February 20, 2014

Everything Joe Philbin said (and shouted) today

Joe Philbin addressed the local and national media today. You already got a taste of what he said in shouting an opening statement and answering questions in a more calm manner.

Well, here's everything he said. In total.

(Opening statement) – “I remember the first day I interviewed for the Miami Dolphins head coaching job with Steve Ross, and we talked a lot about the type of program I wanted to run in Miami. One of the things I told Steve was it’s important to me that any player we have or any staff member we have, I wanted to create an atmosphere where their experience as a Miami Dolphin, whether it was for three weeks, three months, three years, 10 years, was the best professional experience they ever had. And if they left Miami and went to another organization or left and went to work for General Electric, Goldman Sachs or whatever great company in America, they would look back on their time as a Miami Dolphin and say,  ‘That organization was committed to helping me reach my full potential. They committed the resources, the time and invested in the individuals to make us a great football team,’ so they can look back and say they had a tremendous experience. Any time that isn’t accomplished, anytime one of our players and staff members has an experience contrary to that, it requires my attention, it needs to be corrected, it needs to be looked at (and) it needs to be fixed. I want everyone to know, I’m the one responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins facility. I’m the one who sets the schedule. I’m the one who decides when the practices are. I decide what time the players eat, how they meet, how they lift, everything that they do in the facility. When they leave the facility, we have kind of a message board, TV board, and it says on it 24/7/365 every day. I walk out there every day, they walk out there every day, as a reminder that we all represent one another. Everything that I do impacts everybody I work with at the Miami Dolphins on a daily basis, and everything that they do impacts me. So I think you could imagine when I read the report that you have, and I got the report the same minute you got it, some of the facts, the behavior, the language that was outlined in the report is inappropriate and is unacceptable, and I’m the one as I mentioned earlier that is in charge of the workplace. I can tell you, I can tell our fans, I can tell you sitting here, I can tell our players, we are going to do things about it. We are going to make it better. We are going to look at every avenue. We are going to uncover every stone, and we are going to have a better workplace. I promise you that. I’m going to make sure that happens. So I’ll take any questions you have."

(On what in the Wells Report that he didn’t know about before it was released) -  “There were some little details that I didn’t know about. As you could imagine I met with the investigators, I believe it was November 18th. It was in the midst of the season. We were still coaching. We were still playing games, so there wasn’t time for me necessarily to do a lot of personal investigating into some of these claims. A majority of these things I knew about."

(On what he can personally do to make sure that his message of promoting integrity and accountability throughout the organization gets through)  - “Like I said, I have to do a better job. I’m going to look at every way, the way we educate, the way we communicate, the way we talk to one another. I’m going to look at every avenue. We have a lot of dedicated, committed people in our organization, in our building, that make a lot of sacrifices every single day when they go to work. I have to make sure that we create a better atmosphere and a better environment."

(On if part of his job is to know what is going on in the locker room) -  “Look, I’m the head football coach. The team, the performance of the team, the record, the 8-8 record, that falls on my shoulders. I’m going to be more vigilant, I’m going to be more diligent, I’m going to be more visible and I’m going to have a better pulse."

(On why he didn’t follow up with Jonathan Martin after he briefly left the team in the offseason) -  “Well when I was made aware of his condition, I immediately connected him with medical treatment. I had subsequent discussions, nothing at great length. Out of respect for Jonathan (Martin) I’m not going to get into the details of those discussions. I think that he should be the one that speaks about his health status."

(On if he feels he should have followed up with Jonathan Martin more after he left the team) -  “Again, I connected him with medical care immediately when I knew that he needed some. Again, I’m not going to comment any further about those discussions about his health."

(On if he has been in contact with the league regarding possible penalties against players, and if he sees any scenario where one of the players implicated in the report doesn’t return to the team) - “We are in concert with the NFL and the commissioner’s office in regard to potential discipline of any player. We are communicating with them on that. We haven’t made any decisions on anybody’s future in terms of the 2014 Miami Dolphins."

(On if Kevin O’Neill made the trip to Indianapolis before he was relieved of his duties) -  “As I mentioned to you before, I was interviewed I believe on November 18th by Ted Wells and the investigative team. We received the report exactly the same day, same time that you did. That was a time-span of 89 days, I believe. As an organization, when you are talking about the careers and future of people who are dedicated professionals, we felt we needed to deliberate. We needed to discuss. We didn’t feel that five days was an exurbanite amount of time when you consider the implications of those decisions. That being said, Kevin O’Neill is a dedicated person, professional. He gave 18 years of service. I don’t know if there is ever really a good time to relieve someone of their duties. Would it have been better maybe if he was not here (in Indianapolis)? When we made a decision as an organization, we felt it was fair to communicate that decision as soon as possible, and that’s what we did."

(On what he told everyone in the organization before they met with the investigators) -  “To tell the truth, tell the truth. It’s always good advice."

(On if this has been an embarrassing six months for the franchise) -  “It’s been tough on a lot of people. It’s been tough on our ownership, it’s been tough on our fan-base (and) it’s been tough on everyone in the locker room. It’s touched a lot of people in the country. It’s been difficult, but I know I speak for our owner, Steve Ross, we are resolute in our dedication to getting this right and correcting any problems that existed. We are going to do it."

(On if Jonathan Martin would be able to return this season) –  “Well our owner Steve Ross has reached out to Jonathan, I believe at some point in the near future they plan on getting together, so for me to make any comments prior to that meeting I think would be inappropriate."

(On if he thinks the players could handle having him back in the locker room)  – “Again, until that meeting occurs, I’m not going to make any comments."

(On if he wanted to release Richie Incognito after the golf incident)  – “Well, when I was made aware of that situation that you’re referencing I took immediate action in the form of player discipline.  Obviously there are many options that we discussed as an organization what the best course would be and that’s what we came up with.  I’m not going to pass the buck to anybody else, I was a part of it, that was the decision that we made."

(On if he regrets not cutting ties with Richie Incognito at that point) – “Again, that was the decision that we made at that point in time so I stand by it and that’s what we did."

(On how Richie was made a leader on the football team after the incident at the golf course)  – “I didn’t necessary name him a leader.  There’s a leadership council that we have in place, the process is that the players elect the players that they want to be on the leadership council.  Out of respect to the process that’s how the votes came in and he was on the leadership council."

(On if he knew about the issues while they were happening)  – “I did not know about it when it was going on, no.  The majority of things I did not know about when it was going on, no."

(On how he became aware of the issues before his interview) – “Things became quite public around November 1st, so some things seeped in and leaked in and then I heard the same voice message that you’ve probably heard and the country has probably heard.  Those are things that as I started, those are things I heard.  I believe that phone call was maybe in March, or certainly I had never heard that text message, so as different things occurred over the period of time I became more aware of the situation."

(On knowing what he knows now, how would he have handled the situation)  – “I don’t have the benefit to look back. Certainly I would have hoped that I would have noticed some of these things, I can tell you that I had never turned my back.  If I had heard this type of language or these type of acts being done I would have intervened immediately.  There’s a common decency that people need to have toward one another and when that gets violated that’s an issue.   I certainly wish I had seen some of it, and I could have intervened quicker and perhaps would not have grown to this proportion that it’s grown to.  It’s easy to look back, that’s how it unfolded so now I have to focus on the future and how we’re going to correct the problems."

