Posted February 20, 2014

Joe Philbin vows to be more ‘vigilant’ as coach of Miami Dolphins

AFC East, Miami Dolphins
Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins, tried his best to defer his team's controversies, but some things won't just go away.

Joe Philbin tried his best to defer his team’s controversies, but some things won’t just go away. (Michael Conroy/AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — At 7:17 ET Wednesday evening, the Miami Dolphins sent out a press release announcing the firings of offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O’Neill. Less than an hour later, the team sent out an e-mail announcing that head coach Joe Philbin would speak at the scouting combine; it was previously reported by several sources that he would not. Given the severity of the recently released Wells Report and what it said about his team, Philbin could be excused for wanting to avoid that melee. But he appeared to be on his game Thursday — at least, as much as he could be.

When he came to the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium to kick off the four days of media availability for coaches, general managers and players, Philbin was certainly definitive. He didn’t open it up for questions to start, and he didn’t read from a script. Clearly, he was a coach who knew that his leadership was under fire, and justifiably so. After the Dolphins bullying scandal became public and viral and the Wells report was released, indicating almost 150 pages of anarchy going on in the team’s locker room, Philbin had to start from ground zero in establishing himself as a coach who could lead men — in any capacity.

“I remember the first day I interviewed for the Miami Dolphins head coaching job with [team owner Steve Ross],” Philbin said. “We talked a lot about the type of program I wanted to run in Miami. And one of things I told Steve was … it’s important to me that any player we have, or any staff member … I wanted to create an atmosphere where their experience as a Miami Dolphin was the best professional experience they ever had. And if they left Miami and went to another organization, they would look back on their time as a Miami Dolphin and say, ‘That organization was committed to helping me reach my full potential. That they committed the resources and invested in the individuals to make us a great football team.’ So they could look back and say they had a tremendous experience.

“Any time that isn’t accomplished; any time one of our players or staff members has an experience contrary to that, it requires my attention. It needs to be corrected. I want everyone to know: I’m the one responsible for the workplace environment at the Dolphins facility.”

Philbin went on to list the things that he controls about that workplace — when the players meet, when they eat, when they lift, and on and on. And he mentioned multiple times that he would endeavor to do a better job of staying aware of what went on in his locker room — specifically, he would be more “vigilant, diligent and visible.”

But the problem is that the locker room is the NFL player’s sanctuary from coaches and trainers — from those men who command and control their lives. So, as much as Philbin wants to claim that there will be a new sheriff in town, it’s not quite that simple.

“I’m in charge of the workplace. And I can tell everybody — I can tell our fans, I can tell you sitting here, I can tell our players … we’re going to do things about it. We’re going to make it better. We’re going to look at every avenue, and uncover every stone, and we’re going to have a better workplace. I promise you that.”

Setting those promises into action? Not quite so simple. This, after all, was a coach who worked for an organization for two full years, allegedly in charge, and didn’t know a single thing about the factors that would rip his team apart while they were actually occurring. And that’s not an indictment of Philbin, per se — it’s just not how locker rooms work. Perhaps rather than insisting he’ll change a culture that can’t be changed so easily, Philbin might want to admit as much, and look to find better and more accountable team leaders.

Philbin first learned of the problems between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin after Martin went AWOL from the team on Oct. 31, and he was able to fill in the blanks when the Wells investigators interviewed him on Nov. 18. As is usually the case, Philbin was praised in the report for his honesty and integrity. There is a real sense that he’s a good man, who wants to get to the truth more easily next time.

“I have to do a better job,” he said. “I have to look at everything — how we educate, how we communicate, the way we teach one another. We have a lot of dedicated, committed people in our organization who make a lot of sacrifices every single day when they go to work. And I have to make sure that we create a better atmosphere and a better environment.”

Philbin was asked repeatedly just how this would be put into place, but his speeches were short on specifics. Perhaps that’s because he’s dealing with a situation in which there are no easy answers — and platitudes about accountability, no matter how well-intentioned, won’t do the job.

“I don’t have the benefit to look back,” he concluded. “I would have hoped that I would have noticed some of these things. I can tell you that I never turned my back. If I heard this kind of language or these types of acts being done, I would have intervened immediately. There’s a common decency that people need to have toward one another. When that gets violated, that’s an issue. I certainly wish I had seen some of it and would have intervened quicker. And perhaps it would have not grown to this proportion that it’s grown to.

