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What should we make of the Jonathan Martin story? How should we react to Richie Incognito being suspended? What do we take from a series of events that have created the wrong type of headlines for this football team?
We should be talking football today. We should be focusing on a 4-4 record and an upcoming Monday night game against a winless Tampa Bay team that last Sunday almost upset the Seahawks in Seattle. We should be thinking about the second-half of the season and how to build off of what happened a Thursday ago against Cincinnati.
But instead there is controversy and concern. Instead, we are in the grips of a story about a player who left the team, about another player who was suspended pending a league review, about a series of allegations, about the likelihood of player misconduct and about ugly voice mails and e-mails and questions about the things that occur within the inner fabric of a football team.
I don’t pretend to have any answers. I’m not going to tell you that I know what happened in the Dolphins locker room, that I know what Incognito did or didn’t do and that I can read Martin’s mind well enough to understand what he was going through to justify the actions that he took.
But what I do know is this: The Dolphins have to do everything within their power to put this behind them as quickly as possible and turn their thoughts to football once again. This can’t linger. This can’t fester. There are some serious issues here that need to be addressed, protocol that needs to be evaluated and the right of passage between rookies and veterans that needs a thorough evaluation.
The league is reviewing all of this and the Dolphins are welcoming this intervention. They want answers too. They want closure. If the review shows that there isn’t a safe atmosphere within the Dolphins locker room, then as Joe Philbin said: “I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is.” If it shows that Incognito was guilty of the things he has being accused of doing then he will be held accountable, as he should be.
Football coaches face many challenges. This is one that wasn’t on Philbin’s job description. Under Philbin’s leadership, the Dolphins must find answers, create solutions, provide guidance and somehow not let any of this stand in the way of a football team trying to get better. But it won’t be easy. Not when you lose two starting offensive linemen. Not when that offensive line was struggling to begin with.
This is an important time for Philbin. He must show leadership. He must keep his team on course. He must be assertive and aggressive and decisive. He must show that he has a firm grip on this team. Philbin said he suspended Incognito as soon as he became aware of specific allegations of player misconduct. I’m not sure, at least at this point, you can ask for much more than that.
Philbin often talks about “the character of the men in this locker room.” Well, the time is now to feed off of the character of those men, time to address the problems that exist, time to understand the climate and time to move on.
From purely a football standpoint, the offensive line is preparing to face Tampa Bay with Martin still absent and Incognito on indefinite suspension. That’s two important pieces. Nobody really knows when or if Martin will return. I think Nate Garner will do fine replacing Incognito. I like what I’ve seen from Bryant McKinnie. My major concern is depth. That’s going to be the issue moving forward.
Under overcast skies and with a slight mist in the air, Philbin met with the media on Monday afternoon. It was a surreal scene with the next football game still a week ago. More tape recorders. More cameras. A rush hour of writers and broadcasters. You had to stand on your toes just to see Philbin.
Philbin handled himself well. He spoke candidly. He went through a timeline of events. He spoke of talking with Jonathan Martin and his family. He emphasized the need for cooperation as the NFL conducts its comprehensive review of the Dolphins work place. Without hesitation, he stated that as coach of this team he accepts the responsibility that comes with it
“I take this responsibility very seriously,” he said.
A few minutes later, after Philbin had returned to the quiet of his second floor office, Cameron Wake was sitting alone by his locker. He was taken aback by all the attention. By all the questions about this exclusive fraternity they call a football team. He leaned back and smiled: “Doesn’t anybody want to ask me about Tampa Bay?”
Yes, it is time to move on from this unfortunate chapter, time to think football, time to get ready for a Monday night game. There can be no better healing than that.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM takes a midseason look at quarterback Ryan Tannehill
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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