(On if he feels fortune that he still has a job) – “Again, Steve Ross is the one that does the hiring of the Miami Dolphins, that’s a question you should ask him."

(On if it will affect the Miami Dolphins brand, where players would not want to play for the Dolphins etc.)  – “I believe in the players. I’ve stated I believe when we first became aware of some of these allegations that I have faith in our locker room, faith in the players that we have.  I think we have an outstanding coaching staff.  I know we have work to do like every other football team here that’s why we’re here.  We’re here to work, we’re here to evaluate these prospects and improve our football team.  I’m confident in the direction, I’m confident we’re going to make the changes necessary to improve the workplace at the Miami dolphins and improve our football team.”

Quickie highlights from Joe Philbin presser

Joe Philbin today became the first Dolphins official to discuss the Wells report and the scandal that spawned that report. He stepped to the microphones in Indianapolis in front of the national and some local media (not me, I'm home) and started with a statement ....

Philbin talked of creating an atmosphere where players' experience with the Dolphins was "the best professional experience they had."

"Anytime that isn't accomplished, anytime a player or staff member or anyone has an experience contrary to that, it requires my attention," he said. "It needs to be corrected, it needs to be looked at, it needs to be fixed."

Then going futher in his memorized statement he added ...

"I want everybody to know,  was responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins facility. I'm the one that sets the schedule, I decide when the practices are, I decide when players eat, how the practices are, how they lift, everything they do in the facility."

That's good. Everything means everything and Philbin is being accountable here.

Philbin said he got the Wells report at the "same minute" the public got the report.

"I think you can imagine when I got the report, some of the facts, the behavior, the language that was outlined in the report was inappropriate," Philbin said. "It's unacceptable. And I'm the one who is charge of the work place. And I can tell you ... we're going to do things about it. We're going to make it better."

Then Philbin stopped his shouting into the microphone and took questions.

Philbin was asked if he believes it is his job to know what was going on and if not, did he fail by not knowing what was going on as the Wells report stated?

"Look, I'm the head football coach," Philbin said. "The team, the performance of the team, the 8-8 record, that falls on my shoulders. I'm going to be more vigilant. I'm going to be more diligent. I'm going to be more visible. I'm going to have a better pulse."

Philbin defended himself from the idea that he didn't delve in depth with Jonathan Martin on his suicidal thoughts after May 2013 despite the fact those thoughts lingered for Martin.

"When I was made aware of his condition, I immediately connected him with medical treatment," Philbin said. "And I had subsequent discussions. Nothing at great length. And out of respect for Jonathan, I'm not going to get into the details of those discussions. He should be the one that speaks on his health status."

Philbin kept open the door for a Jonathan Martin return. He said owner Stephen Ross will meet with Martin, something Ross said in a statement Wednesday, and decisions will be made after that.

Philbin said no decisions have been on the future of any players mentioned in the report -- Richie Incognito, Martin, John Jerry, Mike Pouncey. We all know that not to be true. Incognito is not coming back. Ross has said Martin's not coming back.

"We haven't made any decision on anybody's future," Philbin said.

Phiibin then took on more responsibility and showed more accountability.

"I have to do a better job," he said. "We're going to look at everything. The way we educate, the way we communicate, the way we talk to one another. I'm going to look at every avenue. I have to make sure we create a better atmosphere and better environment."

Philbin was asked how he could abide with the Dolphins players voting Incognito a leader on the team in 2013 when he had assualted a female golf course volunteer at a team sponsored event in 2012.

"I didn't necessarily name him a leader," Philbin said.

But he allowed it.

"There's a leadership council that we have in place. The process is the players elect the people they want to be on the leadership council. Out of respect to the process that's how the votes came in and he was on the leadership council."

So in a presser where Philbin is taking accountability for everything that goes on within his team, he's now distancing himself from this issue. Bad moment.

Does Philbin wish he handled this whole affair differently?

"I don't have the benefit to look back," Philbin said. "I would have hoped that I noticed some of these things. I can tell you I never turned my back. If I had heard this type of language or these type of acts, I would have intervened immediately.

" ... I certainly wish I would have seen some of it. I would have intervened quicker and perhaps it would not have grown to this proportion it has grown to. But it's easy to look back. That's how it happened. That's how it unfolded. I have to focus on the future and correct the problems."

Philbin was asked if he thinks he should keep his job ...

"Steve Ross is the one that does the hiring for the Miami Dolphins," Philbin said. "That's a question you should ask him."

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

February 18, 2014

Dan Marino out at CBS, Dolphins a possibility?

Remember those rumors and even fan hopes that Dan Marino would somehow swoop in from television land and deliver to the Dolphins organization some leadership and a name that would bring respect again?

Well, you're about to hear more of that now that Marino is out of work. CBS today released a statement saying Marino and Shannon Sharpe are out from their nationally televised NFL Today pregame show while former Chiefs and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is in.

So Marino needs a job.

So here come the rumors about the Dolphins.

You'll recall Marino left television briefly in 2004 to join the Dolphins organization. He served as some sort of VP for a few weeks before deciding he wanted to go back to TV.

Well, the Broncos did that idea one better when they hired their former quarterback legend John Elway to be the head of their football operations. Elway learned under then general manager Brian Xanders for a year and then took over full control.

The Broncos were in the Super Bowl a month ago.

That has led Dolphins fans to exclaim, "Why not us?"

Well, aside from the fact Marino has no training in personnel or running a club, until today he had a job that he liked, paid well and required not a ton of effort. That obstacle is now gone.

So will the Dolphins chase Marino? As has been reported here, the club had informal conversations with Marino two years ago about joining the team in some capacity. Marino never closed the door. And neither did the Dolphins.

But neither did either party pursue the matter futher.

With the Dolphins under the stink of the NFL harassment scandal, coming off an untidy general manager search, news of dysfunction within the football side of the organization and, oh yeah, that late season collapse that turned an almost certain playoff berth into a major disappointment, perhaps chasing Marino is the thing owner Stephen Ross decides he'd like to do.

One word of caution: Ross has gained a reputation for chasing a lot of folks -- Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning, Nick Caserio -- but has landed none of them.

February 17, 2014

It's NFL office's turn to speak on harassment scandal

Welcome to Monday. Today the clock starts on the NFL's reaction to the Dolphins harassment scandal report investigator Ted Wells authored and delivered to the league Friday.

With a weekend to read and digest the report and the NFL Combine starting later this week, the timing suggests NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will handle whatever business needs to be handled in the coming days, and perhaps as early as today.

What business?

The future of guard Richie Incognito going forward. The future of guard John Jerry going forward. The future of center Mike Pouncey going forward. The future of offensive line coach Jim Turner going forward. The future of head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill going forward.

The future of head coach Joe Philbin going forward.

The Ted Wells report made all of the people mentioned above look bad in one way or another. And while not all will disciplined either by the NFL or the Dolphins, all have been dealt a blow to their reputations.

That's painful in of itself. But that blow having been already delivered, we should all care about the next shoe to drop.

So let's consider the possibilities:

Turner: It is a stain on the Dolphins organization that this man was not fired within hours of the report being published. The report paints Turner as having known about some improper behavior relative to the harassment of Jonathan Martin and Player A -- known to everyone now as Andrew McDonald. The report paints Turner as having joined the mocking of McDonald over the alleged but untrue rumor that he was homosexual. And, in a rare triple crown, the report paints Turner as something of a liar when faced with questions during the investigation and even from his own head coach.

