Give Chad Johnson this much: The man might have had the most eventful Dolphins career of any player in club history among those who appeared in exactly one game — an exhibition at that — and dropped the only pass thrown his way.
Quick chronology of Johnson’s two summer months with Miami:
Gets married in wedding filmed for planned new reality show.
Has surname legally changed from Ochocinco back to Johnson.
Says hello to Dolphins with profanity filled introductory news conference.
Is admonished by coach Joe Philbin to quit spewing F-bombs publicly in an intended private conversation aired nationally on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
Gets arrested for head-butting his newlywed wife Evelyn in a domestic incident.
Is cut by Dolphins.
Learns his planned reality series, The Ev & Ocho Show, set to launch in September, has been cut by VH1.
I think that about catches us up.
At Dolphins camp Monday the talk was all about how the former Ochocinco suddenly was the former Dolphin, and also about how one prominent teammate, linebacker and defensive leader Karlos Dansby, outspokenly blasted the Dolphins for not standing behind Johnson and giving him another chance.
Dansby isn’t right. Philbin made the right decision in letting go of Johnson even if it won’t be entirely popular within the locker room.
Poor Joe, right? Tough enough for a rookie head coach to try to get a listing franchise upright and moving forward again without the kind of weekend he just had. And I don’t even mean the exhibition loss to Tampa Bay.
First Philbin learns quarterback David Garrard — the starter or at least No. 1 on the depth chart — would miss most or all of the preseason following minor knee surgery.
Then he sees his most experienced, accomplished receiver arrested, then gone.
It leaves one tempted to wring hands and affix a TEAM TURMOIL label, except that both situations present an opportunity for the Dolphins and this rookie coach.
At quarterback, not to repeat myself, this helps clears the way for the club to fast-track its future by doing what it should and giving the job to promising rookie Ryan Tannehill.
With Johnson, Philbin has an opportunity to be seen as decisive, as tolerating no silliness or off-field distractions, and as moving forward with an eye on youth, not recycling older players such as Garrard and Johnson when this season should be about development, about building something special.
Philbin kept saying Monday how Johnson didn’t “fit.” He is trying to build a team. I don’t know there is any NFL player more about “me.”
I try to not criticize honesty so won’t blame Dansby for his candor, but I also see Philbin’s point of view in saying, “I’m of the opinion you should keep things in-house.” As a coach I don’t want a linebacker blasting me for cutting a receiver — especially when there are complicated circumstances as with Johnson.
At Dolphins camp Monday one of my media brethren snickered, “I wonder if Cameron Wake would have been cut for a head-butt,” knowing the likely answer: “No.” The thing is NFL players are not all equal. Never have been. Bulletin: Stars are treated differently. So are top performers in most any line of work, right?
I remember Jimmy Johnson, way back in the Dallas Cowboys days, telling me once that if a seventh-round, fourth-string rookie guard fell asleep in a team meeting you would kick his butt out the door, but if Troy Aikman was caught dozing you would gently nudge him awake and offer to fluff his pillow.
Plainly, Chad Johnson was no longer a star and on shaky ground with the Dolphins even before his weekend arrest.
Since being signed in June he had done little on the field to indicate he was poised, at 34, to recapture his Pro Bowl past in a career that has not seen him a consistently premier receiver since around 2007.
He clowned himself and embarrassed the organization with that profane introductory news conference, and then Philbin’s rebuke splayed all over the initial episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks last week left Johnson seething.
“He felt like Philbin cut his [testicles] off,” a teammate told me Monday.
Johnson blames his poor play in New England last year on the personality-smothering of old-school Bill Belichick. Chad counted on more freedom to be himself in Miami, his hometown, and was pouting after that step-in-line admonishment by Philbin.
Well, sorry, Chad, but if not spewing F-bombs in public while representing your team is too much to ask, I think the issue there is with you, not your employer.
(Count it as an irony that it was a [bleeping] news conference and subsequent scolding aired on a reality series that helped fashion the Dolphins demise of Johnson, a player who craves the cameras and spotlight to near obsession).
The next day when asked by local reporters about that conversation aired on Hard Knocks, Johnson declared, “I don’t do media anymore.” That would have been better received as a promise than a threat. In any case his self-imposed boycott lasted one day.
And the last time we saw Chad Johnson as a Dolphin he was dropping the only pass thrown to him in Friday’s first exhibition.
The thing with a guy like this is you’re never quite sure where the real life ends and the reality show begins. We speak of man who legally changed his last name to “Ochocinco” for the publicity. Johnson has also paid a league fine for being on Twitter during a game, sported a Mohawk and donned a mustard-colored, Hall of Fame-looking jacket as an end-zone celebration.
Until VH1 canceled The Ev & Ocho Show on Monday, I half suspected Johnson and his wife contrived the whole head-butting episode as material to spice up their show. Only involving this guy might such a thought have even occurred.
The Dolphins won’t miss Johnson’s diminishing skills and will miss the distraction he is even less.
Maybe the NFL’s one-man reality show will catch on elsewhere. We wish him — and that new team — much luck