So the Wells Report makes its appearance. And not before time, depressing reading though it is. Alas, I feel the need to get some of my thoughts down on paper so get ready for some rambling.
Richie Incognito, aided and abetted by John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, has been found to have harassed Jonathan Martin. No great surprise there, based on what has become public knowledge to date. Martin very much comes off as a victim, despite his best attempts to become friendly with Incognito so as to become part of the crew.
It seems that Incognito's bipolar-ish behavioural swings meant that was never a winning strategy. While by all accounts a good friend at times, Incognito too often reverted to type. Especially in the company of other team-mates. We've all seen it happen - guys who are perfectly sensible and reasonable one-on-one become aggressive loud-mouths when out on the town with the lads.
Incognito is a natural bully. Probably not so much in the traditional "weak" bully stereotype, but in an aggressive manner, both physically and verbally. It works for him on the field and he carries on doing it off the field.
Incognito is also described as lacking the filter that most people have that tells us when to lay off someone. Incognito knew that his actions were "breaking JMart" as he put it. He just didn't realise that this was actually something important.
Martin's attempts to give as good as he got failed miserably. Despite his intelligence, Martin just doesn't have the background of street smarts or no-nonsense attitude to win at that type of game. As Martin said himself, he just wants people to like him. So he ended up just absorbing the abuse. Worrying himself sick over the whole thing. And there's only so long that a person can carry on doing that.
Pattern of Behaviour
For me, the big news from the report was the other harassment:
- The scandalous homophobic treatment of Player A*.
- The constant harassment of other offensive linemen (the Report notes Josh Samuda and Nate Garner and younger players generally as suffering in this respect).
- The racist abuse directed at the Assistant Trainer**.
These discoveries on their own put the nail in the coffin of Incognito and give Pouncey and Jerry serious questions to answer.
The rest of the team doesn't get a pass in my book though. It seems that plenty players witnessed or were aware of the harassment Martin (and likely the other linemen) were receiving, but they did nothing to stop it. They seemed to have the attitude that it was up to Martin to do something about it - highlighted by one player saying to Martin in the canteen queue "Get them off your back JMart".
Worse, is that Jim Turner, the Offensive Line Coach, Chris Mosley, Assistant Offensive Line Coach, and Kevin O'Neill, Head Trainer, all witnessed and accepted the sexual, homophobic and racist harassment. It sounds like Joe Philbin relied on his staff to monitor the players (similar to what Don Shula said he did back in the day) and they kept him in the dark.
Worse still, is that Jim Turner inculcated an atmosphere where players were unable to report anything to him, or anyone else at the Dolphins or be branded a "Judas".
* The Report makes a futile attempt to protect the identity of Player A. However, the text messages made public to date include one saying "...give McDonald bath salts and lock him in your house with a tranquilizer gun & a box of sand paper condoms". There was only one McDonald on the OL - Andrew McDonald, now with the Carolina Panthers.
** Similarly, the Report tries to protect the identity of the Japanese Assistant Trainer. Would you like to guess how many Japanese assistant trainers are detailed in the Dolphins team directory? Naohisa Inoue now has an unwelcome moment in the spotlight.
Lets look at everyone involved and what needs to happen now:
Richie Incognito: I don't see anything other than an indefinite NFL suspension coming his way. He was up before Goodell for a warning in 2012. The bad press and head-ache that this has given the league means that nothing else will do. Of course, the reality of an "indefinite" suspension is that Richie will likely get another chance in 2015 or 2016 (subject to keeping his nose exceptionally clean from now on of course). Richie is a top 10-15 guard in the NFL so someone will take a chance on him and convince the NFL that they can keep him on the straight and narrow.
Top tip for Incognito: when you ask someone to get rid of the evidence, don't do it by text message.
Mike Pouncey: Even before this Report was issued, Mike Pouncey being mixed up in something to do with Aaron Hernandez and some guns was raising some red flags. The news that he was heavily involved in the harassment was something the Dolphins definitely did not want to hear. Pouncey is the only solid part of the offensive line and not someone they can afford to lose. I see a team issued suspension and fine coming Pouncey's way. Maybe 2 weeks and a six figure sum or thereabouts, with the Dolphins crossing their fingers and hoping that the NFL doesn't add to it. Longer term, I think Pouncey won't be getting a good contract offer from the Dolphins when his rookie deal expires - he is now too much of a risk.
