INDIANAPOLIS – Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin stepped to the podium and started talking, taking responsibility for the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito harassment issue before any questions were asked.
He made it clear that as the head coach of the team, even though he said he had no idea about the harassment and bullying that was going on by Incognito and others at the time it was happening, he is responsible for the workplace environment. He said when he interviewed with team owner Stephen Ross for the Dolphins job, one of his goals was to make sure everyone who came into the organization had a tremendous experience and felt the team was committed to making them better.
Clearly, that didn't happen for Martin, an offensive tackle who left the team last season when the bullying became too much for him.
"Some of the facts, the behavior and language that was outlined in the report, was inappropriate and it's unacceptable," Philbin said during a three-minute opening statement. "I'm the one in charge of the workplace, so I can tell you -- I can tell our fans, I can tell you sitting here, I can tell our players -- we're going to do things about it. We're going to make it better. We're going to look at every avenue, uncover every stone, and we're going to have a better workplace. I promise you that."
Philbin said he hadn't received Ted Wells' report ahead of time, and read it last week at the same time everyone else did. He said he knew many of the details from being interviewed by investigators and through media reports, but he hadn't known all of it. And he didn't know of the worst of the issues as they were happening, but he said he'll make changes to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"I have to do a better job," Philbin said. "I have to make sure we create a better atmosphere and a better environment.
"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."
Philbin conspicuously hadn't been scheduled to meet with the media at the combine, but was added to the list overnight before the combine's news conferences began. That change happened after the Dolphins fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill on Wednesday for their roles in the bullying scandal. Philbin was the first coach to meet with the media at the combine.
The Wells Report took it easy on Philbin, letting him off the hook for almost everything that happened during the Martin-Incognito ordeal.
"After interviewing Coach Philbin at length, we were impressed with his commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization—a point echoed by many players," the report said. "We are convinced that had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct, he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity."
The report also said Philbin confronted Turner after the details started to get reported in the media and told him the players' alleged conduct “better not be happening.”
Philbin took a tone of responsibility on Thursday morning. Coaches aren't often visible in an NFL locker room, but he still said as the head coach he should have been more aware.
Center Mike Pouncey was also implicated in the report as one of Martin's harassers, and he's still under contract. Philbin said the team has been communicating with the NFL about possible punishments, but no decisions have been made on players' futures with the team. He said Martin will meet with Ross soon, and wouldn't comment on Martin's future with the team before that meeting happens. Incognito and guard John Jerry, who was also implicated as harassing Martin, are free agents.
Philbin said the ordeal has been difficult, and while he was forceful on the podium, it's certainly not what he wanted to be addressing at the start of the scouting combine.
For a man who wanted the Dolphins to be known as a first-class organization built on integrity, having this happen on his watch produced some obvious regrets.
"I don't have the benefit to look back," Philbin said. "Certainly I would hope that I would have noticed some of these things. I can tell you I never turned my back on, if I heard this type of language and these types of acts being done, I would have intervened immediately. There's a common decency that people need to have for one another, and when that gets violated that's an issue. I certainly wish I had seen some of it. I could have intervened quicker, and perhaps it would not have grown to this proportion."
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