The stuff of novellas and soap operas
First I commend FOXsports.com reporter Jay Glazer for giving a complete and accurate account of what happened. The players who gave him the information did a great job of carrying the message off the team plane, out of the locker room and out of team meeting rooms. And Glazer did a fine job of relaying it. So go to FOXsports.com if you want all the gory details.
Observation No. 1: The Dolphins are currently undergoing something of an information crackdown. This is typical of a team trying to hide its warts. Staff is being warned not to speak with media, not to return the phone calls from reporters and least of all, don't let anyone know exactly how royally screwed up things are within this organization. As one club employee told me recently, "I could write a book about this season."
But as typical of an organization that often worries about the wrong things at the wrong times concerning the wrong people, no one has told a player to keep things under wraps. And players are the ones who not only caused the meltdown a couple of weeks ago, but then served as sources for the episodes.
About the episodes: There was the widely reported confrontation on the team plane between Keith Traylor, Vernon Carey and Rex Hadnot with the defensive lineman remonstrating with the two offensive linemen. It started over a card or dominoes game which the Dolphins spent much of the season playing in the locker room and on chartered flights.
Observation No. 2: You have a bunch of competitive men that don't like to lose at ANYTHING. Those guys were quite frustrated throughout the season because they did little other than lose at football. So the card and dominoes tourneys were often heated. I saw angry exchanges myself several times in the locker room. One of those games begged to spark a more serious argument. Next year? Duh .... Keep the competition between players to the practice field. If they want to play cards, dominoes, or video games, let them do it on their off hours.
Anyway, the problem with the episode on the plane is that it seemed clear to everyone watching that coach Cam Cameron didn't really want to jump into the fray as it was happening. He seemed unsure. And that lost him much respect among players who, among themselves, started whispering that he "was not in control and looked scared," according to one player.
So the day after this incident, Cameron meets with Traylor about the whole thing and Traylor, who had publicly criticized Cameron, apparently let his emotions spill. He was disrespectful to Cameron and the coach responded by kicking the player off the team.
That sent ripples the size of rogue waves throughout the locker room. Veterans, particularly those on defense -- Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Vonnie Holliday-- were incensed. Joey Porter, who mostly cares about Joey Porter, also joined in. And that led to a dressing down of Cameron by Porter in front of the entire team that was this year's version of the Daunte Culpepper- Nick Saban yelling match.
Except that, unlike Saban, Cameron didn't hold his own in this exchange.
It should be noted that Porter early in the season talked about wanting to lead the team but all he did this year was mostly talk and not back it up with production on the field. The Steelers were right about him, his best days are in his rear view mirror. Unless Porter finds a magic potion that greatly increases productivity, I would be surprised if Bill Parcells keeps him beyond 2008, regardless of the cap hit.
Anyway, the same Joey Porter that disobeyed Cameron by not returning with the team to South Florida after the Pittsburgh game, ripped Cameron a new one in front of the entire team after the Traylor incident. "Cowardly" was one word Porter used to describe Cameron IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE TEAM, according to one player. Cameron basically had no response. He had no retort and did nothing.
Observations No. 3: The coach should have suspended Porter for insubordination on the spot, IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE TEAM. But he didn't. Just as the punishment for that first offense of disobedience -- a fine -- was not enough, the punishment for this offense was ineffective also because, well, there was no punishment.
So Cameron lost his locker room cred right then and there, six days before the season-finale.
The troubling thing is that the players who led the revolt are supposed to be Miami's leaders. Was Cam wrong for being something of a wimp? Yes. Were the players wrong for acting as if this was a prison breakout while the warden slept? Absolutely.
A short aside: Thomas, a good man and a great player, also had issues with general manager Randy Mueller that he probably never should have had.
On Dec. 14, I reported on this blog that anonymous people within the organization were questioning Zach's desire to return from his concussion and headaches. I said in the post I did not agree with the opinion and, days later when he and I talked about the post, I told Thomas as much.
But Thomas told me during that talk that he already knew those things were being said, and furthermore, he knew who was saying them. He also told me he was going to confront that person although he didn't mention who exactly he was going to confront. I told him it wasn't one person saying those things, it was two, but I did not tell him my sources.
So how did Thomas come to believe Mueller was my source on this subject? Apparently a "reporter" from a competing newspaper trampled every line of ethics imaginable by injecting himself into the matter and WRONGLY convincing Thomas my source on the subject was Mueller. Again, I had two sources on this and, for the record, Mueller was not one of them.
Anyway, Zach apparently believed the misinformation he got either directly or indirectly from that other "reporter" and confronted Mueller. I do not know how that conversation between Zach and Mueller went, but Glazer reported Mueller denied being the source.
The whole thing needlessly caused friction between the team's star linebacker and general manager and all because Thomas trusted gossip from a fool with a reputation for having a big mouth. The irony here is that while Mueller was fired, both the people who questioned Zach to me remain employed by the Dolphins.
That club employee was right. Maybe I'll start on that book soon.