The fact Turner is still with the team is, frankly, offensive and paints owner Stephen Ross and Philbin as men of many words but little resolve or action in doing what they said they'd do -- address the ills within the Dolphins locker room culture and solve the issues.

The only way Ross and Philbin get a pass on delaying here is because they may be under orders from Goodell to wait on NFL sanctions before passing their own clubcentric judgment.

No, the NFL isn't going to fire Turner. But a suspension is possible. A year-long one is my guess.

Incognito: He is at the center of the whole affair and while he still contends his were no more than playful barbs and taunts, the report slices and dices him up pretty good. And here is his problem, he could get off for the rude and harassing treatment of his teammate with a suspension applying the time already served on suspension in 2013.

But Incognito's new problem is the other stuff he did that came to light in the Wells report. His harassment of assistant athletic trainer Naohisa Inoue was highlighted as particularly troubling because Wells saw that Incognito held a more powerful position within the organization than Inoue -- a status he didn't hold over other players. This made the abuse of Inoue egregious.

From the report:

"Martin said that Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey directed racial slurs at the Assistant Trainer, calling him a "Jap," a "Chinaman" and a "chink"; referred to him as a "dirty communist" or a "North Korean"; made demands such as "give me some water you fucking chink"; spoke to him in a phony, mocking Asian accent, including asking for "rubby rubby sucky sucky"; and called his mother a "rub and tug masseuse." Martin also informed us that Incognito and Jerry taunted the Assistant Trainer by saying that they had had sex with his girlfriend.

"On December 7, 2012 (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor), Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem and jokingly threatened to harm the Assistant Trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. Martin reported that the Assistant Trainer confided to him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor prank, finding it derogatory and demeaning.

"Jerry and Pouncey each admitted that they repeatedly used racial language toward the Assistant Trainer -- including calling him a "Jap" and a "Chinaman" -- and acknowledged their Pearl Harbor Day stunt. Incognito likewise did not dispute that he and others directed these kinds of words at the Assistant Trainer, but said that this language was all in good humor and that the Assistant Trainer recognized that the words were not meant seriously, even responding with his own jokes. Moreover, Incognito stated that he did not discern a power or status differential between himself and the Assistant Trainer because he viewed everyone as equal, regardless of his position in the Dolphins organization. Incognito also claimed that he had a good friendship with the Assistant Trainer that included socializing outside of work. He pointed out that the headbands were gifts from the Assistant Trainer.

"Martin told us that until he saw how the Assistant Trainer was treated he had never in his life witnessed flagrant racial harassment. Martin felt that the Assistant Trainer awkwardly laughed along with some of the racist comments, even though he was in fact offended. Another player reported that for a one-month period when he was receiving treatment in the training room, he heard Incognito making derogatory comments, including racial remarks, to the Assistant Trainer every day. Like Martin, this player also felt that the Assistant Trainer’s awkward laughter in response to Incognito’s verbal abuse belied his unease. This player also was offended to have to witness the abuse."

Bad deal for Incognito because now his problem extends to the harassment of players and someone viewed as an underling within the organizational structure. And Incognito's problem increases.

Incognito, you see, kept a log book of fines within the team's Kangaroo Court. Those fines outlined some of his harassment of not only Martin, but possibly Nate Garner as well.

The problem is Incognito seemed to recognize this was something of a smoking gun so he asked Pouncey and Nate Garner to destroy the book. Neither did. The fact Incognito wanted to cover his tracks? That's going to be another problem for him beyond just the interaction with Martin. So while Incognito might have gotten off for time served based on his harassment of Martin, the other stuff might pile more punishment on his plate.

O'Neill: He's worked for the team for 18 years and is generally respected inside and outside the organization. But the Wells report states O'Neill on mulitiple ocassions heard Jerry, Pouncey and Incognito make jokes and crude comments about Martin's sister. And, the bad part, he sometimes laughed at them. The report also states O'Neill heard the comments directed as Inoue and similarly laughed. The report states O"Neill was aware of what was going on and rather than tell his superior, he advised Martin to fight back. (Me? I'd advise Martin to fight back and tell the head coach). The report states O'Neill was not cooperative in his interview with Wells and actually left the interview before it concluded. Fireable offenses? Don't think so. Sanctionable offenses? Probably.

Pouncey: The Dolphins at this moment do not intend to trade him. So let's get that rumor cleared up right now. He is a good player at a key position. He isn't on the market today. But is he in trouble? Heck yes. He was Incognito's running mate, his wingman so to speak. His texts about his attitude toward Martin are eye-opening to anyone who believes Martin might be able to return to the Dolphins locker room. He similarly engaged in mocking the assistant trainer. And in several parts, Wells writes, he either gives no credit to what Pouncey was telling or questions Pouncey's truthfulness. That's a problem for Pouncey. He could easily be looking at an NFL suspension of some length. Remember a few months ago when Pouncey said this whole thing was a media fabrication?

Jerry: He's a free agent. And he's not that good. And now he's got this NFL report portraying him as the third of the Three Amigos that harassed Martin and others. Frankly, I didn't know John Jerry could put two consecutive sentences together, much less be part of this deal. But he is. And while he doesn't seem to, ahem, stretch the truth as much as Pouncey, Wells dings him for that a couple of times also.

Philbin: He's not going to get fired. It doesn't look like he's going to be sanctioned by the NFL because Wells sees the head coach's total plea of cluelessness on this scandal as plausible and positive. I've spoken to no one else in the NFL outside the Dolphins who shares that view. Philbin's reputation has suffered. It is not great league-wide outside of his small circle of friends. That might be the extent of his sanctions. 

February 15, 2014

Too much? Will Joe Philbin come clean and answer questions?

When the Dolphins held their press conference to introduce Dennis Hickey as their new general manager, everyone in the organization who is anyone attended. And that means coach Joe Philbin, who was part of the interview process for GM, was there.

But as soon as the floor was opened for questions, Philbin left.

He obviously didn't want to answer questions about the interview process for a new GM. He didn't want to talk about Hickey. He didn't want to answer this question: "What responsibility do you believe you have for your relationship with former general manager Jeff Ireland deteriorating into dysfunction?"

I relate Philbin making himself scarce for the last of the Dolphins opportunities to speak with the press, and by extension you the fans, to get to this:

Philbin is good at not explaining what it is that troubles the Dolphins. He declined to take questions at the presser by simply fleeing. He often declined to explain what was wrong with his team in 2013, instead contending the club was "close." He declined to discuss the NFL scandal as it was happening by saying he could not talk about it because there was an ongoing report underway.

When Ted Wells asked Philbin questions, the coach made it quite clear he knew nothing that was going on. That was plausible to Wells.

That is unacceptable to me.

I don't expect Philbin to know every detail about every player on his roster. I don't expect Philbin to be aware of the interpersonal relationship between players away from the Dolphins facility. But a coach is paid to have the pulse of his locker room. Philbin particularly made a point of often telling us how wonderful the locker room culture in Miami was.

And yet, as Richie Incognito and his group harassed Jonathan Martin, often within that very locker room Philbin often vouched for, the leader of the football side of the Dolphins organization was completely ignorant to what was happening.

