An open letter to Dolphins coach Joe Philbin ...
The Miami Herald columnist
3511 NW 91st Ave.
Doral, FL., 33172
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.