SBD/November 5, 2013/Franchises

Philbin Shoulders Blame For Dolphins' Bullying Situation; Organization Called Dysfunctional

Philbin says it is up to the head coach to facilitate the right locker-room culture
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin yesterday after practice "gave a detailed timeline of the events" that led to the inquiry of bullying between G Richie Incognito and OT Jonathan Martin at a press briefing that was "attended by about 100 local, national and international reporters," according to a front-page piece by Beasley & Salguero of the MIAMI HERALD. Philbin said that he was "first made aware of a situation after Martin left the team following a prank gone wrong on Oct. 28." He added that he was "in touch with both Martin and his parents throughout the following week." But Philbin said, "In all my discussions with Jonathan and his family, at no time were there any accusations or allegations of misconduct by any members of this team or this organization." Beasley & Salguero report Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross over the weekend called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and "asked for help in the form of an independent inquiry." Ross is prepared to "use the review to make career decisions on various people within the organization if the review finds fault with their actions." Philbin said, "If the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is. I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis, and I will do that" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/5). ESPN.com's James Walker noted Philbin "took the blame for the environment that was created in his locker room." The usually "docile Philbin became somewhat emotional Monday while addressing the media" (ESPN.com, 11/4).

CROSSING THE LINE: In Miami, Adam Beasley cited a source as saying that young Dolphins players "are under pressure to dig deep into their pockets to pay for veterans’ social outings, a practice that is straining their finances and locker room chemistry." The source characterized Dolphins veterans "using younger players as ATMs to finance their nightlife whims." The source added that these older players "have been caught up in the fast-paced Miami lifestyle without the burden of having to pay for it." Multiple sources "agree that it’s happening in Miami -- but it’s not just a Dolphins issue: It happens league-wide, and organizations and the players’ union know all about it." A source said that they "simply don’t care" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/5). FoxSports.com's Mike Garafolo noted the Dolphins coaching staff may not have known that Incognito was “leaving these types of voicemails,” but a bullying atmosphere or hazing has been “a part of the Dolphins atmosphere,” and it was “encouraged” (“Fox Football Daily,” FS1, 11/4). In S.F. Ann Killion writes the Martin-Incognito situation "should not be taken as clear evidence of an NFL pattern." Bullying in any form "is questionable, but this went far beyond the norm." The fact that this went so far is "a sign of a leadership void, both at the very top and within the locker room" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/5).

NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT
: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote the Dolphins are "a mess from top to bottom right now." How the coaching staff and front office "handled this has become another public embarrassment." Hyde: "Shouldn’t Joe Philbin have had a better handle on these personalities and details that are coming out? Did [GM] Jeff Ireland know of some of the emotional issues with Martin when drafting him? And did the handling of this case, and the release drawn up by vice president of football operations Dawn Aponte, cause Martin’s camp increase the emotions more?" It is "not just Incognito's job on the line here." A lot of people "are being looked at as this plays out" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 11/4). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "A lack of leadership is the starting point on this, that they didn’t do anything about this and now they're chasing it because it's a media outrage" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 11/4). 

ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS: In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes for "every hideous thing we heard Monday, for every detail about Richie Incognito’s unforgivable bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin, for every ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t comment’ floating out of South Beach, the Dolphins organization spun deeper and deeper into a spiral of shame." Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins late Sunday for his conduct. Sullivan: "But you have to wonder what took so long." That Incognito’s treatment of Martin "would reach such a desperate level that Martin chose to leave the team reeks of organizational dysfunction" (Bergen RECORD, 11/5). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said this was an "organizational problem" that went "way beyond just the players." Paige: "The culture with the Dolphins apparently has deteriorated badly over the last couple of years" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/4). NFL Network's Brian Billick said there is "no way the organization" was not aware of the fact "antagonism between these two players was going on" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 11/4). In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote Incognito's actions, "whatever they were, do not rise anywhere near the level" of former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez' alleged crimes. But the Dolphins' "out-of-touch state is every bit as complete as New England's was" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 11/4). 