Stuff was happening at practice and Philbin didn't see it.

Assistant coaches were hearing and seeing and doing things and Philbin didn't know. And when he asked, they apparently lied to him.

Philbin asked players to "respect each other," according to the Wells report. And those players Philbin is paid to lead ignored the coach's wishes.

I don't know what's worse, the ignorance of the problem or being ignored by the players Philbin asked treat each other with respect before things get out of hand.

Either way, Philbin shows an obvious lack of leadership.

Will that get the coach in trouble? I doubt it. Owner Stephen Ross apparently doesn't see any problem in Philbin's lack of leadership.

I do. And I predict we haven't seen the last of it.

The Dolphins -- no, Philbin -- should have fired offensive line coach Jim Turner on Friday in the wake of that report. Didn't happen. The NFL might snatch the control from Philbin's soft grip and suspend Turner instead.

And when all this is over, will Philbin answer for any of this, the most embarrassing chapter in Dolphins history? I predict he will not. He declined to take questions about the NFL scandal when it was ongoing.

I doubt he ever calls a press conference and answers questions about the issue following the NFL's resolution of the matter. I doubt he answers why he didn't ask Martin why he walked away from the team? Why he never had an in-depth discussion with Martin about his May 2013 contemplation of suicide anytime after May 2013? Why he allowed Incognito to be a team leader when so many within the organization saw the guard is a divisive guy?

And if he doesn't give us some answers it'll be further proof -- up there with the losing record and two-game collapse at the end of 2013 and the dysfunction with Ireland -- that the Dolphins job may be too big for Joe Philbin.

February 14, 2014

Ross: Wells report language, behavior "disturbing"

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is distrubed by the language and the behaviour outlined in the Ted Wells report released today.

Here is a statement from Ross on the matter: 

Before you read it, understand Ross does not address the matters most on people's minds, which are whether OL coach Jim Turner will be fired, whether athletics trainer Kevin O'Neill will be fired, whether John Jerry will be re-signed based on the report's findings, whether center Mike Pouncey will be punished, and what is Jonathan Martin's status with the team going forward.

The statement:

“Today, I received the final report from NFL independent counsel Ted Wells and have now reviewed it.  I want to first thank Commissioner Roger Goodell for granting our request to have an independent review on this matter. I also want to thank Ted Wells and his team, who conducted a thorough, professional and objective review.

“I now have had a chance to read the report and obviously, the language that was used and the behavior as described is deeply disturbing. Although the report commended Joe Philbin’s commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization, I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report. We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. It is important to me, important to Coach Philbin and important to the entire Dolphins organization.

“We are committed to a positive workplace environment where everyone treats each other with respect. We have reviewed our Code of Conduct and workplace policies and are making enhancements to the areas of sports psychology, human resources and player engagement functions which serve as safe outlets for any player or employee.

“When these allegations first came to light, I wanted to know what happened so we could make our organization better. I also began a deliberative and comprehensive process of determining what I could do to elevate conduct in sports, regardless of the then-unknown conclusions of Ted Wells’ report.

“Three months ago, I announced the creation of a committee comprised of Coach Philbin, our CEO Tom Garfinkel, and respected former players and coaches, who would review Ted Wells’ report and our current Code of Conduct and make any further recommendations. Now that the report has been made available to us, the committee can move forward and begin discussions. 

“After the situation came to light, I approached the New York University School of Law and the New York University Center for Sports and Society led by Arthur Miller, as well as the Jackie Robinson Foundation on ideas to address my concerns about conduct in sports. I wanted to tackle these challenging issues head on and be a driving force for change not only with the Dolphins, but in all levels of athletics. In working with their research team and lawyers, and with the cooperation of New York University Dean of Law and former White House associate counsel Trevor Morrison in particular, we have researched, debated and consulted dozens of experts and have created a series of initiatives that we will release next week, along with a policy paper examining this issue.

“We seek to create a curriculum which emphasizes accountability and which educates athletes on a standard code of conduct, appropriate use of language, and the elimination of disrespectful and unacceptable behavior in sports, including discrimination or harassment because of race, gender or sexual orientation.  We are also exploring possible legislation and a conduct pledge that would be instituted in all organized sports throughout the country to elevate the core value of respect. 

“I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again. We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports.”

The Ted Wells NFL report is out here

Here it is. The long awaited NFL report by investigator Ted Wells on the Richie Incognitor and Jonathan Martin scandal.

The full report is right here.

This is the media release on the topic:

chair of the Litigation Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind,  has released his independent Report to the National Football League concerning allegations of workplace misconduct at the Miami Dolphins. The Report is publicly available at
www.NFLDolphinsreport.com.

Mr. Wells was retained by Commissioner Roger Goodell on November 6, 2013. The Report is the result of an independent investigation led by Mr. Wells into allegations that the abrupt departure of Dolphins starting offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on October 28, 2013, midway through the season, was the result of persistent bullying and harassment by some of his teammates. 

Paul, Weiss has conducted a comprehensive investigation, aided by full cooperation from the NFL, the National Football League Players Association and the Miami Dolphins. Paul, Weiss reviewed thousands of voluntarily produced documents, including text messages, emails and team policies, and completed more than 100 s owner and chairman. 

The Report concludes that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching; and that Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial  

The Report rejects any suggestion that Martin manufactured claims of abuse after the fact to cover up an  impetuous decision to leave the team. Contemporaneous text messages that Martin sent to his parents and others corroborate his account that the persistent harassment by his teammates caused him significant emotional distress. The Report concludes that the s teammates was a contributing factor in his decision to leave the team, but also finds that said Mr. Wells. 
 

“Consistent with my prior practices involving similar investigative reports, it is not my present intention to hold a press conference or comment further about the Report. The Report is thorough and comprehensive, and speaks for itself,” said Mr. Wells.

February 13, 2014

NFL Network: It's possible Martin returns to Dolphins

Not long after the problems between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin surfaced it became obvious neither player had a future with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins wanted to divest from Incognito and had no intention of bringing him back. That was reported in this space early on during the scandal.

Soon, it also became clear Martin's future could not possibly be with the Dolphins, either. Players in the locker room were divided on him only in that some didn't care if he returned while others saw him as something of a quitter or worse and wanted no part of him on the team again.

No one actively campaigned for bringing him back. No one.

And it was reported in this space that Martin indeed would not be brought back but rather he'd be either traded or perhaps released. That was confirmed by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross a couple of weeks ago when he was asked if either of the two players would play for Miami again.

"I don't believe so," he said.

But now this ...

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport said on Wednesday night's Total Access that Martin may return to play for the Dolphins.

"As far as Jonathan Martin's future, I am told he does in fact want to play in 2014; he is excited about it and I am also told that his people have been in contact with the Dolphins on some level over the past couple weeks," RapSheet said.

"At the beginning of this, we all thought that there was no chance Jonathan Martin would return to the Dolphins because of the atmosphere. Now that the atmosphere has changed, I am told it is not outside the realm of possibility that Martin does return to the Dolphins when it's all said and done."

Pardon me while my mind explodes.

 

 

 

Composing myself ....

 

 

 

Still gathering ....

 

 

 

Alright, let's attempt to analyze this. First, with respect to Rapoport and his outstanding reporting, I don't believe Martin will ever play for the Dolphins again.

There has been a change in general manager but no change in atmosphere. Sure the next gathering of Dolphins players in a locker room will not include Incognito. Indeed, four-fifths of the offensive line might be gone next season.

But Mike Pouncey is still around. Brian Hartline is still around. Ryan Tannehill is still around. Players that were bothered, if not wholly angered by how Martin and his camp conducted his departure from the team and then slimed the team afterward are on the team. That has not changed.

Secondly, how stupid would the Dolphins have to be let Martin back in that locker room? The message they would be sending is if you are having personal troubles and you quit on us, even in the middle of a season and without any explanation to coaches or staff, we'll be fine with letting you come back when you are ready.

I am not doubting the reporting here. I am doubting the agenda of the source, however. It's simple: The Dolphins have zero leverage in trying to trade Martin. The entire NFL knows they want to do that. Ross let that slip and then tried to take it back during his press conference (Ross doing Ross) but that's not how it works. It was transparent that Miami wants to go in another direction.

So how does one rehabilitate that?

By saying, through sources or back channels, that Martin might return. By reaching out to Martin and letting him believe he has a future in Miami. By selling the idea that you, the Dolphins, may not necessarily trade this really good, really valuable left tackle after all.

There are only two small problems with this: 

It is not likely to work unless you sell it really hard -- as in having general manager Dennis Hickey actually saying on the record the Dolphins might keep Martin and then actually letting him join the team for whatever work players will gather for in the early offseason. (Yeah, that would really help team chemistry and bonding.)

Secondly, you would have to be really dumb to keep this wound open and festering rather than simply cutting out the infected area and saving the rest of your body.

February 12, 2014

Incognito: Jonathan Martin pondered suicide

Richie Incognito seemed to be in a good mood when he greeted the day about an hour ago -- he's on the West Coast so maybe he slept in. He said on his twitter account, "What's up twitter!!! Happy Hump Day!!!"

And then Incognito went on a rant that will likely be deleted from the account soon but, alas, too late for it to have caught the notice of media and people following him.

It began with a jab at Jonathan Martin that, arguably, is true:

"I'm ready to move on with my life and career.  I've been dragged through the mud for months by my "best friend". #betrayed #railroaded"

Then this:

"Dear Jon Martin..... The truth is going to bury you and your entire "camp".  You could have told the truth the entire time."

Then this that brought Kenny Zuckerman, one of Martin's agents, into the mix:

"Jon Martin---you started all of this when Kenny Zuckerman released the VM to ESPN.  The same VM we joked about with @brianhartline"

Then Incognito went after Zuckerman full tilt:

"Kenny Zuckerman from Priority Sports.... What do you have to say for your actions? Why did you release the VM.  What was your goal ?"

Then Incognito presented his defense:

"I'm guilty of being a loyal friend and good teammate. I apologize for my poor language and rude remarks.  I've never denied it."

Then Incognito turned his sights back on Martin while sending a message to NFL Network reporter Albert Breer:

"the truth will set me free.  I can't say the same about Jon Martin.  The truth is what he's hiding from."

And then came the bombshell allegation that may cause Incognito some problems unless they are proveable:

"FACT: Jonathan Martin told me he thought about taking his own life in MAY 2013 b/c he wasn't playing well.  Told me he felt worthless."

The tweet that followed was Incognito shutting it down and encouraging media to call his lawyer.

But the deed was done.

And here's the thing: Incognito obviously has stuff he wants to get off his chest. All the previous well-wishing tweets toward Martin lose any meaning in light of this rant. Today's tweets give the previous tweets the feel of public relations work.

The problem for Incognito is his timing couldn't be worse. He must realize that the Ted Wells report is dropping soon. He must realize that he has basically grinned and beared it for nearly four months and he's near the end, near the finish line to his nightmare.

And he will soon be able to return to his career if he just keeps cool. But saying his former -- think that's a fair adjective -- friend pondered suicide because he wasn't playing well is probably not the direction a club would want him to go. And, by the way, is it true?

Why would Martin feel bad about how he's playing in May?

The 2012 season had been over for five months. The tough start to his career finally hit him then?

Today's outburst and allegations make Incognito seem angry (which he may have a right to be, but is the wrong message to send a potential employer.)

The point is Richie Incognito probably feels better about showing his feelings. But it probably wasn't wise.

 

 

Hickey and Philbin on the same page so far

If this morning is at all similar to the ones that dawned over the past six or seven days, new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey and coach Joe Philbin will spend it together.

The two men now atop the football side of the Dolphins organization have spent their mornings the past week or so watching tape together. They've spent it dissecting both college and pro prospects. They've been obviously prepping for the coming NFL combine. And they've been grinding on potential unrestricted free agents.

The idea behind this setting of four eyes on the same material at the same time?

Cohesion. Agreement. Collaboration.

In other words some of the stuff the Dolphins haven't always had the past few years.

I'm told Hickey and Philbin are on the same page so far. They buy into each other. (I'd make an innocuous Valentine's Day joke but in today's society it would be taken the wrong way.)

The coach and the GM are working to strengthen what was already a solid relationship even in its infancy. You see, in 2012 before Philbin became the Dolphins coach, he interviewed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Hickey was already working for the Bucs at that time.

And Hickey, according to a source, strongly backed Philbin's candidacy for the Tampa Bay job. Obviously, the job went to Greg Schiano. And Philbin landed the vacancy in Miami. But the bond was formed then.

And that, I'm also told by another source, is one reason Hickey was attractive to the Dolphins for the general manager job. Owner Stephen Ross, aware of internal friction within his organization, wanted to smooth things out going forward.

He doesn't want stories like the ones that leaked about the last couple of years repeating. You know the stories ...

... Dissent and disagreement between the coaching staff and personnel department about playing time for young players.

.... People not communicating with one another.

.... Stories praising or blaming either but never both the coach and GM for mistakes or good calls made on players. You'll remember the one where Philbin reportedly wanted to get rid of Richie Incognito after the golf course incident but couldn't -- a narrative I find hard to believe because Incognito not only wasn't cut then, he remained in 2013 and became a team leader under Philbin's watch.

... There's also a story out there that Philbin wasn't sold on last year's No. 3 overall selection Dion Jordan. Find that one also hard to believe.

The point is Ross doesn't want this kind of stuff getting out because, well, he doesn't want this kind of stuff being anywhere near true anymore.

With both Philbin and Hickey finding agreement on what players they want on the team it becomes impossible for one to disengage from the other if things go poorly. It also becomes impossible for someone to take credit to the exclusion of someone else.

One right, all right.

One wrong, all wrong.

(This, by the way, makes things easy for folks such as me and fans such as you. If there's success, we know it was fathered by both Hickey and Philbin. If things go wrong, neither can claim the failure is an orphan.)

It is in both Hickey and Philbin's best interests to find agreement and unity and be of one accord. It's good to find out that's exactly what they're already trying to do. 

February 11, 2014

The future for Incognito and Martin

The much anticipated Ted Wells report that will put to rest the nightmare that followed the Dolphins for the better part of a month during the 2013 season will be delivered to the NFL either late this week or early next week. The assumption is the NFL will release the report soon afterward.

