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Dolphins Get It Right Firing Jim Turner, Kevin O'Neill but More Work Remains

Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Chris TrapassoAnalyst IOctober 17, 2016

The Miami Dolphins had to do it. They had to do something. 

Offensive line coach Jim Turner and head athletics trainer Kevin O'Neill were fired by the team on Feb. 19 in the wake of the release of the Ted Wells report, per ESPN.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had this to say about the firings of O'Neill and Turner in an official statement, per ESPN:

After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization. Jim Turner and Kevin O'Neilll are good people who care a great deal about their profession and the players whom they serve, but both exhibited poor judgment at times which led me to this conclusion. 

In the 144-page report, which was made public on Feb. 14, O'Neill was described as an employee who didn't do anything during or after harassment incidents and "allegedly even laughed at some of the racial insults."

In the report, one of O'Neill's assistants of Japanese descent was a repeated target of Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey

The report stated that Turner was aware of the harassment and even participated in the some of the taunting. Potentially just as damning, the investigators routinely labeled Turner as dishonest—"we do not credit Turner’s denials" and "we do not believe that Turner forgot this incident, which many others recalled" were statements written in the report. 

Miami's in an incredibly difficult and embarrassing situation. 

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

A portion of its offensive linemen acted inappropriately and harshly toward their teammates and Dolphins staff members on a regular basis, but that's just the beginning.

Many will question how head coach Joe Philbin and members of the Miami's front office weren't cognizant of the clearly toxic locker-room atmosphere.   

But the top of the Dolphins organizational hierarchy was forced to make a swift and stern decision that, frankly, isn't atypical in this circumstance.

Before handing down punishment to the sophomoric players at fault, Miami acted quickly to terminate the two staff members who were identified as either negligent or part of the harassment problem.

Glad to see the #Dolphins are, to some extent, blaming the adults for failing to monitor the children.

— Jason Cole (@JasonPhilCole) February 20, 2014

Now, there was a mini uproar among fans and some members of the media when news broke that O'Neill was fired after making the trip with the team to the combine in Indianapolis

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wrote "Not. Cool." regarding the timing of O'Neill's firing. 

Without question, inconveniencing O'Neill wasn't the finest example of kindness. 

But in the grand scheme of this mess, it doesn't matter much. 

In a press conference at the beginning of the combine, Philbin said, "I don't know if there's a good time to release someone of their duties."

He's right.

Salguero later wrote:

I am told O'Neill, whose reputation around the NFL is otherwise impeccable, feels he was mischaracterized in the Wells report. That report states O'Neilll was uncooperative with investigator Ted Wells. It states he was aware of some of the behavior that Wells concludes was harassing of both offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and assistant athletic trainer Naohisa Inoue.

He finished with the succinct statement that O'Neill "believes he's been wronged by this report."

While O'Neill appeared to be less guilty than Turner, unfortunately, the two employees were "outed" by the investigation.

Because they were in authority positions but not necessarily high on the Dolphins' organizational food chain, they were axed in an obligatory effort to stop the bleeding from a PR perspective.

If Ross truly believes Philbin's ignorance to the locker-room issues and lack of accountability aren't problematic enough for him to be fired, then so be it. 

So Philbin, saying he's accountable, takes no accountability for letting Incognito on leadership counsel.

— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) February 20, 2014

However, the Dolphins' disciplinary actions must continue.

Jerry and Pouncey were distinctly categorized as bullying ringleaders, along with Incognito. 

Their actions outlined in the report warrant severe repercussions.  

It's that simple.

Miami took the first necessary step by firing the coaches directly responsible for the players and who acted unprofessionally.

But Jerry and Pouncey should be held to a relatively high standard as well, and their egregiously ill-advised and offensive behavior must lead to team-sanctioned punishment if the Dolphins' handling of this bullying fiasco is to be taken seriously whatsoever. 

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