- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons -- and so is head coach Joe Philbin. Richie Incognito's alleged harassment of Jonathan Martin happened on Philbin's watch, and how Philbin manages the team through this crisis will go a long way toward determining if he is the right or wrong coach for Miami.
That's right: In just his second year on the job, Philbin is already approaching what will be the defining moment in his head-coaching tenure with the Dolphins.
Miami (4-4) is a .500 team with more issues off the field than on it. Ryan Tannehill's poor pass protection certainly takes a backseat to the ugly Incognito-Martin situation that is making national headlines.
ESPN and various media reports highlighted Incognito's persistent harassment and bullying of Martin over the past year-and-a-half. Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN that the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, a year after Martin was drafted:
"Hey, wassup, you half n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s--- in your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
Philbin took on the brunt of the responsibility Monday, saying it's up to the head coach to create and facilitate the right locker-room culture.
"I want you to know as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, I am in charge of the workplace atmosphere," Philbin said. "Since April 10, 2012, when players first came here ... every decision I've made, everything we've done at this facility was done with one thing in mind: That is to help our players and our organization to reach their full potential. Any type of conduct and behavior that detracts from that objective will not be tolerated."
Philbin refused to answer whether or not he knew about Martin’s troubles before the right tackle left the team last week. Those details certainly will come out during the NFL's look into the matter.
In the meantime, Philbin is under the microscope -- and it has nothing to do with his 11-13 record as head coach. Coaching in the NFL is not always about X's and O's. Often, it's about crisis management and putting out fires. What's going on in Miami happens to be an inferno.
Philbin is at a crossroads. Either he is the right coach for the Dolphins, somebody who will solve this issue immediately within his locker room and won’t allow this to happen again. Or he is the wrong coach, somebody who tried to handle a very serious situation way too late.