John Jerry: On the face of it, this is easy for the Dolphins - they weren't planning on keeping Jerry around anyway now that he is a free agent. Jerry will find a team no problem - so long as they don't mind him not playing for the first few weeks of the season due to an NFL suspension.
Andrew McDonald: Hopefully, McDonald's team-mates at Carolina aren't subjecting him to what he went through at the Dolphins. As something of a marginal NFL player, his career is constantly on the line and being able to focus on his job was no doubt something of a relief.
Nate Garner: Garner appears to have suffered through abuse for years. He has always been a reliable back-up and maybe with a better work environment he can take the next step up to become a starter.
Jim Turner: He's gone. Probably with a season long NFL suspension to boot. I suspect he'll go back to a college coaching position. The Dolphins look like they have already recruited his replacement in John Benton, although they may look to bring in an assistant for him.
Chris Mosley: He left the team for personal reasons around the same time as Martin. As far as I know there is no suggestion that this was related to anything going on with Incognito and Martin. I'm not aware what he is doing now. I don't think he would be considered to have enough influence to carry much blame and his career shouldn't be significantly affected.
Kevin O'Neill: He's gone. He definitely falls into the category of someone who should have known better - it was his responsibility to ensure that his staff are treated respectfully. Trainers probably aren't high enough profile to attract the opprobrium of the NFL but he won't be getting another NFL position any time soon.
Naohisa Inoue: He probably has a clear cut workplace harassment claim if he wishes to take it. The Dolphins will want to do the right thing by him and even if a new Head Trainer wants to bring in his own staff I imagine that Inoue will be kept on. I wouldn't have thought his standing in the locker room will be in question either - the Report makes it clear that he didn't want to break any confidences with the players.
Joe Philbin: I've seen quite a few articles panning Philbin for his lack of knowledge of the situation. I'm not sure about that. It seems to be quite common for coaches to be somewhat separate from the locker room. Especially the head coach. Don Shula said recently that he relied on his assistant coaches to let him know what was going on with the players and this also seems to be a not uncommon approach around the NFL (notwithstanding the protestations of some former head coaches now with the media). In this case it was the assistant coaches that tacitly went along with Incognito. There was also a team leadership committee, but this included the culprits.
I'm sure that Philbin would have been aware that Incognito was a loud-mouthed aggressive individual but I suspect that Incognito would have toned things down significantly when Philbin was around. It also seems clear that Joe Philbin did more-or-less the right things whenever he was told anything. I think Philbin is safe. The upshot of the affair may be that Philbin gets more involved directly with the players - which may not be a bad thing.
Jeff Ireland: While Ireland is gone already, he is coming across as someone who is not terribly sensitive to emotional matters (both from this Report and previous incidents such as Dez Bryant's mother). This will make it harder for him to find a new position in the NFL. I fully expect to see him on an NFL staff after a year out of the game though.
Jonathan Martin: As for Martin? The last couple of months haven't helped his case. The dealings with the media look to have been artificially stage-managed. No-one will be surprised if lawyers end up earning big money from Martin and the Dolphins and / or the NFL over the next year or two. For that reason, the Dolphins won't want to cut him. It doesn't look like Martin himself would be happy returning to the Dolphins however. I think a trade is actually more likely, for a notional 7th round pick or a marginal player, probably in consultation with Martin.
Martin himself may not have been a particularly good tackle with the Dolphins, but he's certainly good enough to play in the league. And if he can land somewhere he feels comfortable, he may have a better shot at realising the potential he had on leaving college. Top tips seem to be the 49ers with his old college coach, Jim Harbaugh, and the Colts with his old QB, Andrew Luck.
Look for a new NFL-wide bullying and harassment policy, with clear examples of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Expect it to be enforced, for a while at least. Also expect grumbling from players around the league as coaches start micro-managing behaviour even more than they already do.
Expect episodes from training camps around the league to get a lot of press, as journalists try to make mountains out of whatever molehills they can dig up.
Expect a few players around the league to cop fines and suspensions for breaking the policy. Some of them deserved, some not probably not so much.
Expect the Dolphins locker room to be much a quieter place next season.