Former NFL coach Tony Dungy claims his recent conversation with Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin about his interview with disgruntled Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin wasn’t confrontational.
During a Tuesday morning interview with ESPN’s First Take the former Buccaneers and Colts head coach said Philbin watched his interview with Martin on NBC’s Today show last week and immediately sought clarity on Dungy’s claims that Martin needed to get away from the locker room culture the Dolphins fostered, which is the source of an NFL investigation spearheaded by Ted Wells.
“I told [the Today show] I thought Jonathan Martin could play in the NFL but needed a different situation than the Dolphins locker room, a better locker room situation for him than Miami was. Coach Philbin called me and wanted to know what I meant by that,” Dungy said. “He called me and let me know his feelings. It wasn’t any animosity at all. He just wanted to get some things across from his point of view about what the Miami Dolphins locker room was like, and what [the bullying saga] was all about.”
When Dungy was asked how he would have handled the bullying saga, which centers on Martin’s claims his teammate, Richie Incognito, created a hostile working environment for him differently, Dungy pointed out Philbin’s hands were tied because Martin never made his head coach aware of the alleged treatment he was experiencing.
“He never went to coach Philbin and told him what was going on, even when he left the team. [Martin] said he was having personal problems and needed to get some help, but never explained why and never talked about it,” Dungy added. “As a coach you can’t deal with something if you don’t know what’s going on.
“Now, the other side of the coin is you’ve got to have the right type of people, and the right type of leadership in the locker room so that kind of thing doesn’t happen.”
During the 2013 offseason the Dolphins banished a number of the team’s established leaders – Jake Long, Reggie Bush, Anthony Fasano, Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett – from the previous seasons by either not re-signing them as free agents, or releasing them.
Their dismissal elevated Incognito, the team’s starting left guard since 2010 and a 2012 Pro Bowl selection, into a leadership role. Incognito was one of six players voted by his peers to Philbin’s leadership council, serving in the capacity of a team captain.
Dungy used Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, a 2014 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as an example of a leader who could have solved the problem between Martin and Incognito before it got to the head coach.
Back in November Dolphins owner Steve Ross appointed Dungy to task force that will put together a new code of conduct for the Dolphins locker room. Dungy said the group, which also features Jason Taylor, Don Shula, Dan Marino, and Curtis Martin, will meet after the Ted Wells report is released by the NFL. The report is expected sometime this week, possibly Thursday, according to a NFL.com report.
“We’re going to respond to that information. I will be anxious to see what the report entails,” Dungy told ESPN. “I spoke to Jonathan Martin on NBC and spoke to him for an hour or so, so I know his side of it. I’m looking forward to seeing the total picture.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will consider putting together a code of conduct policy for the entire NFL. Goodell said he’s discussed a universal policy with outside sources, the NFLPA, and several groups of players.
Some of it will be education based, and some of it is policy changes that will be proposed at the spring owner's meetings.
“Our number one priority is to ensure that we have a work place environment that is professional while recognizing we have some unique circumstances. We have to make sure that our players and other employees have that professional work place environment,” Goodell said during Super Bowl week. “We all have to get back to respect. Respect for each other. Respect for the game. Respect for your organizations, your opponents, the game officials. We’re going to focus on it in the offseason.”