Ted Wells Report Goes Curiously Easy on Joe Philbin, Jim Turner, and Other Dolphins Coaches

By Jason Lisk

The “Ted Wells report” came out with plenty of findings against Richie Incognito, John Jerry, and Mike Pouncey for their roles in continued and persistent behavior that can be defined as bullying. To a certain extent, we could all see that coming (though some of the details were pretty out there). Surprisingly, however, the report was not nearly as harsh on the organization for any role in what happened.

If you look at the Table of Contents of the 144-page report at the initial summary, you would come across these broad headings for topics, as they might directly relate to the Miami Dolphins organization.

  • “Martin Never Reported the Abuse to the Dolphins Organization”
  • “Coach Philbin and the Front Office Did Not Know About the Harassment”
  • “The Verbal Abuse Was Contrary to Team Policies”
  • “The Dolphins’ Plans To Improve the Team’s Workplace Conduct Policies Are Commendable”

Former Assistant Offensive Line Coach Chris Mosley (who left the team prior to Martin) is also not featured in the headers, though he appears 12 times in regard to relevant discussions of the knowledge of the organization, and not only knowledge, but involvement.

[RELATED: ESPN Sportscenter Anchor Todd Grisham Thinks Jonathan Martin Should Have Been Able To Take a Joke]

Head Trainer Kevin O’Neill also does not get prominent header treatment, even though there are allegations that he overheard abuse of Martin (and laughed at it), was privy to abuse of an assistant trainer by Incognito that involved racial elements (and laughed at it), and then, according to the Wells’ report, did not cooperate and cut short his interview “Because O’Neill expressed hostility toward our investigation.” The investigation certainly did not have subpoena power, and did not place the interview subjects under oath, something noted by Michael McCann. Still, you’d think that a report with the weight of the NFL’s $44 million dollar man behind it could get a particular subject to cooperate when there were specific material allegations. Barring that, it’d be ideal to actually point out prominently and make a finding based on overt lack of cooperation by a person in a role of authority, within the organization that pledged to cooperate.

[RELATED: Richie Incognito Tried to Destroy the Offensive Line’s “Fine Book,” According to the Ted Wells Report]

Harassment cases that endanger an organization and expose it to liability don’t necessarily arise out of statements made in the boardroom. They can be the behavior and knowledge of the middle manager or the person directly overseeing personnel. I have significant doubts about just how hard this report pushed those above the first layer of those connected to Martin and Incognito, and I’m not sure we can glean anything about that. The investigators certainly don’t seem to push too hard to find out more in this report, when it comes to those in higher positions of authority. In regard to that famous exchange between former GM Jeff Ireland and Martin’s agent, it says this on pages 129-130:

"Ireland told us that in the course of discussing the events surrounding Martin’s departure, he had casually remarked that if a schoolyard bully constantly takes one’s milk money, perhaps “fisticuffs” would be in order. Ireland claimed that he was not advocating actual violence, and that his comment has been taken out of context and distorted by the media. In contrast, Zuckerman said that he interpreted Ireland as being quite serious in suggesting that had Martin simply attempted to punch out Incognito or otherwise engaged him in physical violence, Incognito would have understood Martin’s objections and would have stopped the behavior about which Martin was complaining. Zuckerman strongly disagreed with the suggestion that Ireland had merely offered a hypothetical example of how a schoolyard bully should be confronted. Ultimately, these issues are not central to this Report, and thus we do not make a credibility finding to resolve which version of the telephone calls should be regarded as more accurate."

That’s a matter of semantics. Whether Ireland posed a hypothetical that one should engage in “fisticuffs” if someone was taking the milk money, or directly said Martin should punch Incognito, the issue is the attitude. This is why you shouldn’t take anything about absolving the Dolphins seriously. Digging deeper and finding out more was unfortunately not central to the Report.

[RELATED: Jonathan Martin, on If He Walked Away from Football: “I won’t die from CTE”]

What is clear, though, is that despite the soft peddling, there are major issues with Jim Turner’s role and continued employment with the team — the report actually commends him on page 115. (“Likewise, we commend Coach Turner—he took Martin’s disappearance seriously, pushed Martin to discuss his depression and promptly reported the information to Coach Philbin.”)

That segment refers to when Martin took off in May of 2013, and Turner contacted him, and then passed on details of the discussion to Joe Philbin. Martin expressed that he was having issues and depression, but did not want to tell the Dolphins or Coach Turner of the real reason — abuses by his teammates — because he might have been seen as a snitch.

[RELATED: Jonathan Martin’s Texts to His Mom and Dad Will Break Your Heart]

Why might Martin not have felt able to tell the commendable Coach Turner?

Well. How about that the report mentions that Turner was aware of the references to sexual acts with Martin’s sister.

Or, there’s this text exchange and reference to a conversation between Incognito and another former player pertaining to harassment of another Dolphin, Nate Garner, who was also the subject of frequent abuse. “Nate is on the verge of killing us all.” When asked to elaborate, Incognito explained: “Since we cut [another player] we have been non stop on nate. Even turner is in on it. He looks like he’s about to cry 24/7.” (page 40 of report).

Yes, so after one subject of bullying was let go, they turned even more on Garner, and according to a contemporaneous text (far more believable than Turner not remembering things), the offensive line coach was implicated as being in on it.

Further, take the references to the abuse of another player, identified only as Player A, who was the subject of constant ridicule about purportedly being gay and the recipient of physical acts. According to the report (page 80), Turner gave Christmas gift bags in 2012 that included female blow-up dolls to all the other lineman, but a male blow up doll to Player A. The report’s authors do not find credible Turner’s not remembering doing this, when it was corroborated by the linemen on all sides of this issue.

Or there’s this from page 74 of the report:

"[Martin] said that these comments [about sexual acts with his sister] at times were made in the presence of Coach Turner, who neither participated nor urged his teammates to stop, and around Coach Mosley, who on occasion joined in, saying things like, “Jmart, I heard about your sister.” Incognito did not dispute Martin’s assertions that Turner and Mosley heard such comments. Martin maintained that Kevin O’Neill, the Dolphins head trainer, also heard such remarks and even laughed at them from time to time. On one occasion, according to Martin, O’Neill pulled him aside and told him he was too nice and needed to stand up for himself more. Martin also reported that other Dolphins personnel, including assistant trainers and equipment managers, likely heard the nasty comments concerning his sister."

The only place Turner gets some late header treatment is in regard to his texts after Martin left the team. Turner repeatedly sent demanding texts for Martin to do the right thing and absolve Incognito.

Turner is part of the Miami Dolphins organization, which put Incognito in a leadership position among the team. The offensive line coach’s role is disturbing, and I suspect he will get a chance to speak under oath soon enough and forget even more than Wells’ investigation seemingly sought to find out. Wells’ report does a good job of laying out the case as to why the behavior of Incognito and other players was unacceptable, even if Martin appeared to be good friends with Incognito and engaged in some of the behaviors himself. It is far less convincing in trying to soft sell the role of those within the organization, who helped lay the culture and lead to the outcome that did occur.

Jonathan Martin not only suffered at the hands of his fellow players. Many of the events occurred within the locker room, weight room, training room, and cafeteria, on the team property. Jim Turner appears to have been at least complicit in enabling it to take place, and he’s a member of Joe Philbin’s staff, specifically brought in by the head coach. Philbin is responsible for that chain of command, and his negligence or poor choice of people to trust in the matter goes too easily excused in Ted Wells’ report.