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Jimmy Johnson sounds off on firing of Kevin O’Neill

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The FOX pregame show used to have a segment dubbed “Fired Up,” in which one of the analysts would deliver a spontaneous, passionate, over-the-top argument about an NFL topic — while reading the words of it from a teleprompter.

Jimmy Johnson of FOX, who previously coached the Cowboys and Dolphins, is genuinely and organically fired up about the firing of Dolphins head trainer Kevin O’Neill.  Ultimately, however, his position is flawed.

[U]nbelievable!” Johnson said of the move.  “O’Neill could not give info because of law. The BEST I ever worked with.”

In a separate tweet, Johnson points out that he has been “involved with football for 60 years,” and that “O’Neill was best I was ever around.”

Johnson seems to believe that O’Neill’s failure to report that anything was amiss to coach Joe Philbin flowed from his obligations under the federal HIPAA law.

“Trainers have info from Doctors that is confidential and they can not discuss,” Johnson said.

That’s where we have to disagree with Johnson.  The trainers can — and should — alert the head coach regarding anything improper happening in the locker room.  Last Friday, Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo said he relies on his trainer and equipment manager to be the “pulse guys,” bringing to the coach any issues or problems percolating or boiling over in the locker room.

Telling the boss that an employee is treating other people poorly doesn’t entail in any way the disclosure of confidential medical information.  They all work for the same company.  They all have a shared duty to ensure that everyone is treated with respect.

If, for example, one employee is treating another employee poorly and the aggressor has some medical reason to justify the behavior, the presence of a possible medical explanation doesn’t allow everyone to stick their heads in the sand and permit the abuse to continue.

Besides, O’Neill wasn’t fired for failing to report the situation to coach Joe Philbin.  While as a practical matter a decision by O’Neill to let Philbin know that Richie Incognito and others were treating an assistant trainer and others poorly could have prevented this entire mess from surfacing, the Ted Wells report concluded that O’Neill joined in the laughter resulting from the racial harassment of the assistant trainer, and that O’Neill displayed hostility to the investigation that had been commissioned in the wake of Jonathan Martin leaving the team.

The hostility displayed by O’Neill provides grounds to fire him.  While it may have been bad form to let O’Neill travel to Indianapolis before firing him, anyone and everyone knew in November that the Martin/Incognito situation had sparked national headlines beyond the sports world.  The NFL appointed Ted Wells to investigate the situation.  Wells and his team conducted many, many meetings.  And O’Neill displayed hostility to the investigation when meeting with them?

He arguably should have been fired on the spot, no questions asked.  While the Dolphins didn’t implement the decision in an ideal way (to say the least), they made the only decision they could — assuming that no other employees who displayed hostility to the investigation have gotten a pass.

That’s the only way the firing of O’Neill could create a potential mess for the Dolphins.  If other non-players who were interviewed showed hostility to the investigation and weren’t fired, then the distinguishing factor for firing O’Neill is that he laughed when the assistant trainer was being harassed by the men that the trainers are there to serve.  Which could make the decision vulnerable to a legal challenge.

But if at any point a lawyer were to suggest that O’Neill didn’t report the harassment because of HIPAA or any other medical confidentiality law, the lawyer should be laughed out of the courtroom.  And in that specific case it would be more than appropriate for O’Neill to join in.

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23 Responses to “Jimmy Johnson sounds off on firing of Kevin O’Neill”
  1. tvjules says: Feb 20, 2014 7:30 AM

    I’m more fired up that Philbin hasn’t been fired.

  2. dolfan72 says: Feb 20, 2014 7:32 AM

    This SOB Johnson is a charlatan who only won in Dallas when the Minnesota PIGEONS gave him multiple picks for a washed up Hershel Walker. If Barry Switzer could win with that Cowboy team, I COULD HAVE!

    I was one of many who wanted Johnson to replace Shula. I apologize to ALL FANS NOW! I’ll spend the rest of my life apologizing for that!

    Every time I see Johnson on TV, I hit the mute button because fans in Miami will NEVER FORGIVE HIM for the way he quit and stuck the team with WANNSTUPID!

  3. kehav1 says: Feb 20, 2014 7:34 AM

    i stand with jimmy on this one…turner firing was appropriate…the phins MUST get rid of martin and icognito also…both ruined the phins, more martin than anyone judging from the texts.. football has lost its luster, anyone ? politics has ruined america’s beloved game…peace

  4. leftlaneisforpassingonly says: Feb 20, 2014 7:38 AM

    O’Neill was a scapegoat. Come on, at his spot in the pecking order of an NFL organization you don’t rock the boat unless you want to seriously risk losing your job.

    It sounds to me like another organization now gets a shot at hiring one of the best in the business.

  5. dickroy says: Feb 20, 2014 7:38 AM

    Please Jimmy, just keep quiet and go tan yourself on the beach.

  6. Shinnbone says: Feb 20, 2014 7:39 AM

    It’s called The Wussification of America!

  7. doctorrustbelt says: Feb 20, 2014 7:39 AM

    Proficiency and/or success at one’s profession DOES NOT equate to high character.