“It’s easy to look back. That’s how it unfolded. Now I have to focus on the future and we’re going to correct the problems.”


			
			
		
14 comments
JeffFreedman
JeffFreedman

Insanity in the Dolphins locker room went on for two years and Philbin was totally clueless. And, he's the one who is going to change the culture and the dysfunction? What a Joke?

Big Mark
Big Mark

Philbin should have been fired too, there is no way he didn't know what was going on in that locker room.  Pretty pathetic that Miami is letting him stay and lie his way through this.

The_truth_hurts
The_truth_hurts

This guy looks like the dad from the movie Step Brothers.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

"I know NOTHING!  Noooothing!" -- Sgt. Schulz (Hogan's Heroes)

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Not EASY going from college to professional is it now my furry ex badger.

Steve Phillips
Steve Phillips

Locker rooms are not generally places coaches hang out in. I'm not giving Philbin a pass because he is ultimately responsible for the pulse of such.

However, what are all the other (men) on a 53 man roster doing? If Pouncy and Incognito are their leaders and this was the way they treat people as teammates and team personnel I have a huge problem with each and everyone of these (men).

Somebody needed to have a sac and step up and tell these morons to knock it off! To the point of communicating to coaches that it is time for a leadership change!

Whatever
Whatever

I don't believe Philbin for a minute. He knew what was going on -- how could you not? Did Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry only act this way when Philbin had left the area? What baloney. Head coaches have their eyes and ears in the locker room, and they know everything that happens. If they don't, then they're bad head coaches and should be fired.

swededawg52
swededawg52

Be more vigilant to not hire more mama's boys. 

ezwriter69
ezwriter69

This is the guy who is such an inept judge of character that he made Incognito and Pouncey members of his Leadership Council. This is the guy who was either inexplicably oblivious or inexcusably tolerant of what was transpiring in his locker room. And this is the guy who Ross and the Fins trust to change the environment NOW? 

Philbin wasn't asked and didn't answer the two obvious and simple questions: HOW could you not know (if anyone is gullible enough to believe you didn't), and HOW could you so totally misjudge the character of Pouncey and Incognito? Bellowing and posing with your chin out in a press conference changes absolutely nothing, it just makes you look even more incompetent and clueless than everyone who watched Hard Knocks already knew BEFORE this fiasco.

For Ross and the Fins to keep this laughable failure as their coach, their "leader", says more about them than about Philbin.

Indefensible idiocy.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Unfortunately, Joe’s statement, “I’m the one responsible” has same ring as that tired, empty, “I take full responsibility” and then no firing, resignation or leave.  Owner Ross has his back, so maybe Joe’s defense is plausible but you couldn’t discern it from this pep-talk / job description, w/out coach giving any specifics on his role in Bully-gate.


And can’t agree, Doug, “Philbin could be excused for wanting to avoid the melee.”  Joe should want out front & center to speak publicly on report for first time.  And as for Philbin being “good man,“ okay, but it’s too bad victims here couldn’t have benefited from that supposed trait.  “Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,“ so some say.


But second chances are generally a good thing.  Maybe some lessons learned.

Chris10
Chris10

Ridiculous that he is still the coach.  This is why bullying will not go away anytime soon.  If he was really "accountable" he would have been fired for being in charge of that mess.  If the NFL were serious about changing this culture they would have demanded that the "head" coach be fired.  He was supposedly in charge of the team including the locker room so he should be held responsible for what occurred there.  

Bucky182
Bucky182

@Chris10 I can agree with this to a point but like Farrar said, and I said as much yesterday, locker room change isn't going to happen overnight. Coaches don't police the locker room. The locker room is the players' sanctuary away from coaches. Like Farrar said, and this goes for every organization, not just the Dolphins, coaches need to choose better leaders to patrol and lead those locker rooms. Coaches aren't in there and even after this still won't be in there. These players are supposed to be responsible adults and there are plenty that don't act like it. The Dolphins haven't really had anybody since Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor step into those leadership roles and Philbin needs to find those guys. But don't think for one second that, because of this scandal, coaches like Philbin, Belichick, Tomlin, McCarthy, Carroll, and the Harbaugh brothers are going to be spending more time in the locker rooms.

Chris10
Chris10

Doesn't matter if he is in the locker room or not he is the "head" coach and is responsible for his team good or bad.  My manager isn't in my cubicle but if I did any of the things these lowlifes did I would be fired as well as him.  That's what being responsible and in charge is all about.