DAVIE, Fla. >> Last month, Richie Incognito said severe repercussions would be warranted if the Miami Dolphins kept allowing sacks at such an alarming rate.
“Everybody should be fired,” he said.
Nobody in Miami is talking about sacks anymore. Firings remain a distinct possibility for very different reasons.
The Dolphins’ harassment scandal is threatening the season and job security, leaving the future of coach Joe Philbin, his assistants and general manager Jeff Ireland in doubt.
Tackle Jonathan Martin alleges he was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito, who has been suspended. While Martin is scheduled to meet with an NFL special investigator late this week, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has formed two committees to study the team’s locker room culture.
“Changes need to be made,” Ross said at a news conference Monday. “We need to examine everything internally.”
Someone in the organization will likely be designated the primary culprit for the scandal, and Ireland’s the early front-runner. Ross said he had “total, utmost confidence” in Philbin but barely mentioned Ireland, who didn’t attend the news conference.
Philbin, who is 11-14 since joining the Dolphins last year, said he appreciated Ross’ vote of confidence.
“The only way you succeed if there is support within the whole entire organization,” the coach said. “It starts at the top.”
Ireland, who rarely speaks publicly, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The findings of the NFL investigator could sway Ross’ opinion, as could the final seven games and dwindling fan support. The Dolphins (4-5) have slumped after a 3-0 start, and on Monday they became the first team to lose to Tampa Bay. Another half-empty stadium is likely Sunday when they play host to San Diego.
The intensity of media scrutiny abated a bit Wednesday. Some 60 reporters and cameramen filled the locker room after practice, but Philbin was asked only two questions about the scandal during his daily news conference.
He also was asked two questions about Ireland.
“Jeff and I have worked closely since the day I’ve gotten here,” Philbin said. “The discipline of the team is in my hands. I’m in charge of that. But he has always been supportive.”
To the dismay of many Miami fans, Ireland is in his sixth year with the Dolphins even though they haven’t had a winning season since 2008, and Ross’ patience with his beleaguered general manager might finally be exhausted. Among the many questionable personnel decisions in recent years, pairing Martin and Incognito on the left side of the line appears to have been the most disastrous.
“It is not just about Richie Incognito, it’s just not about Jonathan Martin, it is about the organization as a whole, from the top down,” former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson said on ESPN, where he is now an analyst. “In a locker room setting, everybody has to coexist. Or you at least have to know what personalities go together. . Obviously, the Dolphins didn’t do their homework.”
Former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson echoed that opinion on Fox and questioned Ireland’s decision to take Martin in the second round of the 2012 draft.
“The Dolphins used a high pick on Jonathan Martin and had high expectations,” Johnson said. “Well, other teams shied away from Martin. Maybe the Dolphins should have investigated why they shied away.”
The scandal has rekindled fan ire toward Ireland, a Bill Parcells protege. Critics are quick to recall Ireland’s role in the clunky courtship of coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011, and Ireland asking Dez Bryant in a 2010 pre-draft interview if the receiver’s mother was ever a prostitute.
There also have been a multitude of questionable personnel moves, which last offseason ranged from letting Reggie Bush go to keeping Incognito.
Philbin had input in some of those decisions, and he was responsible for overseeing the locker room environment now under scrutiny.
“People are asking me how Joe Philbin could not know what was going on in that locker room,” former NFL coach Tony Dungy said in his analyst role on NBC. “Well, as a head coach, you don’t know everything. My job was to set the atmosphere up, and I counted on my leaders. So, if I said no hazing in the locker room, then it was up to Derrick Brooks, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne and those types of guys to control it.”
Dungy is on a committee assigned by Ross to review the Dolphins’ code of conduct. The committee also includes Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, and former NFL players Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin.