We all know about the adversity Coach Joe Philbin lived through early in 2012 when he and his family dealt with the tragic loss of one of his sons. The past week has developed into the greatest adversity he has faced as the Dolphins' Head Coach.
Every media outlet has run different updates from different perspectives of this still-developing story, and it seems with every update, matters go from bad to worse, and then even worse after that. I know many fans have opined that perhaps Philbin is NOT the man for this job for a variety of reasons, and, admittedly, I began contemplating that question myself.
The way I look at it, this season started a treacherous descent into mediocrity when we lost to the Ravens then the Bills in games we should have won. Add in this growing debacle attracting more national media attention than anything since the great bounty-gate, and the outlook became overwhelmingly grim.
Then I saw this linked story and watched Philbin as he stood and faced a situation which no coach or leader at any level wants to face. I was impressed and reassured for a variety of reasons. First, Philbin has taken some time to think and act deliberately in this case rather than jumping to conclusions. He compassionately reached out to Martin and maintained contact with him and the Martin family throughout the week. Philbin empathetically related the work environment to his own kids' school environment, which tells me he likely has truly connected with the Martin family and is truly committed to making this situation right. Finally, he (or Mr. Ross or both) have sought assistance from the league in identifying any systemic issues in the environment. Many people in a similar situation would tend to resist outside involvement, or even sweep matters under the rug as much as possible.
All of this speaks volumes to me as to the character and the true leadership of one Joe Philbin. In my work, leadership is important. I teach leaders about the art and science of leadership. The time-tested argument as to whether leaders are born or made has been analyzed and argued and will continue to be for years to come. Leaders are not leaders by virtue of their position or appointment. Leaders are successful and effective because of who they are and how they act - especially when faced with adversity.
True experts will break down and tear apart Philbin's actions and his lack of actions. However, I look at this as Philbin's greatest test as the head man in Miami. Not perfect, but inspiring enough to me that this situation will serve as a case study in my future classes, highlighting the gritty, inglorious side of leadership in adversity.
My only question moving forward is whether or not the existing leadership voids under Philbin will be filled with players who are capable of leading with the character put on display by their head coach this week - and will Philbin trust the players to serve that much-needed role of player-leader?