And while much has been reported (and misreported) about this whole affair, what I have been reporting for months is certain: Neither Richie Incognito nor Jonathan Martin, the principals in the scandal that rocked the Dolphins franchise, will ever play for the Dolphins again.

And that deserves investigating because all is not exactly as it seems:

It will seem, on the surface, that Incognito will never play for Miami again because the Dolphins are moving in a new direction on the offensive line and their former left guard is a free agent about to hit the market.

The truth is the week after the scandal broke, The Miami Herald reported Incognito was "done" with the Dolphins. That seems obvious now in hindsight but when it came out, several media outlets contested the report.

At any rate, the question today is not whether Incognito will return to Miami. It's not even whether he'll be able to return to the NFL. As The Herald also reported on Dec. 11, Incognito agreed to be suspended for the entire rest of 2013 (with pay) possibly in return for not losing 2014 playing time.

And this is where we begin to dig because, well, Incognito is a good player. He has a history in Miami that includes the golf course assault of a female greens volunteer. He obviously had previous issues he's addressed before arriving in Miami.

But did I mention he's a good player?

That's the thing. That's always the thing in the NFL. Players who can play can find jobs in the NFL. Barring prison stays, even guys who have off-field troubles but have on-field gifts get opportunities in the NFL. 

And that's Incognito. He's got demons he must address. But he's not in jail and he can play. Voila!

He'll be on a team in 2014.

So what can happen with him? Some team will undoubtedly sign him as a free agent. If I were a general manager and needed a relatively cheap ($3-$4 million) guard, Incognito would be on my list. But ...

I would only do it on a short-term basis. No way I give Incognito a four- or five-year contract.

One year for me. Two years max and even then I'm uncomfortable.

Why?

Because for whatever issues Incognito has beaten in the past and whatever failings he had with the Dolphins, he is usually a smart guy when he's on his meds. And he knows that he must be on his best behavior with his next team.

And he probably will be watching every p and q he texts teammates from now on -- at least for one year.

This isn't a new dynamic, by the way. Plenty of problem children have found a year or two of peace in new surroundings while they try to prove to the media, fans, coaches and mostly other GMs holding purse strings, that they can be trusted.

Folks like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens often had banner seasons the first or even second year with new teams. But give them a long-term deal and they get comfortable. Pay them and they start to feel entitled again. Commit to them and the old habits resurface. They blow up teams.

The way to manage players like that is keep them on a prove-it basis.

And it usually works for everyone. The team gets the player's best because he is motivated to get paid in his next one- or multi-year contract. The player obviously puts his best work on tape because, again, he wants to get paid next year.

Unless I miss my guess or there is a seriously trusting GM out there, that's the kind of deal Incognito will find waiting for him in free agency.

And then there's Jonathan Martin.

The common thinking here is the Dolphins will keep him on the roster until they can find a suitable trade partner that won't totally take them to the cleaners. I understand the logic. The team paid a second-round pick for him so it would be good to get something in return for him.

I have an alternate idea. No, not bringing him back to the team.

The Dolphins should simply waive Jonathan Martin. Good-bye. Godspeed. Lesson learned for everyone. Let's start a new day. Let's turn the final page on that chapter. Let's enjoy the game of inches and embrace all the cliched metaphors for fresh starts and simply cut Martin loose.

Why such a move, you ask?

Because unless new GM Dennis Hickey is a man gifted with the ability to perform the Jedi mind trick, no other team is going to really give him anything of significance for Martin because everyone knows the Dolphins want to get rid of him. It also didn't help owner Stephen Ross said as much in a press conference.

And even if some team is willing to give a seventh or perhaps even a sixth-round pick for Martin, the negotiation process is going to take a while.

And Martin will remain on the roster during that time.

I argue the value of cutting Martin swiftly and sending a message to the rest of the players in the Dolphins locker room -- who incidentally do not like Martin too much -- brings more value than peddling him like a medieval beggar trying to barter for food scraps.

Cut him. Give him what he most wants, which is his freedom. But gain, in the process, the franchise's freedom to move forward.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, that would hurt the Dolphins cap. You don't know anything about handling a roster. Come to think of it, you don't know anything about football.)

Yes gallery, I am actually aware the NFL operates under a salary cap. Thanks for that. I am also aware the move I propose is almost cap neutral. Cutting Martin would cost the Dolphins approximately $957,734 in dead money if done immediately, less if designated for after June 1. But that total pinch would be mitigated by the fact the Dolphins would not pay Martin his $824,933 base salary for 2014. So the actual cap hit would be $132,801.

For that pittance, the Dolphins would break the chains of this story dragging on while they shop Martin. Hickey would be free of pundits saying his first significant move was getting taken in a trade. And did I mention it would give the team a reset?

Resets are good sometimes. While the conditions are different, the New England Patriots reset quickly when Aaron Hernandez went all Al Capone on society. They didn't keep him around to wait for the legal system to decide his fate. They cut his posterior immediately. They separated themselves from an ugly situation.

No, Martin does not represent an ugly criminal situation. There is a sizeable portion of the population that sees him as the one and only victim in this drama. I get that.

So fine, let's reward him for his anguish. Cut him. Allow him to be free.

And, more importantly, allow the Dolphins to move forward.

February 10, 2014

Seahawks, Dolphins on similar paths until they weren't

Today's Miami Dolphins?

The Seattle Seahawks have been there, folks.

When Stephen Ross took over full control of the Dolphins in 2009, bringing one of the biggest wallets to the fraternity of NFL owners, it was only a coincidence that at league meetings the only other NFL owner with more billions to his name was Seattle owner Paul Allen.

Upon closer inspection that coincidence of resources would be only a foundation of similiarities we'd start to see between the Seahawks and the Dolphins. The very rich owner of the Seahawks, you see, faced similiar situations and initially took similar steps to what Ross has faced recently.

And while there were mistakes made, the Seahawks obviously corrected course.

Which begs the question ... Can the Dolphins correct course?

As recently as 2008, Allen had what he believed was a winning combination at the helm of his franchise. Well-regarded Mike Holmgren was his coach and unquestioned football authority. Holmgren had won a Super Bowl in Green Bay and wanted more power at his next stop. Allen, desperate to breathe life into his franchise, hired Holmgren and gave him all the power he wanted.

Holmgren was basically Seattle's football czar, as all the power on the football side of the organization belonged to him.

And it worked at first. Holmgren even took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl early in 2006. But soon things went south. After the 2008 season in which Seattle finished 4-12, Allen decided he needed to go in a different direction.

So Holmgren was gone. But general manager Tim Ruskell, who had become a favorite of the owner, remained. Fans wondered why Allen was so loyal to Ruskell after a 4-12 season, but the owner appreciated what Ruskell had done earlier in his stint under Holmgren. And, again, the owner liked Ruskell.

And this is the part where I remind you that in October of 2010, Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells left the franchice. He had some success in Miami. The Dolphins won the AFC East and went to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 2008. You people would often write, "In Parcells we trust," in the comment section here.

But things took a step back in 2009 and 2010 was no better. And yet, after Parcells departed, Ross kept the GM and the coach the former football czar had hired.

Back to the Seahawks, Allen in 2009 went out to hire a head coach to team with his well-liked GM. And he handed the keys to the football team to Jim Mora who the owner believed was a rising talent in coaching circles. Mora was no fledgling coach. He'd been fired after a couple of seasons as the Falcons head coach. But he was young, and bright and well prepared.

