The condition of Gary Kubiak.
As of early this morning, Kubiak was with his family at a hospital eight minutes from Reliant Stadium. The team has announced only that he is in stable condition, is undergoing a battery of tests, has good vital signs, and did not suffer a heart attack. I’m told he left the stadium with a powerful headache, but we’ll have to wait for the diagnosis later today.
Marc Vandermeer, the Texans’ radio voice, had just finished the first half of the game and hustled out to get a halftime beverage when someone told him one of the coaches was down on the field, and it appeared to be Kubiak. “It was startling,’’ Vandermeer said early this morning. “He’s in such great shape. I have seen him on vacation, floating down a long, lazy river in central Texas, and he’s cut. He’s svelte. He really takes care of himself. He’s the last guy of the 32 NFL coaches I’d ever expect to have health problems at this age.’’
Vandermeer said the high and low of the moments before and after Kubiak’s collapse were stunning. Showing the presence and instincts of a veteran, quarterback Case Keenum, making his first home start for the Texans, had just scrambled 22 yards to the Indianapolis 5-yard line with the clock running late in the half and no timeouts left. Keenum sprinted to the line, yelling, “SPIKE! SPIKE!’’ and using the well-understood hand motion noting that he was about to spike the ball on first down to stop the clock. With 39 seconds left and everyone anticipating that, Keenum took the ball and threw immediately toward the left side of the end zone for Andre Johnson. The touchdown stunned the Colts and sent a record Reliant Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
Three minutes later, the same crowd was stunned into silence. Kubiak was walking toward the locker when he put his hands to his head, then braced himself, hands to knees, and slowly dropped to the ground. Security people immediately began frantically waving for medical help, and within minutes Kubiak was on a stretcher and put in an ambulance for the ride to the hospital.
“People were so euphoric,’’ a glum Vandermeer said of that first half. “We were watching a Texans quarterback do things we hadn’t seen before, and bring such excitement to the stadium. And people went from euphoria to a situation where a man’s life was in danger. It became difficult, quite frankly, to do a football game on the radio, and you could feel it in the stadium. A lot of people couldn’t tell at first it was Gary, but they all have Twitter or texts, and they soon discovered what happened. What should have been the happiest time of the season just … well, it became bizarro world.’’
As you’ll read on The MMQB today, our Robert Klemko was in the stadium Sunday night, and he has some strong images and stories from the Texans’ locker room after the game. But clearly, the team was affected by the loss of the only professional head coach many of them have ever known.
There will be cries for relief from the long hours coaches work, and we should listen to those cries in the wake of what befell Fox and Kubiak this weekend. But let’s also be cognizant of what it would take to, say, put a curfew on coaches’ hours and make them live more normal lives. Many coaches would simply install office facilities at home to get around what strictures the NFL puts in place. But if the debate comes, let’s have it. If the Fox and Kubiak events happened three months apart instead of one day apart, would we be wondering if we should do something about the workaholic nature of coaches?
The Saga of the Statements.
When something like the Jonathan Martin story happens—a perfectly normal football player cracks under some pressure, walks out on his team, then has his representatives forward charges of what they claim document harassment—the first instinct is to blame someone. But I don’t think there’s a single person or entity at fault. Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the reason Martin didn’t stand up to either the accused Richie Incognito or the reported hazing by mates is that he feared retribution from them, and that Martin felt pressured to pay $15,000 for a trip to Vegas for the offensive linemen even though he chose not to go.
The matter is now in the investigative hands of the league and the team. It’s hard to imagine Martin coming back to play in Miami; the tension in the locker room will be palpable, because some Dolphins will see Martin as a rat for going outside the family to air his grievances. That seems grossly unfair, obviously, if the harassment he is alleging is true. But it’s a way of life in the NFL.
“When you play in the trenches,” Jets tackle Willie Colon said Sunday, “you always want to see a younger guy earn his rite of passage. And sometimes, that comes with either playing hard or doing what you’re told, even though you may not want to do it—some people may label it as hazing or whatever. But there is a fair line. And I was always taught, growing up in the league, you respect everybody, because you never know when you are going to need that one guy down the road.
“I played with two injuries today. We watched the film on [former Jets guard] Brandon Moore’s retirement speech, and he said, ‘All I ever wanted to do was earn the respect of my teammates and the guy in front of me.’ And that’s what you want to do as an offensive lineman, as an interior lineman, you just want to earn the respect of your peers and the guys you are going against, let them know that you’re battle-tested and you are ready. Sometimes that comes on and off the field. But there is a right and wrong way of going about it.’’
The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas asked Colon if “the right way” was a young player paying $15,000 for a linemen trip to Las Vegas. “When I was in Pittsburgh,’’ Colon said, “Mike Tomlin said something great: It’s unfair to make a sixth-round guy pay for a $15,000 trip to Vegas when you have your starting linemen making over two-point-something million [dollars]. [Martin was a second-round pick.] He doesn’t have that money. Guys don’t earn that money until later in their careers. To make a young guy pay, that is very unfair, and it’s selfish because that man has a family and people and other needs. So to take $15,000 out of any young guy’s pocket for a trip to get crazy is unfair, and it’s selfish. If you want to let a guy pay for dinner or a night on the town, that’s fine. It’s nothing that should hurt a man’s life or his way of living; that’s disrespectful.’’
Incognito has toned down a wild on- and off-field life, and he was one of five players elected by teammates to the Dolphins’ board of player leaders; that board meets to discuss team issues with coach Joe Philbin. But Incognito’s humor can have a very sharp edge. Did it cross the line into hazing, or worse? That is up to the investigation to determine.
For now, Incognito will stay at home, suspended by the team Sunday; Martin is staying with his family in Los Angeles. Miami has to move on without two starting linemen, taken away just as the team began to show some life last week.
Sunday was a wild day for a team that had the weekend off, by the way. Look at the guts of three statements issued by the Dolphins within 15 hours:
Dolphins statement, 8:53 a.m. Sunday: “The Miami Dolphins, including coach Joe Philbin and Jonathan’s teammates, have been in communication with Jonathan and his family since his departure from the club and continue to be in contact … As an organization, we take any accusations of player misconduct seriously. The notion of bullying is based on speculation and has not been presented to us as a concern from Jonathan or anyone else internally.”
Dolphins statement, 5:01 p.m. Sunday: “We received notification today from Jonathan’s representation about allegations of player misconduct. We are taking these allegations very seriously and plan to review the matter further … As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another.’’
Dolphins statement, 11:37 p.m. Sunday: “The Miami Dolphins have suspended Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team. We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time.’’
The judge and jury met quickly, and decisively.
One last point: Philbin has to bear his share of blame here. He’s the head coach. The buck stops with him concerning what happens in the locker room. It’s fine for a coach to tell his leaders: You guys police the locker room. (I’m not saying that’s what Philbin said, but some coaches do tell their captains and other leaders to take care of the little things that flare up in the society of the locker room.) But whatever the understanding is with a coach and his players, the coach is ultimately responsible for player behavior getting out of hand. Philbin is a very good man, but he needs to take firmer control of his locker room. He needs to know when a Jonathan Martin is about to spin over the edge. In this case, he didn’t, and it’s costing his team dearly.