Following Ted Wells‘ investigation into the Miami Dolphins‘ locker room scandal and his subsequent 144-page report on the matter, one thing is abundantly clear– there is a big, big problem in Florida.
Dolphin’s owner Steve Ross began taking steps toward correcting that problem when he fired head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neill and offensive line coach Jim Turner, both of whom were mentioned extensively in Wells’ report. Heads are rolling in Miami, and there is still some housecleaning for Ross left to do. Which begs the question: why is Joe Philbin‘s head not on the chopping block as well?
When the details of the report emerged, it seemed something of a foregone conclusion that some people were going to lose their jobs. Wells’ report said that O’Neill “stood by and did nothing” while Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey all targeted one of the assistant athletic trainers with their vicious racial taunting.
It further stated that O’Neill even laughed at some of the racial slurs directed at his assistant, and later got hostile with investigators who questioned him about it, even cutting short an interview with them. According to Wells’ report, Turner did nothing to stop the harassment of his player and even participated to some extent, allegedly giving lineman Andrew McDonald, another player who’d been bullied, a male sex doll as a gag gift. When questioned about it, Turner was reportedly evasive and hostile.
It makes sense that those two had to go. There really was no way around it. What is troubling however is the fact that head coach Philbin is allowed to keep his job when this all happened on his watch. Philbin claims to have not been aware of the bullying in the locker room. But as the head coach, it is his job to know what is going on with his team. It’s his job to know if somebody is being abused in his locker room. He’s the head coach — the proverbial buck is supposed to stop with him.
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Philbin put on quite the show for the media, saying “I want everybody to know I am the one who is responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins facility.”
However, there is a universe of difference between claiming responsibility as Philbin does here, and actually taking responsibility when something bad goes down. If he was actually taking responsibility for the horrible situation in his own locker room, he would have stepped down as the head coach. But he didn’t. And inexplicably, he has been allowed to retain his position.
To borrow a phrase from college football, Philbin lacked institutional control of his team. At best. His apparent ignorance of the vicious racial insults and bullying by his players should be a huge red flag to Ross that says his head coach either cannot or will not monitor and control his team. How Philbin didn’t lose his job along with Turner and O’Neill is both astonishing and completely disgusting.
If Ross genuinely wants to change the culture in Miami and show that the behavior of Incognito and the others will not be tolerated, he needs to send a strong message by firing Philbin. At best, he’s incompetent. At worst, he’s complicit. Either way, Ross should send a message and break him off.