The issues that continue to revolve around the Miami Dolphins and the alleged bullying incidents between offensive linemen Ritchie Incognito and Jonathan Martin will not go away anytime soon.
As the Dolphins took the field Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the firestorm still brewing from an incident that was uncovered a week ago was still burning brightly and even open the door for questions about the Dolphins (4-5) losing focus during practice this week – allowing Tampa Bay to get its first win of the season.
ESPN knew a good thing when it had it, using the three-plus hours of television as a platform to interview Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about what transpired over the past seven days and how a team embroiled in such turmoil can even think of playing the actually game players are paid to play.
It is also safe to say the Jaguars and Buccaneers were all too happy to allow a team that has ridden a roller coaster all year be the subject of more chaos, taking the spotlight way from two (at the time) winless teams.
Now, with a loss to the Buccaneers and the comments Ross has made regarding the situation, the fact the media is not leaving the situation alone and the idea that what was first a locker room incident and team problem has now open NFL locker rooms for scrutiny and raises the question about adults bullying adults, can the team’s general manager and its head coach weather this storm, altogether?
Ashley Fox of ESPN.com hit the nail right on the head regarding this situation, stating that there are things the media and the public cannot be naïve to think the organization was not aware of while the “incidents” were taking place.
“At some point during the National Football League's investigation into a uniquely ugly, complex situation, Philbin will have to answer some dicey, uncomfortable questions about the culture he set up for his team. How did such a funky dynamic develop between Incognito and Martin, in which Incognito was both tormentor and protector of Martin? How did no one in the locker room notice or care that over the course of a year and a half, Martin became distressed? How did no assistant coach, trainer or equipment manager pick up on the problem and bring it to Philbin's attention?”
Even before this situation came to light, the Dolphins had their own vast cast of problems. But with the transition of playing a game to trying to protect the locker room as a sanctuary, Philbin will continue to take plenty of heat.
“How did Philbin not know something was going on? And if he did know and didn't act -- or, even worse, if he encouraged Incognito's behavior in the first place -- what does that say about Philbin as a leader of men?” Fox asks later in her article.
If the Dolphins are watching Philbin with a scrutinizing eye – and they should have been before this story broke because the Dolphins were 3-0 to start the season, then lost their next four game, only to split their last two, does this mean the team is also watching general manager Jeff Ireland’s every move?
While Ireland has not been directly linked to this situation like Philbin and questions about the control of the team, which ultimately falls at the feet of the head coach, he did make several offseason moves to try and improve this team – which included the signing of former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace in free agency, which has done more to prove the wide receiver is a diva and not a hugely popular fit for this team.
Ross stated in an interview before the game he was “appalled” by the transgressions of the team, and had talked to Martin about the situation, and plans to reach out to Incognito as well.
He said he wants to change the culture of this team and will enlist former Dolphins like Don Shula, Dan Marino and Jason Taylor to help task. He will also call on Tony Dungy and Curtis Martin to lend their support.