Every now again football affords the general public insight into life lessons and shows how the sport can teach teamwork, leadership, discipline, perseverance and pride through performance. This apparently was not the insight into the Miami Dolphins locker room this season. The aftermath of the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin bullying saga shows an intimidating and meat-head driven culture that was pervasive throughout the organization. It appears from the outside that it not only was commonplace, but that it was condoned by the staff and administration. This locker room meltdown has shaken the sports world and left much of the public shocked and appalled at how this can be allowed in any work or team sport environment.
Truth be told, Richie Incognito has a rap sheet the length of boa constrictor and there should have been visible signs that go far beyond this incident, which indicated Incognito was capable for such despicable and egregious actions to teammates. If his former NFL franchise, the one that drafted him from St. Louis has staff that is willing to state this incident doesn’t surprise them in the least then that truly speaks to his character or lack thereof in this case. The issue that is unforgivable in many athletes and fans eyes is his racially charged remarks towards Martin and his blatant disrespect and threats that were made to “toughen up” the Stanford product.
The generally accepted principle of treating another as you would like to be treated was somewhere lost in translation while in the Miami Dolphins locker room. Many teammates were quick to rise up to Incognito’s defense during the media frenzy and came to his support and offered up recollections of his leadership and stability he brought to the team. Truthfully, if he’s one of the leaders on and off the field for the Dolphins, then there is institutional failure that presides there and many higher level executives should be left dancing on thin ice after this is all settled and the truth is uncovered from a legal perspective.
Jonathan Martin graduated from Stanford and his parents are both Harvard lawyers. Incognito was kicked off the Nebraska football team reportedly for beating up teammates and transferred to Oregon where he was excused before even playing a down of football. He’s been labeled one of the dirtiest football players in the NFL by his peers multiple times and even drawn anger from opposing defenses, who have escalated their responses to his antics to include physical violence on the gridiron.
Incognito’s extreme issues with anger management are well documented, but how can one not look past the culture and the situation in which he was given a mentorship role to groom his fellow offensive lineman like Jonathan Martin? How could the Dolphins be so oblivious to the actions and words from Incognito, who now stands as an unrestricted free agent after this season, for which he is suspended in its entirety?
If Martin had grown up like fellow Cardinal alumnus Richard Sherman in Compton, California then he would probably have stood a better chance of defending himself and if he was as talented he probably would have earned Incognito and Dolphin’s respect for his play on the field. In football the offensive line is typically a tight knit unit, so how could this outlier of Incognito exist and pray on younger and more inexperienced players? Some of these questions are mind-boggling but the truth remains that this is all too familiar in sports and bullying remains an issue past grade school, high school and the teenage years.
If I were a betting man, I would say Jonathan Martin stands a far better chance of the playing in the NFL again and even next year, than Incognito. Incognito has been exposed as the true meat-head and brute monster that he had been described as from his earlier playing days. He claims to have been backed up in a corner and is trying to best dance around all these punches and accusations. These punches are self-inflicted and it’s only a matter of time before the truth prevails and life’s lessons are a takeaway from this meltdown.
Fortunately, the Miami Dolphins season is effectively over after its Monday Night Football clunker against previously 0-8 Tampa Bay and eventually the media will move on from this story. This is just the way NFL teams will move on from a talented offensive lineman who failed to let his playing do the talking and preferred to let his talking determine the playing. Good riddance Incognito.
Tip of the Week
Trades are beginning to have deadlines this week or next. So package your players to gain depth at positions where your squad needs the most improvement.