.  A sustained championship team here in Miami and that’s why I took the job.  That’s why I’m hearing, like I said, every day since it’s been just complete confirmation of all my thoughts.  As I have interacted more with Tom Garfinkel, Matt Higgins, Stephen Ross, with the PR, the strength coach, Darren Krein, the medical staff, Kevin O’Neill.  Even the assistants, Anne (Rodriguez), coaches assistant, who’s been here 35 years.  To interact with her and just see everything fit.  My own personal assistant Annie (Berger), everything, I see an organization that has the foundation, that has the people and has the vision to become a championship organization and that’s my personal commitment to play my part.  To be that compliment to all the talent that’s already been assembled here and the staff not only with the nucleus of players but also the people in the front office and just continue to work, roll up my sleeves and I’m just anxious to get to work and that process has already started.  I came in on Monday and we’ve had meetings with the medical staff, we had meetings with our personnel departments, meetings with the coaches and continue to get to know the roster better.  I have a knowledge of the roster.  We played you guys, we played us twice, we played us twice and so I have knowledge of the roster but you don’t really know the roster fully until you get in the building, get to know the coaches, get to know the players on a more intimate level and so I’m anxious to get to do that and I just know that the commitment from Mr. Ross is there for the resources for us to build a championship team.  I know the team is in place.   People that can complement and work together under a unified vision to bring the championship back to Miami.  This is a passionate fan base.  Every time I’ve been to a Miami Dolphin game when we played you guys you just notice the passion because it’s a passion based on history and success and I don’t take the charge of being the General Manager lightly and you know building that champion that our passionate fan base deserves and that this city deserves and that South Florida deserves.”