Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Heading into Week 10

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 6, 2013

1. Philbin's job security

This is how a great coach handles rookie hazing when it gets out of control. The example comes from former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, in a chat he did with readers on ESPN.com:

Here's an example of how it was handled when things got out of hand for us. When I was a rookie, I was asked to take the entire LB group to dinner. It cost me $1,700. As it got up to my 8th and 9th year, it turned into an entire team dinner and all the rookies paying for the dinner. That bill sometimes reached upwards of $30,000. Word got out that it was getting out of hand. I remember one captains meeting when Bill Belichick said, "That's enough of that. It's getting out of hand, guy." Joe Philbin should have been all over this.

Two things happened there.

One, Belichick discovered the abuse. Why? Because he wanted to.

Second, once the abuse was discovered, Belichick took action. Why? Because he wanted to.

Oct 20, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin (71) on the sideline in the second half of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

It's been reported by ESPN that Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin never went to head coach Joe Philbin about being bullied by Richie Incognito. That may be true.  

Still, with something that serious, Philbin should have known. He's the coach. He has an offensive line coach. Coordinators. Veterans on the team. How is it possible he didn't know? I don't believe it is, but if he didn't, that's an even worse indictment.  

Washington coach Mike Shanahan said, via The Washington Post's Mark Maske, that some players need protecting, and he did just that:

You do get sometimes guys that are a little bit more nervous or younger guys, rookies, than other guys, and you’ve kind of got to watch over them because sometimes one person might be a little bit shy. One person is a little different type of personality. And at least over the years, we try to keep an eye on those type of young guys. I'm talking about rookies coming out. Some people have hazing. Other people don't. [I've] never been much into hazing. Just the opposite. You want these guys to feel comfortable even though they do have to carry shoulder pads [of veteran players] and things along those lines. But everybody treats it a little bit differently.

See what Shanahan did there? He knows that locker rooms can be merciless places. Young players, especially socially awkward ones, may need protecting.

Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said on the Dan Patrick Show that Mike Tomlin doesn't allow hazing. Again, leadership.

All of this leads to the biggest questions asked in this ugly case: What did Philbin know, and when did he know it?

He told reporters, per ESPN.com's James Walker:

I want you to know as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, I am in charge of the workplace atmosphere. Since April 10, 2012, when players first came here … every decision I've made, everything we've done at this facility was done with one thing in mind: that is to help our players and our organization to reach their full potential. Any type of conduct and behavior that detracts from that objective will not be tolerated.

Sounds nice. Neat and rational.

The fact Philbin didn't know may be the worst aspect of this case.

Philbin's handling, or lack thereof, is one of the greatest examples of lack of institutional control we've seen in recent NFL history.

There is something else damning about Philbin. Martin didn't feel comfortable enough telling Philbin what happened when Philbin's slow ass finally got around to fact-finding. That speaks volumes.

Notice how players felt comfortable telling Belichick about the $30,000 dinners.

We're beginning to reach a conclusion that is inescapable. At the end of the season, Philbin has to go.

How can the Dolphins keep a guy as head coach who either covered this up or was clueless?

I don't think they will.

2. NFL personal conduct policy

January 26, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; AFC guard Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins (68) looks on during the AFC practice on Ohana Day at the 2013 Pro Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There are many reasons that there is no excuse for Incognito's behavior. Many. Billions, in fact. Here's yet another: the players' personal conduct policy.

NFL Player Policy Manual includes the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. This policy includes language about violent or threatening behavior between employees either in or outside of the workplace.

The manual also contains two critical documents relating to what the NFL calls its Excellence in Workplace Conduct program: one about sexual harassment; the other about sexual orientation. Both documents include this preamble:

"Our Excellence in Workplace Conduct program is built upon our belief that all NFL players and prospective players have the right to work in a positive environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment, intimidation and discrimination."

Every player receives a copy of the NFL Player Policy Manual during training camp. Every. One.

This means no one can say they didn't know they were bullying or harassing. It's all there, in black and white.

