The Wells Report on the Miami Dolphins fiasco has been released. Its findings were disturbing and even haunting, and you can bet that several people's futures will be affected by the outcome.
Here's a look at what might happen to the principle figures in the hazing case as far as their football careers are concerned:
Dolphins offensive guard Richie Incognito — Days before the findings were released, Incognito tweeted that the truth would set him free. It appears that the only free-setting that might occur is for Incognito, an unrestricted free agent, to pursue a new line of work. It would take a lot for a team to want to take on a player with a laundry list of documented problems that date back to his freshman year of college, which continued through to this hazing case, and be willing to introduce him into their locker room. Not to mention the media frenzy — not to mention the likely public outrage — that would follow.
Prediction: Incognito's NFL career is over. The Dolphins would be raked over the coals if they re-signed him, and no other team will want this mess in tow, even with his talent.
Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin — This is very tricky. The report talks openly about Martin's suicidal thoughts and mentions a list of reasons why he should give up football. That certainly won't — crass as it sounds — endear himself to many teams looking for offensive line help, assuming the Dolphins part ways with him. Bringing him back to Miami might be too much for the emotionally distressed Martin (Wells' words) or the team to handle. It's possible the Dolphins could try to trade the former second-rounder, but getting anything tantamount to that in return would be extremely unlikely. There's also this big question: Does Martin want to return to football?
Prediction: Martin will land on the roster of either the San Francisco 49ers or Indianapolis Colts for a second chance at playing in the league, if he wants it. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Martin's coach at Stanford, told investigators that he "had never doubted Martin’s tenacity, work ethic and dedication to the game, and that he had never seen Martin exhibit problems with social adjustment" and that Harbaugh believes Martin "likely could continue to have a successful career in the NFL." The Colts have four former Stanford teammates of Martin's on the roster — Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen and Delano Howell — and his former offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, who could vouch for him and provide Martin a safe haven of sorts.
Dolphins center Mike Pouncey — Per the report, Pouncey and John Jerry "engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Martin, but also another young [anonymous] Dolphins offensive lineman," which ultimately led to Martin leaving the Dolphins, even if Wells said he didn't believe that was their intent. No matter. Pouncey comes off poorly in the report — even if Incognito was characterized as the main instigator — with claims of sexually explicit and racist behavior and speech and a label from Wells of being, along with Incognito and Jerry, an "equal-opportunity harasser." A text-message exchange with Incognito also suggests that the two of them plotted revenge on Martin for him leaking the information of hazing to investigators. Couple that with Pouncey's involvement in the Aaron Hernandez case, and Pouncey has a lot of strikes and potential strikes against him.
Prediction: The Dolphins will find a way to justify keeping their best offensive lineman left with a series of fines, imposed charity work and/or a short suspension. Losing the former first-rounder Pouncey would be even more devastating amid all their projected losses, and the feeling is that he'll still be on the roster for the 2014 season. But that's hardly a given.
Dolphins guard John Jerry — The involvement of Pouncey and Jerry might be equally damning, but the Dolphins have an out with Jerry. For one, he's not a great football player, totally replaceable despite having led the unit in snaps last season and being a fair pass blocker. But he's also a free agent whose contract is up, and the Dolphins simply should move on.
Prediction: Jerry will not be re-signed by the Dolphins, and he'll have a hard time finding a job with another NFL team this coming season.
Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner — Turner remains employed by the Dolphins, but for how long? The players in the case are getting the bulk of the blame for Martin's hazing, but Turner not only did little if anything to prevent it, but he also engaged in mockery of players, including Martin. Although the players told Wells they believe Turner is a good coach, he does not come off well in the report and could be part of the post-Wells bloodletting.
Prediction: The Dolphins part ways with Turner, who will not work in the NFL this season.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin — The report seems to exonerate Philbin fully of any knowledge of the abuse, and the Wells team was "impressed with his commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization — a point echoed by many players." That obviously bodes well for Philbin remaining the head coach in good standing, which everyone expects. He also has an ardent supporter, it would appear, in owner Stephen Ross, which never is a bad thing.
Prediction: Philbin remains the head coach of the Dolphins, but he heads into a hot-seat season, needing the team not to struggle again in 2014 to keep his job thereafter.
Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland — He was fired in January, with his involvement in this case being a last-straw type of situation for Ross, with whom Ireland did not always see eye to eye. His player acquisitions had as much to do with his ouster as anything, but suggestion to Martin's agent that his client merely should have punched out Incognito amid the bullying (despite Ireland's suggestion that his comments were taken out of context) were as obtuse and base as Ireland's previous missteps, such as asking Dez Bryant in a pre-draft interview whether his mother was a prostitute.
Prediction: It would take Bill Parcells to return to the NFL in some form to bring his former protegé back into the league. Ireland never will be a general manager again, and his chances of finding a job soon are not great either.
- - - - - - -