INDIANPOLIS – Speaking for the first time since the release of the Wells report on the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga, Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin on Thursday took blame allowing the environment within the organization to reach a toxic point. He also vowed to do everything in his power to improve the culture of the team.
Philbin acknowledged the toll that the incident and investigation has taken on the organization and said he and team officials remain in contact with the NFL.
Philbin’s press conference kicked off media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is held this week at Lucas Oil Stadium. The coach initially discussed his idea of the proper level of professionalism he expects from his team. He admitted that the Dolphins hadn’t maintained that standard, however.
“Anytime that isn’t accomplished – anytime a player or staff member or anyone has an experience contrary to that – it requires my attention,” Philbin said. “It needs to be corrected. It needs to be looked at. It needs to be fixed.”
Philbin added, “I want everybody to know that I’m the one that’s responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins’ facility. … 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 have a better work place. I promise you that. I’m going to make sure that happens.”
The coach didn’t go into detail on what kind of changes he would make, but he used the words “vigilant” and “diligent” to describe the efforts he intends to use.
It remains unclear exactly how much of the details of Incognito and Martin’s relationship and behavior Philbin knew about prior to Martin’s decision to leave the team with the season still in progress. Philbin said when he learned of the mental health issues and suicidal thoughts that Martin suffered from, he had a talk with the offensive lineman and referred him to medical professionals.
“I immediately connected him with medical treatment and I had subsequent discussions – nothing at great length. And out of respect for Jonathan, I’m not going to get into any of the details of those discussions. I think he should be the one to speak about his health status,” Philbin said.
The coach met with investigators on Nov. 18, but because the conflict came to light during the season, Philbin there “wasn’t a lot of time to do a lot of personal investigations into things. But the majority of things, I knew about.”
At one point in 2012, Dolphins officials had considered releasing Incognito after he harassed a female volunteer at the team’s “Fins Weekend Golf Tournament.” Philbin and officials ultimately decided against it. Asked if he regretted not dismissing the troubled offensive lineman then, Philbin refused to reflect on the past and said that they had made the decision not to cut Incognito and couldn’t play the what-if game now.
Describing the impact of the Martin-Incognito incident, Philbin said, “it’s been tough on a lot of people. It’s been tough on our locker room, on our ownership. It’s touched a lot of people across the country.”
It remains to be seen what kind of additional punishment awaits Incognito, or if Martin will resume his career as he has said he wants to. Asked if Martin would be welcomed back, Philbin said no decisions have been made on the future of any players.
The coach did know, however, that he must work to heal his organization.
“I have to do a better job,” Philbin said. “I’m going to look at the way we communicate, the way we educate, the way we talk to one another. I’m going to look at every avenue. We’ve got a lot of dedicated, committed people in our organization, in our building, who make a lot of sacrifices every day when they go to work. I have to make sure that we create a better atmosphere and work environment.”