MISPLACED PRIORITIES? ESPN's Bomani Jones said the Dolphins handled the Martin-Incognito situation "bad from jump street" and they seem to have an issue "about what is and is not appropriate." Jones: "This is the same team where the general manager asked a prospective draftee if his mother was a prostitute" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/4). Jones added, "This isn't the most professional organization in the world." He noted the team is Ireland's "shop and this is what's going on." Jones: "If you're Jeff Ireland, are you ready to answer for this?" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 11/4). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes it is "fair to wonder" whether Ireland, who was at the center of controversy for below-the-belt questions during his predraft grilling of WR Dez Bryant, "was as thorough in vetting Incognito." Ireland said he "absolutely scrutinized Richie's character." But Bell writes, "Apparently something was missed" (USA TODAY, 11/5). ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson said Ireland "can't just escape" responsibility for the situation because "he had to make the decision" to sign Incognito ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/4). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said of Philbin and Ireland, “When you are in a leadership position, you are going to come under scrutiny for this” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 11/4). Meanwhile, in Boston, Gerry Callahan writes the Dolphins "made a fatal mistake with Incognito." They "made him a leader." Philbin either "knew what Incognito was doing or he should have known." He allowed "one very bad apple to spoil the locker room, and now the team pays the price" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/5).

SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO? ESPN.com's Walker noted how Philbin "manages the team through this crisis will go a long way toward determining if he is the right or wrong coach for Miami." Philbin took on the "brunt of the responsibility Monday, saying it's up to the head coach to create and facilitate the right locker-room culture." Coaching in the NFL is "not always about X's and O's." Often, it is about "crisis management and putting out fires." What is going on in Miami "happens to be an inferno." Philbin is "at a crossroads." Either he is "the right coach for the Dolphins, somebody who will solve this issue immediately within his locker room and won’t allow this to happen again." Or he is "the wrong coach, somebody who tried to handle a very serious situation way too late" (ESPN.com, 11/4). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Philbin "comes off as the non-leader who either did nothing about what was going on or was oblivious to it, neither option speaking well of him." If his team "does not make the playoffs to save him, I think that and this bullying scandal together will see Philbin fired." The absence of "leadership and discipline that allowed this to foment has created a national embarrassment for the franchise, a stain on the brand." This has "turned the Dolphins into a punchline or a case worthy of sociological examination" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/5). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes Philbin appears to be "floundering to figure out how two of his players could grow so sick of each other that an NFL investigation is needed." Philbin likely will not "lose his job over this mess, providing, of course, he starts winning games." George: "If he doesn't, that's when the inability of the second-year coach and his assistants to read signals, or even read minds, will shoot conveniently to the top of any list of potential firing offenses" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/5).

VIBE OF THE LOCKER ROOM
: In Ft. Lauderdale, Chris Perkins notes Dolphins players were "almost unanimous in their support of Incognito." Not a single player, "publicly or privately, had a bad thing to say about Incognito, who was voted to the team's six-member leadership council, the group entrusted to solve problems" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/5). The SUN-SENTINEL's Hyde noted a walk through the Dolphins' locker room "had all six players asked deliver only good thoughts about Incognito." Dolphins WR Mike Wallace said, "He's a great teammate" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/5). FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com's Charlie McCarthy reported several Dolphins players insisted they had a "'unified' locker room in which everything was 'good.'" TE Dion Sims said, "The chemistry is fine, from how I see it. Everybody gets along well, and I think everything is good." DE Cameron Wake: "I've been here for quite a while, and the locker room's been fine as far as I'm concerned. Then again, you're talking about me, I can't speak for anybody else." Wallace said, "I feel like it was always a good vibe with the team. You never know what somebody's going through" (FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com, 11/4). DE Derrick Shelby said that Incognito "is not a racist." Shelby: "Richie's definitely not that type of guy. If you had to pick a guy to get your back, I'd pick Richie. Richie would be the first for a lot of guys." In West Palm Beach, Andrew Abramson reports while players "backed Incognito ... they were more lukewarm regarding Martin." LB Dannell Ellerbe indicated that if Martin "had an issue with Incognito or any other teammate, he should have gone to Ellerbe or another member" of the leadership council. However, Incognito "was a member of the council" (PALM BEACH POST, 11/5).
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