Last night, the Miami Dolphins announced the first firings since the release of a report detailing a disgusting pattern of bullying both inside and outside the locker room--one that led offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to leave the team in the middle of the season. Martin's position coach, Jim Turner, and longtime head trainer Kevin O'Neill were both shown the door.
The decisions were made by team owner Stephen Ross, who had spent the past few days deliberating. O’Neill was not informed until he arrived at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis because Ross wasn’t ready to make a decision before then.Turner, for those who don't know, knew about how Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry were tormenting some of their teammates and did nothing. Even worse, he actually took part in it on two occasions. He not only encouraged Martin to make nice with Incognito, but took part in gay-baiting another lineman, Andrew McDonald. He didn't help his cause by lying during the interview. Turner didn't help his cause by lying during the interview. O'Neill did nothing to stop the bullying of Martin and one of his assistant trainers, and even laughed along on both occasions.
Turner had not accompanied the staff to Indianapolis.
“The language and behavior as described in the Ted Wells report are against the core values of our organization,” Ross said in a statement. “After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization.
“Jim Turner and Kevin O'Neill are good people who care a great deal about their profession and the players whom they serve, but both exhibited poor judgment at times which led me to this conclusion. … This is an opportunity and a teaching moment not only for the coaches, staff and players in our locker room, but also for participants throughout sports.”
For now, it looks like head coach Joe Philbin still has a job. In his first full-fledged press conference since the release of the report, Philbin took responsibility for the scandal. He also said that the Dolphins are working with the NFL on disciplining those involved. However, it doesn't take rocket science to know that Incognito, who will become a free agent on March 11, won't ever play another down in Miami again--and that his NFL career is very much on life support.
However, two things bother me about Philbin's role. One is that he didn't make it his business to know, especially since the standard head coach's contract requires him to supervise his assistants. The second is the fact he didn't make Incognito sit out any games for harassing a woman at the team's 2012 celebrity golf tournament. While to his credit he pressed to have Incognito released after that incident, it makes no sense that Philbin didn't sit him for a few games to start the 2012 season. Still, it is pretty telling that the decision to fire Turner was made by Ross, not Philbin.