3. One last thing on this story

I've heard from plenty of coaches and players around the NFL that academically smart players are considered soft players. It's said repeatedly about Martin. That he was a smart, quiet guy from Stanford who wouldn't fit into the rugged NFL culture. This is being said over and over. It's not said about quarterbacks. It's said mainly about everyone but that position. It makes zero sense. I mean, zero. Numerous players, Hall of Famers, came from programs like Stanford. Richard Sherman went to Stanford. He's soft?

You're only tough if you went to Alabama? Or LSU? Does this make sense to anyone?

4. Truly the last thing on this story

What the Dolphins locker room also shows us is why there are no openly gay players in the NFL. Imagine a gay player on that team. Actually, don't. Too scary.

5. Kansas City D

One thing lost on the Chiefs. I know their defense has mostly played barely conscious quarterbacks, but what Kansas City is doing on defense is still interesting. Kansas City is the first team to allow 17 points or fewer in each of the first nine games since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons. Not bad. Not bad at all.

6. To tell the truth

The Jaguars have something called "Tell the Truth Mondays," in which coaches and others just speak truths. I can't imagine what those meetings are like. The Jaguars are winless. How much truth can you tell about a winless team? Other than they suck?

7. Rodgers' collarbone

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde the team hasn't talked about a timetable.

I'm hearing it could be several weeks, at least, longer than the reported three weeks. That three-week timetable is hopeful.

8. Kubiak's return

I'm told Houston coach Gary Kubiak could return to the Texans at full capacity in about two weeks. Kubiak was recently released from the hospital after suffering from what the team called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. These types of attacks are considered stroke-like.

9. Awesomeness

I love this (Spotrac's midseason analysis of offseason signings). I don't agree with it all, but I love it.

Nov 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA;  Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) on the sidelines with teammates during the fourth quarter in a game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Eagles won 49-20. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

10. Philly fanatics

It seems some Eagles fans, and at least one homer Philly writer, were not happy with me mocking quarterback Nick Foles' seven TD passes. The focus of the criticism was that I praised Peyton Manning doing the same in the first game—which happened eight weeks earlier.

Seems pretty obvious to me that Manning—a dozen Pro Bowls, multiple Super Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl win, a member of the 2000s all-decade team—is different from Foles.

But I digress.

There is also the fact that Foles did it second, meaning there's something else at work. It's these statistics.

From the NFL: Scoring in 2013 is averaging 46.7 points per game, on pace to be the highest average in NFL history (46.5 in 1948). Teams have combined for 6,211 points this season, the most points through nine weeks in NFL history. When was the previous high? It was 6,034 last season.

Teams have combined to score 692 touchdowns and have thrown 415 touchdown passes, both of which are the most ever through Week 9. The previous highs were 667 TDs in 1983 and 395 TD passes last season.

Through Week 9, there have been 17 individual 400-yard passing performances, including three such performances on Sunday: New England’s Tom Brady (432), Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (406) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (400). The 17 individual 400-yard passing games are already the second-most ever for a full season (18 in 2011).

There have been 70 individual 300-yard passing games, the second-most through Week 9 in NFL history (73 in 2012). Passers are also on pace to set NFL records with a combined 86.6 passer rating (85.6 in 2012), 61.5 completion percentage (61.2 in 2007) and 485.9 total passing yards per game average (462.6 in 2012).

Manning is on pace to break single-season records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and completion percentage. All of these records were broken just two years ago.

So when Manning chases all these records—with his Pro Bowls, Super Bowls and the fact many consider him the greatest quarterback ever coming into play—it means one thing. When a quarterback with as little talent as Foles does it, it signals something larger.

And that larger issue is that football is being massively bioengineered to favor offense in a way that never happened before. This means not only that records are cheapened, but also that there will be many, many more Foles-type dudes to do this. Ordinary guys putting up extraordinary numbers.

Seems like a simple concept to understand.

But I digress.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. His Ten-Point Stance column appears on Wednesdays. All stats and historical info via the NFL, unless noted.


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