It took Dolphins owner Stephen Ross five days to decide what to do with offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O’Neill. Part of the owner’s decision was a resolution to not delay its implementation.
Per a league source, O’Neill was fired after traveling to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine simply because Ross hadn’t made a decision before O’Neill left — and because Ross didn’t want to rush the decision based on O’Neill’s travel schedule.
Ross, we’re told, didn’t take the decision lightly, given O’Neill’s tenure and the potential impact of the decision on his future employment prospects. Ross needed more time because O’Neill’s behavior fell into more of a gray area than Turner’s.
The Wells report found only that O’Neill laughed when players directed racial harassment to an assistant trainer, and that O’Neill expressed hostility to the investigation.
Still, even if Ross decided that O’Neill needed to be dismissed, Ross could have waited until O’Neill returned from the Scouting Combine. There’s no question about O’Neill’s abilities; he wouldn’t have lasted 18 years on the job if there were.
It’s possible the Dolphins were concerned that the decision would have been leaked before the Scouting Combine ended. If so, that speaks to the fundamental dysfunction lingering in an organization where the owner couldn’t trust even a tight handful of people to be discreet about a decision to delay implementation of his decision until next week.
And here’s where the decision to tap O’Neill on the shoulder after he had traveled to Indy eventually could blow up on the Dolphins. If O’Neill, who given his tenure surely is over the age of 40, can cobble together a case of age discrimination or any other alleged legal violation, the facts regarding the way the situation was handled could, when spilled from the mouth of a competent attorney, make a jury more likely to find in O’Neill’s favor — and to give him a significant award of damages.