The Miami Dolphins are now trying to put their team back together as they move on from the Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin scandal.
Thursday’s press conference at the NFL combine with head coach Joe Philbin did little to answer the vast array of issues the Dolphins are currently wading through. Although Philbin seemed genuinely determined to fix any problems that the Dolphins had in the locker room, he seemed unable to provide any specific details.
At this point, it’s impossible to say whether Jonathan Martin will eventually return to the Dolphins. Although Incognito will almost certainly be gone, Mike Pouncy and John Jerry, who were both implicated in the Wells report, may continue with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins did fire offensive line coach Jim Turner on Wednesday, and that move does send the right message to other coaches. Regardless of how high up the ladder you are, each coach has to be responsible for the actions of his players. The fact that Turner was unable to stop any bullying that was going on within his position group was enough to justify his dismissal.
By itself, that’s still not enough. It’s important to understand that most locker rooms in the NFL aren’t like the Dolphins. Most teams are able to work together without any significant incidents. We would like to believe that even when there is an incident, healthy teams are able to deal with the problem in house, but as we saw with the Dolphins, that’s not always the case.
Since the Wells report was released, the debate has taken a bit of turn. Instead of discussing who was at fault, analysts, officials and fans alike are discussing just what the NFL can do as a league to head off any future bullying issues.
Coaches and players would like to see any problems arising dealt with in-house. Any time something leaks out of the locker room, it becomes a media frenzy, and that’s simply a headache no head coach wants to deal with, but what about those rare instances where a player feels that his in-house options aren’t good enough?
Perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, the NFL, or even each individual team, needs somewhere a player can go that’s outside the locker room. That would mean a player could go to a person other than his coaches to resolve a circumstance that he feels can’t be properly addressed by talking with other players or coaches.
It’s easy to dismiss an idea such as that as an unneeded waste of time, but there are a number of reasons a player may not want to go to his coaches. The player may believe his coaches will simply dismiss it, and if that player goes to other players, he may fear that he’ll become targeted by other players as well.
Regardless of what direction the Dolphins take in the coming months, one thing is clear. This isn’t an individual issue that only one team must address. It’s also important to realize it’s not a systemic issue that is negatively impacting all 32 teams in the league, or at least it doesn’t appear to be. The NFL does need to consider further preventative measures, but the league will likely wait to see how the Dolphins handle the situation before jumping in head first, and that’s probably the right course of action.