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Johnson's behavior puts Philbin, Dolphins on trial

Chad Johnson was arrested on a misdeameanor domestic violence charge Saturday when police said he head-butted his wife Evelyn Lozada. And while the wife's cooperation and various legal wranglings will determine if Johnson will ever go on trial for the charge, the episode does guarantee one trial immediately.

Today, the Dolphins and their new coach are on trial.

This is not a trial of law or justice. This one will be a trial to see if Dolphins coach Joe Philbin means what he says and whether his words can be believed or not.

You see, the irony of Johnson's arrest is that it comes in the same week when Philbin already warned the player that he had to meet a certain standard of conduct to remain on the team.

Philbin was displeased that Johnson conducted what I have termed the most bizarre press conference in Dolphins history -- complete with multiple F-bombs, painted nails, talk of porn, and other ridiculousness.

That led Philbin to have a private heart-to-heart with Johnson. Except as the Dolphins are the subject of this summer's Hard Knocks series on HBO, the private conversation was captured in all its apparent lengthy discomfort for national cable airing.

And later, Philbin told Hard Knocks that unless Johnson fell into line he was in jeopardy of losing his job.

And then Philbin made the point to the rest of the media that he promised club owner Stephen Ross to run the organization in a certain way and that if people became an embarrassment for the organization, they wouldn't be part of the program.

Remember all that?

Philbin's words:

"Everybody's different," he said. "We want to let guys be themselves. However, we think everybody has an obligation to get on board with the program. I told Mr. Ross we were going to have men that represented themselves in the right way on and off the field. And that's important to me. It's important to our staff. I believe it's important to our owner that we do things the right way."

The "right way" has so far eluded Johnson. He's embarrassed the coach with that press conference. And now he's embarrassed himself and the organization by getting arrested. And for hitting a woman, no less.

And so the trial begins. No, not Johnson's trial, but Philbin's.

Is the coach going to keep Johnson on the team? Is he going to let this slide? Or is he going to cut the player on the spot. As early as today?

I'm certain Philbin can say he's going to wait to let the legal issue work itself out and hide behind the idea that Johnson will likely not be prosecuted -- this is a guess because usually spouses decline to cooperate with authorities and the issue disappears. Also, this is Johnson's apparent first offense in the local judicial system.

So the Dolphins can simply kinda sorta look the other way and let this thing blow over and keep Johnson. They've done it before, indeed many teams get away with this tact all the time. Guys beat up their wives or girlfriends and the teams separate themselves from the issue in the name of letting the law handle the matter. Then high-priced attorneys make the matter go away and the athlete keeps his job because the team is able to say it won't punish the athlete when the legal system didn't.

Happens all the time.

So Philbin and the Dolphins can probably go this route as many organizations and coaches often do to save face.

Or ...

Is the coach going to prove that his words are not just lip service? Is the coach going to actually do what he has said -- which is to weed out the idiots? Is Philbin going to cut Johnson for sullying the name of the Dolphins on multiple occasions in a one-week span?

Such a move would send a strong message. It would tell the rest of the locker room that coach isn't going to put up with this kind of behavior, particularly if you're barely hanging on as it is. It would send the message to fans and media that Philbin can be believed when he says something because put to the test, he did what he said he'd do.

So today could be a telling day.

Joe Philbin and the Dolphins have a choice. They are on trial. Chad Johnson's behavior put them there.

Now we watch for a verdict.