Dolphins coaches this spring said that G Richie Incognito should help "toughen up" OT Jonathan Martin after he missed a voluntary workout, but Incognito "may have taken those orders too far," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Omar Kelly of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. It is "not clear whether those marching orders will now become part of a pending investigation by the NFL into the Dolphins' locker room culture, and the alleged bullying that took place between Incognito and Martin." Martin's "smoking gun is a threatening, and racially offensive voice mail Incognito left him in April." Sources said that this communication "took place when Martin skipped two days of the team's OTA program." Another source indicated that Incognito was "encouraged by his coaches to make a call that would 'get him into the fold.'" Sources added that players were "annually directed by coach Joe Philbin to 'cut out' the rookie hazing." Kelly notes Philbin, who previously was an assistant with the Packers, comes from a culture where rookie hazing is "minimal, or at least subtle." However, while he "tried to rein it in with the Dolphins, he and his coaching staff never policed it when the team was dyeing and shaving heads for the second straight training camp" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/6). CBSSN's Doug Gottlieb said when considering the fact that the coaching staff put Incognito "up to it, you start to think this is like ‘A Few Good Men.’" Gottlieb: "He’s simply a soldier following orders” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 11/5).
LACKING IN LEADERSHIP: In Miami, Armando Salguero writes the Dolphins are "sorely lacking leadership," as there is a "void as wide as a galaxy." It is "apparent from the top to the bottom of this football organization." The Dolphins "think they have leaders," as Philbin "often makes references to the character of the players on the team as an example of leadership on the roster." However, he fails to understand that a "man of good character is not always a good leader" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/6). SI.com's Doug Farrar wrote the alleged bullying constitutes a "complete and total leadership failure." It is "on Philbin to provide a reasonable environment, and he blew it." What makes Philbin "less than totally culpable in this circumstance is the extent to which the NFL culture and mindset endorses people like Incognito, and considers people like Martin weak" (SI.com, 11/5). FOXSPORTS.com's Jen Floyd Engel asked, "What is wrong with the Miami Dolphins?" She wrote Philbin "did not bother to keep his finger on the pulse of his team" and GM Jeff Ireland "watched one of his players walk away from an NFL job with NFL checks and did not start asking the right questions about why until way too late" The rest of the locker room also "stood idly by and let Martin be bullied" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/5). CBS' Rich Gannon said that the "best way to stop locker room bullying is having strong team leaders." Gannon: "When Peyton Manning stands in front of the room, it's like E.F. Hutton, everybody listens. There's not enough guys who have the balls to stand in front of a group of 60 other men to say, 'You know what? You guys are wrong. This has to stop'" (USA TODAY, 11/6).
JOBS IN JEOPARDY: ESPN’s Ed Werder reported there is a feeling that Dolphins personnel certainly "wished this hadn’t happened but a sense that this will be dealt with quickly, that the facts will be known, that the Dolphin hierarchy will hold people accountable as necessary and this thing will eventually be over with” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/6). However, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said this situation “has the potential to go very badly" for Philbin and Ireland, because “regardless of what Incognito says, Ireland is the guy who saw fit to bring this guy to Miami and keep him in Miami” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 11/5). In Ft. Lauderdale, Chan Lowe writes Philbin was "oblivious to a festering problem that directly affects worker productivity." A coach’s "primary job is to win games, and it’s going to be a lot harder for his team to do so if they’ve all taken sides in an internecine squabble." Lowe: "That alone is reason enough to fire him" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/6). SNY's Adam Schein said Philbin is "going to lose his job, and he should." Schein: "Either he's totally oblivious or he's covering it up" ("LoudMouths," SNY, 11/5). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said the Dolphins organization "needs to be held accountable" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 11/5). But ESPN's Keith Olbermann said, "While it may be hard to argue against firing a coach who did not realize that hazing, bullying, racial insults and financial intimidation had escalated to the point where a player was ready to leave the team, to some degree Joe Philbin would be -- at least in part -- a victim of the rules changing in the middle of the game." Olbermann: "The industry's willingness to accept bullying, the consumer's acquiescence that it was just rookie hazing, may have ended with Richie Incognito but the bullying did not begin with him. And the realization that any theoretical value it has in so-called 'team-building' was far out-weighed by the enabling and protecting of sociopathic, and very possibly criminal, behavior is so recent -- I mean this week kind-of recent -- that it is difficult not to have some kind empathy at least for the position … Philbin and others in Miami find themselves in now" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 11/5).
PART OF A BIGGER ISSUE: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes Martin's allegations raise "many nuanced questions about how much control NFL coaches have over their players and their behavior." NFL coaches by and large "let their players, and especially their seasoned veterans, maintain harmony in the locker room." Instead of "monitoring locker room behavior, coaches ... are generally too busy reviewing video, poring over statistics and juggling a multitude of other tasks." Former NFLer Trevor Pryce, who currently is an FS1 analyst, said, "Coaches could care less about what happens in the locker room because they have a job to do and we have a job to do." He did add that not all coaches "were the same" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/6). A South Florida SUN-SENTINEL editorial appears under the header, "Bullying Behavior Brings Shame On Dolphins, Region." The Martin-Incognito situation has done "more than humiliate a proud franchise that for decades has been a cornerstone of the community," as it also has "embarrassed South Florida." With a coach, GM and a "plethora of assistant coaches and strength coaches, nobody knew there was a problem that was spiraling out of control?" The editorial: "How is that possible? Where was the leadership?" Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and others in top management "must immediately go about changing the culture of the locker room" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/6).
DOLPHINS' LEGAL LIABILITIES: In Miami, Adam Beasley reports some observers believe Martin is "on solid footing for a lawsuit against the organization -- should he decide to go that route." Miami-based sports attorney Darren Heitner said that Martin "could sue the Dolphins on the grounds of intentional infliction of emotional distress." Heitner: "My expectation is that the Dolphins will be able to avoid any litigation. I don’t think it would be worth Jonathan Martin’s while to file a lawsuit against the Dolphins. Not necessarily because he would stand without any legal claim, but mostly because of the fear of retribution, whether it’s fair or not." Heitner added that the Dolphins could be held responsible for Incognito's behavior because of the "doctrine of vicarious liability." The law states that an employer is "held liable for certain conduct of those under its control" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/6). ESPN.com's Lester Munson noted Florida law "provides for triple damages ... and would allow Martin to collect his legal fees from Incognito." These provisions "could produce a significant jury verdict for Martin at Incognito's expense" (ESPN.com, 11/5).