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4 posts from February 19, 2014

February 19, 2014

Dolphins fire Turner to piggyback on O'Neill firing

The Dolphins flew head trainer Kevin O'Neill to Indianapolis and fired him. They told offensive line coach Jim Turner to stay home ... but now he's been fired as well.

The club just announced both men have been "relieved of their duties effective immediately."

And with the announcement comes a statement from owner Stephen Ross and another from coach Joe Philbin.

From Ross, who made the decision on both men:

"The language and behavior as described in the Ted Wells report are against the core values of our organization. After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization.  Jim Turner and Kevin O'Neill are good people who care a great deal about their profession and the players whom they serve, but both exhibited poor judgment at times which led me to this conclusion. As owner, I know firsthand of the high-character and dedicated professionals in our building. I believe in our team and know the hard work and sacrifices they make every day on the field and in the community. However, this is an opportunity and a teaching moment not only for the coaches, staff and players in our locker room, but also for participants throughout sports.  I am in contact with Jonathan Martin and we plan to meet soon. Next week, I will provide further details of our partnership with the NYU School of Law and the NYU Center for Sports and Society regarding a broader effort to address conduct in sports. My commitment to our fans, coaches, players and staff is that we will be a stronger organization going forward."

So Ross plans to meet with Martin? Interesting.

Joe Philbin, who has been noticeably absent in discussing this matter as I wrote today, released his first statement relative to the Wells report:

"As the Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins, it is my responsibility to create an atmosphere that allows each player the opportunity to reach his full potential. As Stephen Ross said, and I agree, the language and behavior outlined in Ted Wells’ report was disappointing and unacceptable. Since I first arrived in Miami, it has been my goal to have a team which honors our proud tradition and represents our fan base the right way both on and off the field.  It is not possible for a team to accomplish its goals when the fundamental values of respect are violated.  That ultimately rests on my shoulders and I will be accountable moving forward for making sure that we emphasize a team-first culture of respect towards one another."

Glad that Philbin holds himself accountable moving forward. As I stated Wednesday morning Philbin needs show how accountable he is and speak with the media Thursday before new GM Dennis Hickey does. It's the right thing to do.

[Update: The Dolphins just announced Philbin will speak to the press at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday. I am announcing my next open letter to the organization will have the following theme: Win more.]

Dolphins fly trainer to Indy and then fire him

The Dolphins today fired longtime and respected head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill. The club has given no reason for the move but it seems clear this is fallout from the Wells report.

But here's the thing:

The Dolphins flew O'Neill to Indianapolis for the NFL combine. And fired him there this afternoon.

Not.

Cool.

At this hour, O'Neill is sitting in his room in Indianapolis. Shocked. Stunned. Upset.

He declined to speak with me when I called.

I am told O'Neill, whose reputation around the NFL is otherwise impeccable, feels he was mischaracterized in the Wells report. That report states O'Neill was uncooperative with investigator Ted Wells. It states he was aware of some of the behavior that Wells concludes was harassing of both offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and assistant athletic trainer Naohisa Inoue.

Obviously, that's the Wells version. O'Neill declined to speak and thus defend himself from those conclusions. But a source close to O'Neill tells me the trainer completely rejects the notion he was aware what was happening and, in some instances according to the report, laughed at the behavior. He believes he's been wronged by this report. 

By the way, none of this excuses the Dolphins for the manner in which they are handling this. Good, bad or indifferent, O'Neill is an 18-year employee of this organization. His tenure dates back to Jimmy Johnson as the head coach. This is not the way to handle a firing of such an employee.

The report has been out for days. ESPN's Chris Mortensen was the first to report this firing early this afternoon.

And the Dolphins aren't commenting and apparently had no actual plan for doing this the right way. Otherwise, why let O'Neill fly 1,200 miles away from home to get rid of him?

Sad.

Turner not headed to Indy Combine

We know Jim Turner won't be the Dolphins offensive line coach in 2014. He'll either be suspended by the NFL or fired by the Dolphins, sources have said.

But after five days of not hearing anything on Turner's status following the release of the Wells report, today we're seeing the first glimpses of what will soon be obvious: That Turner won't be around.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported that Turner will not be joining the Dolphins in Indianapolis for the Combine that begins in earnest with interviews tomorrow. And Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, who will cover the Combine, tells me he was on a flight today to Indy ...

And most of the Dolphins offensive assistant were on his flight ...

Except for Turner.

So the shoe that everyone expected to drop is apparently en route to the ground.

An open letter to Joe Philbin

An open letter to Dolphins coach Joe Philbin ...

 

Armando Salguero

The Miami Herald columnist

3511 NW 91st Ave.

Doral, FL., 33172

 

Joe Philbin

Miami Dolphins head coach

7500 SW 30th Street

Davie, FL., 33314

 

 

Dear coach Philbin,

It's been a while since I've heard from you. Actually, it's been a while since Dolphins fans have seen you or heard from you. We last talked the day after the 2013 season abruptly ended without a playoff berth. You briefly attended new general manager Dennis Hickey's introductory press conference -- but only long enough to hear his and owner Stephen Ross's opening comments. You left as soon as the question and answer period began.

