Posted February 19, 2014

Dolphins fire offensive line coach Jim Turner in organizational shake-up

Miami Dolphins
Offensive line coach Jim Turner is no longer with the Miami Dolphins. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Offensive line coach Jim Turner is no longer with the Miami Dolphins. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

On Wednesday evening, the Miami Dolphins announced via statement that offensive line coach Jim Turner and head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neill have been relieved of their duties, effective immediately. It had previously been reported that head coach Joe Philbin did not intend to participate in a media session during the scouting combine this week, and that Turner did not accompany the team to the event in Indianapolis.

“The language and behavior as described in the Ted Wells report are against the core values of our organization,” team owner Stephen Ross said in the 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.”

A few hours after that statement was released, the Dolphins released another statement, indicating that Philbin and new general manager Dennis Hickey would speak at the combine on Thursday.

As to the firings: Turner was a major player in the bullying scandal that named left guard Richie Incognito as its main instigator and left tackle Jonathan Martin as its main alleged victim. Martin left the team on Oct. 31, apparently unable to deal anymore with what Incognito and other teammates (primarily fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey) had been putting him through.

In the report released Feb. 14, attorney Ted Wells named Turner as a major problem regarding the culture in the Miami locker room.

“Turner was aware of the running ‘joke’ that Player A [later identified as offensive tackle Andrew McDonald] was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting,” the report states. “Around Christmas 2012, Coach Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. The gifts included inflatable female dolls for all of the offensive linemen except Player A, who received a male ‘blow-up’ doll. Martin and another player reported that they were surprised Coach Turner did this; Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it. Incognito and others agreed that this incident with Coach Turner occurred. When interviewed, Turner was asked if he gave Player A a male blow-up doll. He replied, ‘I can’t remember.’ We do not believe that Turner forgot this incident, which many others recalled.”

So, Turner came off to Wells as a witness whose testimony was less than credible. And it’s entirely possible that Turner’s adherence to a line of immature intimidation exacerbated what Martin was going through.

“And in meetings, when offensive linemen were berated for missing assignments, and opined that a teammate might be responsible for an offensive play that went wrong, Turner would term that player as a ‘Judas.’” As the report states, “We accept that the fear of being labeled a ‘snitch’ or a ‘Judas’ played a role in Martin’s decision not to report abuse from his teammates. Martin believed that going to his coaches or other authority figures meant risking ostracism or even retaliation from his fellow linemen.”

As for O’Neill, his termination appears to be related — at least in part — to the treatment one of his assistants endured at the hands of Incognito and others.

“On December 7, 2012 (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor), Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem and jokingly threatened to harm the Assistant Trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. Martin reported that the Assistant Trainer confided to him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor prank, finding it derogatory and demeaning.

“Jerry and Pouncey each admitted that they repeatedly used racial language toward the Assistant Trainer—including calling him a ‘Jap’ and a ‘Chinaman’—and acknowledged their Pearl Harbor Day stunt.”

Turner also tried to intimidate Martin in order to relieve some of the pressure on Incognito soon after the bullying story broke. Turner and Martin exchanged the following text messages last year:

November 2, 2013:

Turner: Richie incognito is getting hammered on national TV. This is not right. You could put an end to all the rumors with a simple statement. DO THE RIGHT THING. NOW.

Martin: Coach. I want to put out a statement. Believe me I do. This thing has become such a huge story somehow. But I’ve been advised not to… And I’m not supposed to text anyone either cuz last time I responded to a teammate (Richie) I was intentionally manipulated and the conversation was immediately forwarded to a reporter.

Turner: He is protecting himself. He has been beat up for 4 days. Put an end to this. You are a grown man. Do the right thing

Turner: John I want the best for you and your health but make a statement and take the heat off Richie and the lockerroom. This isn’t right.

November 3, 2013:

Turner: I know you are a man of character. Where is it?

November 6, 2013:

Turner: It is never to (sic) late to do the right thing!

“Turner sent these text messages to Martin knowing that Martin had hospitalized himself in connection with a mental health condition, and in the face of public reports indicating that Martin’s emotional condition may have been a reaction to his teammates’ bullying and abusive behavior,” the report states.

