Joe Philbin begins year of accountability
February, 20, 2014
By James Walker | ESPN.com
Something really stood out to me in the statement Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin released this week following the firings of offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O'Neill.
"It is not possible for a team to accomplish its goals when the fundamental values of respect are violated," Philbin said. "That ultimately rests on my shoulders and I will be accountable moving forward for making sure that we emphasize a team-first culture of respect towards one another."
Moving forward? Was Philbin's level of accountability any different the past two years than it is now?
It was an odd statement to make following the 144-page Ted Wells report that pulled the curtain back on Miami's locker-room culture. The 2013 Dolphins were Philbin's team, and an ugly bullying scandal happened on his watch. The accountability was just as high then as it is right now.
According to the report, Philbin didn't know anything about the persistent harassment and bullying going on inside his locker room. That was enough to keep his job. But some would say it's embarrassing for a head coach -- a leader of men -- to not know an inkling of what was brewing inside his locker room.
To Philbin's credit, he was stern and fiery during his news conference Thursday at the NFL combine. Miami's coach finally took some responsibility.
"I want everybody to know I am the one who is responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins facility," Philbin said. "I'm the one that sets the schedule. I decide when the practices are. I decide what time players eat, how they meet, when they lift, everything they do at the facility."
But if Philbin was responsible for the workplace environment, why were there so many other job casualties while he kept his position?
Turner was held accountable. O'Neill was held accountable. Richie Incognito, John Jerry and probably Jonathan Martin all will be forced to find work with other teams next season. Meanwhile, Philbin was the head coach responsible for all of these men and suffered no repercussions. His lack of awareness helped him make it through this controversy without even a slap on the wrist. There is something wrong with this picture.
Philbin failed the Dolphins both off the field with the bullying scandal and on the field with the team's late-season collapse. The latter also partially cost former general manager Jeff Ireland his job. Chalk up Ireland as another person held accountable.
"Look, I'm the head football coach. So the team, the performance of the team, the 8-8 record, that falls on my shoulders," Philbin explained Thursday. "I'm going to be more vigilant. I'm going to be more diligent. I'm going to be more visible, and I'm going to have a better pulse [of the locker room]."
It's finally time for the Dolphins to hold Philbin accountable in 2014. Anything that happens with the Dolphins this year starts and ends with the third-year head coach. Passing the buck to reduce culpability -- on or off the field -- is no longer acceptable.