You know the story of “bullying” between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. It has been all over the news and rightfully so. It involves, football, drama, racism, bullying, hazing. It’s the sequel to ESPN’s Playmakers. Although we know some of the facts, we have to look through a broader scope because there is some digging to go through.
When the story broke that Martin was hospitalized for emotional issues, it was immediately turned into workplace bullying and the Miami Dolphins (and the media) blame Incognito because there was evidence he used racial slurs in texts and behind-the-scenes footage, and Incognito gave a hefty bill to Martin because he was a rookie. Let’s be clear, using racial slurs or any bigotry should be avoided anywhere because it only takes one person to be offended and you have no idea he or she will respond. Having said that, it depends on who your teammates are. Just ask Tony Scheffler and Louis Delmas that trading racial slurs can build a friendship.
The media is trying to find who’s fault is between Martin and Incognito and I think that’s dangerous territory because I think both were doing their jobs. What we (fans and media) should focus on is what the organization is doing. We could start at the top with the owner, but Stephen Ross had address this publicly. You notice in his press conference yesterday that Ross mentioned Jonathan Martin and Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin, by name. What you didn’t hear (intentionally) were the names Richie Incognito and Dolphins General Manager, Jeff Ireland.
The General Manager in sports is similar to the Vice President of Human Resources; they are the architects of building the team, finding talent, and develop them into the best they can be under the system they are in. The GM should find the best talent, but needs to find talent that fits under a certain system. In this case, Ireland and his staff did not do a good job. They did find talented people, but they didn’t find talented people that gives them an identity. Let’s not forget that Ireland is a disciple of Bill Parcells, so he has a good pedigree. On the other hand, he is most memorable for asking Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver, Dez Bryant, “Is your mother a prostitute?” What does that say about his talent evaluation skills?
From the hoopla of the situation, I think the NFL locker room will become more public and they’re likely be a ban on bullying and hazing. The bigger issue in hand, to me, is you need to give a team a positive identity. Jeff Ireland never did that and it has polluted through the coaching staff and players. The good teams know everyone is an equal from the star QB to a rookie who barely made the 53-man roster. In hindsight, Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito were pawns of a chess player who has no clue what his next move is.