Philbin has stated over and over that he had no knowledge of what Martin had been going through until Martin actually left the team. But it’s clear that Turner did, at least from the report’s evidence, and O’Neill’s involvement has yet to be determined — as does the real reason behind his firing.

One thing’s for sure — with Turner gone, it will be up to Philbin and Hickey to answer all the remaining questions, and convince those able to be convinced that the Dolphins are on a new and more sensible path. And that process begins this week.

23 comments
Marty2
Marty2

How about the local and national sports reporters who cover the Dolphins?  How many of them knew - how many of them did nothing!

burden89
burden89

Sorry but Ireland and his entire front office should have been canned along with Turner and O' Neill,  They've had to have heard the disparaging comments at some point and failed to act.   

dave_wakeman
dave_wakeman

Look...if the Dolphins were serious about building a leadership culture, Philbin would be standing in front of the media, answering all their questions, and taking the punches for the organization's lack of focus on its culture. 


Instead, he won't be addressing the media. When someone from the front office does, it will be worse because people will continue to get a narrative not of the Dolphins' liking. 


So it goes with poorly run organizations. 

Craig
Craig

HIs reported comments bring a whole new meaning to the term Offensive Line Coach.  Maybe he needs to find a new Line of work.

Mike193
Mike193

So Turner tells The Wimp Martin to DO THE RIGHT THING and that is texting harassment ?  WTF ?


Martin caused this whole thing.

Stewart3
Stewart3

Not enough, the whole coaching staff needs to go.  the players involved need to be suspended for at least a year.  maybe then the rest of the team will get it

WilliamCross
WilliamCross

Hmm, I wonder why Martin didn't just go to his coaches?

GTT
GTT

He was an "offensive" line coach alright.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Some mixed messages: "Turner an active participant in bullying," while O'Neill "laughed at some racial slurs," but owner Ross gives both his "good people" seal-of-approval.  Maybe, Steve, but that's hard to reconcile here & now.


Problem w/ coach Philbin's insulation from the trouble is that it also indicates he was disconnected from some important aspects of team operations, maybe failing, in part, a duty of leadership.  Either Joe pow-wows w/ team counsel and clears the air, speaking directly to this issue that now extends beyond Incognito, in public statement, or hard to imagine a clean slate (his firing) is not in order in near future.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

@Marty

Good question. I don't think players would let the media get that close. If a beat reporter did know much, on the one hand, it would be a huge story. On the other hand, they would ruin any chance for additional stories based on access to the players.

burden89
burden89

@Marty2  Members of the media do not work for the Dolphins organization.  They don't have a duty unlike Dolphins management

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

@dave

And there is going to be so much more coming out before this story runs its course, starting with whatever sanctions Goodell initiates.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@Mike193  

Hounding someone in a psych ward to "DO THE RIGHT THING" is harassment -- pure thuggery.

evetsyarsh
evetsyarsh

@Mike193 You, like the 11 year old Turner, appear to have no concept whatsoever of what the "RIGHT THING" is...and saying Martin caused this whole thing is a pretty brain dead thing to say...

reubendevries
reubendevries

@Mike193  Did you even read the report? Maybe before jumping to conclusions read the report ask yourself if even 1% of the antics that occurred in that locker room happened at your workplace that everyone that was in involved with the "bullying" wouldn't get immediately fired without any sort of compensation... Jonathan Martin wasn't the problem. The culture of the locker room in Maimi (possibly other locations as well). Is the problem.

Joshua13
Joshua13

@Stewart3  yawn. Perhaps the bullying went too far. But the cowardly element in our society is taking it way to far in the opposite direction

mystafugee
mystafugee

@KeysSteven  but like with Joe Paterno, it wasn't what he did as much as what he did not do.  His assistant was getting racially abused and he should have done something about it.  If he was respected as the say he was in the locker room, if he told them to knock it off, they probably would have.  

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@KeysSteven  

He's treading cautiously.  It's pretty obvious between the lines.

If he publicly says they're dirtbags or the functional equivalent thereof, they'd sue him and at the very least cost him a lot of money in legal fees.

tigersatthezoo
tigersatthezoo

@Joshua13 @Stewart3  Sorry but since when is being an overbearing jerk a good thing? There's a big difference between "being a man" and "being a neanderthal"