So Mora, the new coach, and Ruskell, the previous GM, were teamed together.

The Seahawks made a big free agency splash (sound familiar?) with the signing of Edgerrin James and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The team picked a pass rusher with the fourth pick of the draft (coincidence again?).

The team was in the playoff hunt for much of the season, but collapsed at season's end -- with four consecutive losses in which the offense failed to perform up to expectations (crazy, right?). Mora claimed progress had been made as the 5-11 record was slightly better than the 4-12 the year before. At one point before the season-finale he actually said, "... We're not that far away."

And that's where owner Paul Allen found himself in pretty much the same position Stephen Ross found himself in after 2012.

With a big-time football czar in his rear-view mirror (Holmgren rather Bill Parcells), with a general manager he admired and kept on from that czar still on staff (Ruskell rather than Jeff Ireland) and with a young, unproven but still promising and respected coach under contract (Mora rather Joe Philbin), Allen had a choice. He could clean house or keep everyone or fire the GM and keep his new coach that had shown he couldn't milk wins out of his team late in the year to make the playoffs. Allen in January 2010 found himself n the same situation Ross would be in January 2013.

(Let me rephrase: Allen got himself into a similar situation as Ross did. These guys made decisions that put them on the road they were on. These billionaires made choices that put themselves in their spots.).

It gets weirder. Allen liked Ruskell but didn't want to give Ruskell a contract extension. So the GM saw that as a show of no confidence on the owner's part. So he resigned.

Well, as you know, Ross liked Ireland but actually wanted to trim back his power for 2014. The GM saw he had lost the owner's confidence and the two mutually agreed to part ways.

So now Allen had no GM but a coach he thought had promise although the record didn't bear that out. Just as Ross had no GM but a coach he thinks has promise, although the record so far does not bear that out.

What happened next?

Allen fired the coach.

After one year.

He went with the option to clean house.

And he went out and hired the hottest coaching prospect he could find in Pete Carroll. And a couple of weeks later general manager John Schneider was hired.

And while it wasn't until this year that Seattle's success reached championship levels, the seeds for that title were sown immidiately. The new management drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas and Golden Tate that first year. They traded for Marshawn Lynch. And although they only managed a 7-9 record they also went to the playoffs and won a wild card game.

After a subpar 2011, the Seahawks changed their uniforms and logo in 2012. They drafted their quarterback of the future in 2012.

And there are other coincidences.

But it's impossible to get over the fact that while Allen and Ross's first instincts were similar -- have a big-name guy atop the organization, keep his GM when that big name was gone, hire a young, promising coach to pair with that GM the owner really liked  -- the Seahawks didn't really take off until Allen hit the brakes, turned the steering wheel and pointed the franchise in a totally different direction.

Now look at the Seahawks.

They're where the Dolphins long to be.

The Dolphins, as you know, veered from the Seahawks course this offseason. While Allen made the mistake of not cleaning house the first time a group failed him, he did so the second time. Ross declined to clean house after Parcells left and again in 2011 after he fired Tony Sparano. He kept the same GM both times. And now, he's fired that GM, but kept his coach thus declining to clean house for a third time.

That's where the paths have separated.

We know Seattle followed its course to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins? We'll see.

February 04, 2014

Administrative move: Incognito suspension lifted

The Dolphins today lifted their suspension of Richie Incognito but before the out-of-control and breathless media (including me, sometimes) get too crazy, let me give you some facts:

This lifting of the suspension, which is being reported on the NFL daily wire, is an administrative move agreed upon by all the parties as a necessary step for having Incognito go foward with the rest of his career.

It does not mean Incognito is on his way back to the Dolphins.

Indeed, Incognito will be an unrestricted free agent in March and will be able to play for whatever team signs him. But that team will not be the Miami Dolphins.

[Update: Incognito is obviously very happy. He's been tweeting with the hashtag #FreeIncognito for days. And he is indeed free.]

 

February 02, 2014

Dolphins committees poorly planned, poorly executed

At the height of the Dolphins scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, owner Stephen Ross announced the formation of two committees to address some of the problem he perceived to exist within his team.

One of those was to meet to set lockerroom standards for Dolphins players. It was supposed to include former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor and former NFL coach Tony Dungy.

Well, that committee has no agenda. It has never met. There is no schedule to meet. And sources say it's possible that committee may or may not ever meet.

Members of the committee have not gotten even one phone call relative to information on the committee. They obviously have not been given dates for a first meeting or marching orders on the committee's workload.

In that regard, the follow-up to the committee's work has so far been similar to how it hurriedly came together.

Ross called members to ask (tell them) he wanted them on the committee one day before the committee was announced. Ross personally called at least two members and didn't even talk to them at first, but merely left voicemail messages saying what he planned.

The next evening on Nov. 11, Ross announced the committees and also announced he would meet with Martin. Ross also had not cleared with the NFL he planned such a meeting and upon hearing of the owner's plans, the league promptly steered him away from the meeting with Martin for fear it would interfere with the ongoing investigation.

Ross's meeting with Martin may also never happen. 

January 31, 2014

Salguero a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has asked me to serve as one of 50 selectors that will vote to determine the Hall of Fame class of 2014 on Saturday.

I will serve as an alternate in place of former Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope, who is not present at this year's Super Bowl and wil not be at the meeting to determine which of the 17 finalists becomes part of the new class of inductees. Pope has been South Florida's representative to the Hall of Fame ever since I can remember.

A determination on a permanent South Florida rep will be made in the months following Super Bowl and I will be considered for that high honor. Regardless, I feel privileged to be among the few who have ever gone behind the so-called curtain to see and participate in the process of electing a HOF class.

There are 17 finalists whose HOF status will be decided Saturday.

K Morten Andersen: Played 25 seasons and was the most prolific scorer in NFL history when he retired. Was in seven Pro Bowls and at his retirement was first in games played, most points scored (2,544), most consecutive games scoring (360), most FGs attempted (709), most FGs made (565), most FGs of 50 or more yards in a career (40) and most FGs of 50 or more yards for a season (40).

RB Jerome Bettis: Played 13 seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Was chosen to six Por Bowls. Gained 13,662 yards over his career, which was fifth on the all-time list at the time of his retirement. Had eight 1,000-yard seasons. Averaged 3.9 yards per rush. Was comeback player of the year in 1995.

LB Derrick Brooks: Never missed a game during his 14-year career. Names NFL's defensive player of the year in 2002. Was Pro Bowl selection 11 times and All-Pro six times. Had three interception returns for TDs in 2002, second most ever for a season. Retired Tampa Bay's all-time leader in tackles for a career (2,196) and a game (23). Was part of the 2000s all-decade team. Was the Walter Payton man of the year in 2000.

WR Tim Brown: Played 17 seasons. Starting in 1993 Brown recorded nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He had 10 seasons of 75 or more catches. Was on the 1990s all decade team. Selected to the Pro Bowl nine times. Caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards with 100 TDs. Aslo had three punt return TDs and one KO return TD. Led the NFL in pass receiving in 1997 and kickoff returning in 1988.

Owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.: Purchased the San Francisco 49ers in 1977. Team went 2-14 two consecutive seasons before DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh in 1979. Walsh draft Joe Montana. San Francisco won the Super Bowl in 1982. Under DeBartolo team claimed 13 division titles, 16 playoff appearances, went to the NFC title game 10 times and won five Super Bowls, including in '84, '88, '89 and '94. Franchise had NFL's best winning percentage in the 1980s and 1990s.

Coach Tony Dungy: After serving as defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Minnesota he took over as head coach in Tampa. The Bucs had 12 double-digit loss seasons in previous 13 years but Dungy's team was 10-6 in his second year. Took Bucs to the playoffs four times in six seasons in Tampa. He then coached Indianapolis for seven years and won double-digit number of games every season. He won the Super Bowl XLI over Chicago. He was 139-69 in the regular season; was 9-10 in the postseason (2-4 with Tampa Bay).

LB Kevin Greene: Had double-digit sack seasons 10 times in a 15-year career. Won the NFL sack title twice, in 1994 and 1996. Was a member of the 1990 all decade team. Was selected to the Pro Bowl five times. Finished career with 160 sacks in 228 games.

P Ray Guy: First punter ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft when he was pick No. 23 in 1973. Played 14 seasons and averaged more than 40 yards per punt in 13 of his 14 seasons. Had 1,049 punts and had only three blocked. Led the NFL in punting three times and finished second three times. Was selected to seven Pro Bowls.

DE: Charles Haley: Only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls. Led the 49ers in sacks in each of his first six seasons. Amassed 100.5 sacks in 169 games. Was named to five Pro Bowls. Had double-digit sack seasons six times.

WR Marvin Harrison: Caught 1,102 passes in 190 career games. Finished with 14,580 receiving yards and 128 TDs. Caugh 100 or more passes four consecutive seasons from 1999-2002. Was a member of the 2000s all decade team. Was selected to eight Pro Bowls. Led the NFL in receiving yards in 1999 and 2002 and led the NFL in catches in 2000 and 2002.

DE Claude Humphrey: Was NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1968. Credited with 122 career sacks in 171 career games (although the sack statistic did not become official until after he retired). Was selected to six Pro Bowls.

OT Walter Jones: Selected to nine Pro Bowls in 12 seasons. Part of the 2000s all decade team. Was an AP All Pro selection four times. Considered the best LT of his day.

S John Lynch: Selected to nine Pro Bowls in 15 seasons. Had 26 interceptions in 224 games. Also collected 13 sacks in his career. Finished with 973 tackles, third most in Tampa Bay history at the time of his retirement.

WR Andre Reed: Selected to the Pro Bowl seven times in a 15-year career. His 951 career catches was third in NFL history at the time of his retirement. Had 13 seasons with 50-plus receptions, exceeded only by Jerry Rice at the time of his retirement. Finished wtih 13,198 yards and 87 TDs in 234 games.

G Will Shields: Never missed a game during his 14-year career. Had a string of 12 consecutive Pro Bowl berths. Member of the 2000s all-decade team. Walter Man of the Year award in 2003.

DE Michael Strahan: Collected 141.5 sacks in 216 career games. Was selected to seven Pro Bowls. Won the sack titles in 2001 and 2003. Set the record for most sacks in a season with 22.5 in 2001. Selected to the 2000s all decade team.

CB Aeneas Williams: Played cornerback first 12 seasons of his career and moved to safety final two seasons. Was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times as a cornerback and once as a safety. Finished with 55 career interceptions in 211 games. Was second in NFL history, at the time of his retirement, with nine interceptions returned for touchdowns. Led the NFL in interceptions in 1991 and 1994. 

January 30, 2014

Free agency issues first entree on Hickey plate

These are fascinating times to be a Dolphins observer. (Maybe not so fascinating to be a fan because you find yourself cringing a lot, but you get the drift). The team is starting anew, at least with a new general manager. And that GM, Dennis Hickey, has to hit the ground running because the free agency period begins in earnest March 11.

(Teams will be allowed to enter into negotiations with the agents for pending unrestricted free agents on March 8 but contracts cannot be signed until 4 p.m. on March 11).

So by that time, Hickey needs to have his Ps and Qs straight on what Dolphins pending UFAs he wants to keep and which he'll let enter the market.

It's a big decision because the Dolphins have 18 players out of contract for 2014. Of those 11 are UFAs. And of those, seven were starters.

Eight.

The eight starters?

Cornerback Brent Grimes, cornerback Nolan Carroll, safety Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Randy Starks, defensive tackle Paul Soliai, right tackle Tyson Clabo, right guard John Jerry and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

You can argue that both Soliai and Starks are not starters because Jared Odrick was in the mix for multiple games, but I think anyone would agree Soliai and Starks are starter caliber. Also, tight end Dustin keller, an UFA for 2014, was a starter when he blew out a knee in the preseason but I'm not counting him as a starter because he obviously did not fill that spot in 2013. Also, Richie Incognito, another 2014 UFA, was a starter for much of last season but was suspended thus is not considered a starter here. He will not return to the Dolphins by order of owner Stephen Ross.

Welcome to the Dolphins, Dennis! Your entire starting offensive line save center Mike Pouncey is hitting free agency. Three quarters of your starting defensive backfield is also hitting free agency.

Handle it.

Oh, and while you're at it, two outstanding starting-caliber defensive tackles are possibly hitting free agency. You almost definitely cannot sign both because, well, that would require a huge salary cap commitment. Neither are going to come cheap because aside form being good, marketable players who'll be in demand, both Starks and Soliai went through 2013 somewhat peeved they didn't get a contract extension. So they're not going to give the Dolphins a huge discount -- certainly Starks is not. Soliai may come cheaper because he loves South Florida and really, really doesn't want to leave.
But his agent, David Canter, will try to make it as hard as possible for Soliai to accept a hometown discount by drumming up as much interest for his client as he can because, well, he also was peeved an extension wasn't done in 2013.

And then there's the issue of Brent Grimes. He's not only a starting cornerback but your best starting cornerback. He went to the Pro Bowl. He loves South Florida. But he also is not going to accept the $5 million per year deal he took on a prove-it basis in 2013.

Grimes stayed healthy and played well after missing all of 2012 with an Achilles' injury. So now he wants to get paid.

The problem is Grimes will be 31 in July and most teams do not offer four- or five-year deals to corners on the long side of 30. Are you going to do that with Grimes?

What's that, you say? Franchise tag?

That might be your only recourse. It would lock up Grimes for another year while the Dolphins young cornerbacks (Jamar Taylor and Will Davis) either prove they have it or don't have it. But it's going to cost.

The 2013 franchise tag for a cornerback was $10.6 million. That's quite a chunk. Yes, the Dolphins will approximately $35 million in salary cap room if you include the carryover. But are you ready to use roughly one-third of that room on one player?

We're sure you'll figure it out.

Miami's unrestricted free agents

DT Randy Starks

DT Paul Soliai

CB Brent Grimes

CB Nolan Carroll

G Richie Incognito

TE Dustin Keller

RT Tyson Clabo

FS Chris Clemons

G John Jerry

LT Bryant Mckinnie

LB Austin Spitler

WR Marlon Moore

Miami's restricted free agents

CB R.J Stanford

G Danny Watkins

OT Will Yeatman

QB Pat Devlin

Miami's exclusive rights free agents

WR Armon Binns

LB Jonathan Freeny