    SEE: o.j. simpson
    SEE: bill belichick
    SEE: roger clemens
    SEE: joe paterno
    SEE: joseph stalin
    SEE: rupert murdoch

  8. jimmyt says: Feb 20, 2014 7:40 AM

    The report was BS. Since Martin “felt” bullied, he was bullied? Give me a break.

  9. kwgator says: Feb 20, 2014 7:41 AM

    Old Timer Jimmy Johnson doesn’t know what he is talking about. You can’t turn your back on a toxic situation and racial slurs

  10. Shinnbone says: Feb 20, 2014 7:41 AM

    dolfan72 says: Feb 20, 2014 7:32 AM

    This SOB Johnson is a charlatan who only won in Dallas when the Minnesota PIGEONS gave him multiple picks for a washed up Hershel Walker. If Barry Switzer could win with that Cowboy team, I COULD HAVE!

    I was one of many who wanted Johnson to replace Shula. I apologize to ALL FANS NOW! I’ll spend the rest of my life apologizing for that!

    Every time I see Johnson on TV, I hit the mute button because fans in Miami will NEVER FORGIVE HIM for the way he quit and stuck the team with WANNSTUPID!

    Boo Hoo Hoo, would you like some cheese with that wine?

  11. micquarters says: Feb 20, 2014 7:41 AM

    To kehav1:

    Incognito and Jerry are free agents. No longer employees of the Dolphins. Martin still is a member of the team for now, althoughI’m sure his agent and the team will come up with a mutually agreeable way to have him move on.

  12. htowntexan says: Feb 20, 2014 7:58 AM

    He got railroaded, but the team needed a scapegoat.

  13. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 20, 2014 8:29 AM

    And this is why you don’t even want to ask Jimmy to come back into football. He’s too old and too useless to offer high level advice.

  14. 3yardsndust says: Feb 20, 2014 8:51 AM

    Fire Philbin. Clean house.

  15. kingpel says: Feb 20, 2014 9:05 AM

    Was any of this stuff caught on tape while filiming Hard Knocks?

  16. SparkyGump says: Feb 20, 2014 9:25 AM

    So who is going to get fired over those horrible uniforms?

  17. johnelwayishorsefaced says: Feb 20, 2014 9:37 AM

    Tom Izzo is the man. Best coach in college basketball

  18. ivanpavlov0000 says: Feb 20, 2014 1:26 PM

    Johnson is drinking too much of the FOX koolaid and isn’t concerning himself with facts. The things Incognito, Pouncey, and Jerry said and did to a Dolphins assistant trainer have nothing to do with HIPAA.

    Kevin O’Neill was fired because of the way he allowed players to treat one of his employees – an assistant trainer. He stood there and laughed while Incognito, Pouncey, and Jerry said and did things that should not have to be tolerated in the workplace.

    He also refused to cooperate with the investigators when asked about the incidents with the assistant trainer — another reason to can him!

    Thanks to O’Neill, the assistant trainer’s options to the constant harassment (from Incognito, Pouncey, and Jerry) were tolerate it or quit. O’Neill not only deserves to be fired, he deserves to be suspended from the NFL.

  19. rudyjuly2 says: Feb 20, 2014 1:28 PM

    “And O’Neill displayed hostility to the investigation when meeting with them?

    He arguably should have been fired on the spot, no questions asked. ”

    I don’t get this comment all. I didn’t realize the NFL superceded the legal system and could compell testimony including comments that could incriminate themselves. I don’t think this area alone is enough to fire someone (they could have fined or supsended him). The trainer was not sensitive in this manner, joking along with some of the stuff, but never led the harrassment. You could say that about almost every player on the team as well. Mike Pouncey did far worse. But if he wasn’t a great player would he still be on the roster? The hypocrisy here is very high.

    Not shocked at the firings as the PR is running high but if O’Neill was fired simply because he refused to testify in this report then his lawyers will have a field day.

  20. gs7101 says: Feb 20, 2014 2:30 PM

    Who cares what Jimmy Johnson has to say? He showed his no class when he crushed a box of Flutie Flakes, poured them on the ground and encouraged his Miami Dolphins’ players team to stomp on them. If you remember, profits made from the sale of this cereal was to create awareness of autism and to seek a cure. Doug Flutie has an autistic son. Shut your mouth Jimmy, quit whining, and go buy some hair spray!

  21. theguywhotoldtimtebowtoshutthefup says: Feb 20, 2014 3:32 PM

    The part where I stopped reading started at, “That’s where we have to disagree with Johnson.” The minute you are in charge of a locker room, then I’ll listen to your opinion.

  22. patsfan1820 says: Feb 20, 2014 8:13 PM

    So the scapegoat is fired and not Philbin. Sheesh and I thought the Sochi Olympics were the most messed up thing in sports right now.

  23. randomguy9999 says: Feb 21, 2014 11:54 PM

    HIPAA has zero to do with workplace harassment…. and neither an athletic trainer nor football team are healthcare practitioners in Fla…..

    JJ, you have no idea what you are talking about.

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