And I get it. You don't like the media much. You probably wish that part of your job would disappear just like you wish the words "bullying" and "harassment" would disappear from Dolphins lexicon. I also understand you think your responsibility to the media and to speak with your fans through the media ended the moment your 10-minute NFL mandated season-ending press conference ended. That is why in the last six weeks you have not uttered a word in public even though you fired your offensive coordinator, you hired a new offensive coordinator, you were involved in a very public and very ugly disagreement with former GM Jeff Ireland and, in the past week, the Ted Wells report was released.

In handling your harassment scandal midway through the season, you did your NFL mandated daily press conferences and you answered some questions about the scandal. But rather than tell your side completely and defend your organization's honor, you often took the easy way out. You often said you could not answer pointed questions about the scandal or give a full accounting or explanation of the situation because the NFL asked you to wait until after the report was released to address the matter. And you often implied while dodging those long-ago questions that you would circle back around to them and give your fans your accounting for what blew up your and your team's reputation when the Wells report was thankfully, finally released.

That report dropped early last Friday. It has been five days and you haven't said a word about the report.

And what's more, as of this writing, you have no plans to say a word about the report. No press conference and definitely no question and answer session are planned or are on the horizon. You haven't even released a statement. Your next planned availability is at the NFL Annual meeting the last week in March. (Yeah, I'm sure you'll be eager to answer the tough questions fans and the media are asking now four weeks from now.)

Any other year and under any other circumstance, your retreat into the offseason bunker would be fine. It insulates you. It gives you a break from bothersome, meddlesome sportswriters like me. I get it.

But here's your problem, coach: This isn't any other year.

This year you helped author a disaster. No, I'm not talking about the on-field collapse the final two games of the season. I'm not talking about your desire to keep offensive coordinator and friend Mike Sherman when the entire rest of the planet understood he had to go. I'm not even talking about your failed relationship with Jeff Ireland and curious business relationship with executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte.

I'm talking about your harassment scandal and all the issues that scandal has given birth to.

The scandal has presented you with problems about what to do with an offensive line coach who apparently lied to you. It has created a delicate situation with some players who may never again play for you and some that almost definitely will remain on your roster and in your locker room.

And that scandal, coach Philbin, has brought you a public relations nightmare the likes of which began last October but is not nearly close to being over.

One of the reasons that nightmare isn't close to ending is because you, in your infinite lack of P.R. wisdom, might soon make it worse. You see, here it is Wednesday and as I already mentioned, you currently have no plans to discuss the Wells report in the near future. Your problem is that Thursday at 2:15 p.m. Hickey will step to the podium at the Indianapolis Combine and address not only the South Florida media, but the national media.

And what do you think they're going to ask him about?

Yes, the Wells report.

So unless something changes today or early Thursday, that will make Hickey the first Dolphins employee who will be asked about the harassment scandal because, well, he's agreed to step in front of the microphones and cameras and note pads and reporters.

But there's a significant problem with that, coach Philbin: Dennis Hickey had nothing to do with the harassment scandal. He was hired three weeks ago.

So someone who had zero to do with turning the gas on this fire is going to be the first to be roasted in front of the media? And the national media, no less? Someone who has less idea than you what happened in that Dolphins locker room between players is the guy this organization --  you -- are pushing forward to answer for it?

And meanwhile, you, coach Philbin, stay out of sight and out of reach? In the bunker?

Is that really the way you want to play this? Is that illustrative of your sense of fair play and what is right?

I hope not. I hope that before 2:15 on Thursday, you decide to do the right thing, the decent thing, and make yourself available to answer the questions you so artfully dodged in October and November.

Here we are three months later so I hope you have a well rehearsed explanation for how you didn't see players re-enacting sex acts during practices that you ran. I hope you have a good explanation for why Jim Turner, the offensive line coach you hired, isn't yet the former offensive line coach you fired. I hope you have a good explanation for why you never had an in-depth conversation with Jonathan Martin about his pondering suicide anytime after May 2013 when you assistant coach reported to you that's what he was dealing with. I hope you can explain why red flags didn't go up for you the day before Martin finally went AWOL when he blew off morning weight lifting and then showed up late and drunk to the practice facility. I hope you have an explanation for how it is you let Richie Incognito become a team leader in 2013 when you knew he had assaulted a female volunteer at a club golf function in 2012.

Those are questions I'm hoping you can answer directly, sincerely. Those are questions fans deserve the answer to.

Much has been made by your boss, club owner Stephen Ross, about the budding great relationship you and Hickey already share. Indeed, Hickey has fully bought into you as well -- telling anyone who'll listen how much he respects your abilities and your professionalism.

But I wonder if that's going to be the same way he thinks after Thursday if he's pushed forward as the proverbial sacrificial lamb to answer questions he has no business being asked while you, the man who headed the Dolphins throughout the scandal, opts to stay in the shadows.

Don't let him take that bullet for you, coach. Don't ruin a good thing so quickly. Don't take the easy way out. Don't fail the accountability test.

Do the right thing for the sake of your new GM and the sake of the organization you represent. Avoid another black eye. Do the right thing.

 

 

Respectfully,

 

Armando