The Jonathan Martin / Richie Incognito bullying report, published yesterday, painted a grim picture of the life Martin was forced to endure in the Miami Dolphins locker room. However, it largely exhonorates head coach Joe Philbin, and the Miami Dolphins front office. It confirmed that they were unaware of the bullying taking place. But in doing so, the report may well have put an end to Joe Philbin’s tenure as head coach.
Since Jonathan Martin walked away from the Miami Dolphins, amidst claims of bullying by his teammates, Joe Philbin—current head coach of the Miami Dolphins—has insisted that he was unaware of any of the goings on.
Ted Wells report confirms this fact. However, in doing so, it poses some serious questions about his leadership abilities.
How, for example, could the head coach of an NFL football team be completely unaware that the type of bullying described was taking place on his watch? How could he have not known that one of his assistant coaches was subject to racial abuse? How could he have been unaware that, in the days that followed Martin’s apparent breakdown, his offensive line coach text the player, in hospital, pressuring him to step back from his claims?
At best, this is a tale of ineptitude and mismanagement of his troops. At worse, it feels like a case of almost political “plausible deniability”, where Philbin has created a culture of “don’t tell me how, just get results”. Wherever the truth lies, however, Philbin does not come out of this smelling of roses.
Though the report appears to go out of its way to avoid laying blame directly upon Philbin and the front office staff, indirectly, it seems to have done just that.
In an interview with NFL Network when he was hired, Philbin spoke of the importance of accountability and the need for role models on his team. “How [players] conduct themselves on the field, and off the field will be critical,” said Philbin at the time. “We want the Dolphins to be the very best.” Philbin simply hasn’t lived up to that standard.
It raises serious questions about the culture Philbin and his staff have created in Miami. Incognito was on the leadership team, an example for the players to look up to, yet he was also heavily involved in the bullying of teammates.
Line coach Jim Turner was one of Philbin’s most trusted advisors, and was, at least once, directly involved in the homophobic taunting of a player. Former assistant Chris Mosley had apparently heard and was aware of some abuse, and admitted as much, but somehow, this did not make its way back to Philbin.
There was no culture of accountability created and fostered by Philbin. There was no sense of ownership of actions, no integrity. Philbin is pained in the report as a mere bystander to all of this—and one with his back turned no less. This is not the image of a strong leader. It is not the image of a man who should be leading a football team, not least of which one which finds itself in unbelievable turmoil.
By all accounts, Philbin seems to be a nice, genuine and caring man. He visited with Martin in the hospital following his breakdown. He is softly spoken, articulate, calm and level-headed. What he is not, in light of this report, however, is a strong leader. He does not seem to have strength of character to steer this team through the fallout. He is a good coach, without a doubt, but not a good leader.
GM Jeff Ireland has already gone. It now seems only a matter of time before the Dolphins clear house, and start fresh.
Philbin’s only hope is that the Dolphins will view the field of available head coaches as unappealing, since other teams have already snapped up the top candidates, but this is a slim hope, and no great reflection on the state of the team. Like Joe Philbin, we await the future fallout.