There’s no way Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner survives this. He’ll either be swept up in NFL-mandated sanctions following Friday’s release of the Ted Wells report or the Dolphins will simply part ways with him on their own.
How else to handle the status of an assistant coach who gifted most of his offensive linemen plastic female blow-up dolls prior to Christmas 2012 but gave one lineman a male doll because he recognized other linemen taunted that player about being gay?
How else to handle the report’s claims that Turner either heard or witnessed some harassment of offensive tackle Jonathan Martin by John Jerry, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey and did nothing about it, indeed, even laughed about it himself?
Former offensive line assistant Chris Mosley also apparently heard and was aware of some abuse and admitted as much. But Turner either denied or didn’t remember such incidents, forcing Wells on several occasions to call Turner’s truthfulness into question.
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And “it is undisputed,” the report claims, “that these coaches never sought to stop the behavior.”
So Turner is going to be a fall guy. As one Dolphins source texted Friday, “Not done yet but Turner cannot survive this.”
But here’s the thing: While the Wells report climbs no higher than Turner in assigning some institutional blame for what happened in the fall of 2013, it made one thing very clear.
The Dolphins head coaching job is too big for Joe Philbin.
Philbin, it seems, was completely ignorant of rampant harassment of several of his players. He had no clue why Martin left the team on Oct. 28, and even late that night after visiting with Martin at his hospital bedside, Philbin didn’t ask the player why he left the team.
Philbin was aware Martin had been battling demons for some time. He knew Martin missed two days of offseason workouts in May. And he knew Martin told Turner he was in such a bad place he had suicidal thoughts.
Although Martin curiously declined to disclose why he was having these terrible thoughts, Turner reported the entire conversation to Philbin. And Philbin followed up with a 20-30-minute meeting with Martin, the report says.
At that meeting Philbin was, “genuinely sincere in his concern for Martin, and he attempted to provide meaningful assistance to the Martin family after learning that Martin was battling depression.”
But there’s a small problem with that narrative of compassion.
The report’s very next paragraph states: “After early May, Martin had no in-depth follow-up conversations with either Coach Philbin or Coach Turner about his mental health issues.”
Philbin is said to have occasionally asked Martin how he was doing. But guess what? Coaches regularly ask all their players how they’re doing.
The player who had admitted to battling depression and thinking of suicide, the player who didn’t show up to work and would eventually flee the team got no more attention from Philbin than other players after early May.
In that regard, Philbin was merely a spectator during the lead-up to the biggest scandal ever to rock the franchise.
He didn’t know players were involved in drugs. He didn’t know players, specifically Martin, showed up to work drunk at least once. He apparently didn’t see the numerous examples the Wells report cites of players physically harassing and taunting Martin about his mother and sister on the practice field.
The Dolphins practices, which are closed to the public and media, apparently were closed to Philbin as well.
Throughout the report, people are quoted as knowing Incognito could be a problem. A staffer called him a locker room divider. But Philbin, who often spoke of the quality of his locker room, had no clue about Incognito’s locker room persona and actually allowed Incognito to be voted onto his team’s so-called leadership council.
The Wells report accurately points out players cannot regulate players. Coaches must regulate players.
“To the extent that certain players believe that the locker room should have regulated itself, there is a fundamental problem with self-regulation when the very perpetrators of the harassment are in fact leaders of the team,” the report states.
To be fair, Philbin shouldn’t been expected to know what his players are doing when they leave the facility. He’s a coach, not a babysitter. But a majority of what was happening was happening in the Dolphins’ locker room, showers, practice field and cafeteria.
Under what is supposed to be Philbin’s watch.
Oh, Philbin did the necessary legal things to protect himself and the team. At the beginning of 2013, he handed out a workplace-conduct packet and told his players to respect each other.
But Philbin never did the things many great football coaches can do:
He never won the trust of his players and others in the organization because Martin and the other players and trainers and staffers who were harassed were more afraid of breaking trust with Incognito and his bunch than with Philbin.
Philbin didn’t even have the full trust of his own assistant. After Martin left the team, Philbin asked Turner if reports of harassment of players were accurate. Turner assured his boss the reports were unfounded.
Philbin told Wells that he advised Turner that such conduct “better not be happening.”
And yet when it came to light that such things were indeed happening right under Philbin’s nose and after the Dolphins suspended Incognito, the coach did not make Turner accountable.
Indeed, last November, three weeks after Incognito was suspended, Philbin offered an endorsement of Turner days after the San Diego victory.
“I think he did a great job,” Philbin said. “It’s evidence in the play of our guys the other day. We had a lot of moving parts, and we’ve had some moving parts throughout the course of the season. I think his players believe in him. I think he works very hard every single day, and he’s done a good job.”
And Nero fiddled while Rome burned.