Chad Ocho Cinco, aka Chad Johnson, AP
By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
Chad Johnson knew his "death penalty" was coming, and his execution as a member of the Miami Dolphins was thoroughly documented in what was arguably the most compelling episode in the history of HBO's Hard Knocks.
NFL Films got the entirety of his final conversation with Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin in his office Sunday night. The camera angle showed the men as they spoke one-on-one and included close-ups of Johnson's face as he processed his firing:
Johnson: "I let you down a little bit. A lot. I understand what you're doing, you got the message across clear the first day we met. ... I understood what you wanted from me and what you expected out of me, especially after our talk -- having fun with the media thing. I apologize for embarrassing you, this organization, my teammates."
Philbin: "I appreciate that. I respect that. I know you're very passionate, and I know you care about your profession. ... I do my best not to fly off the handle and act irrational. It's just, I don't know that this is working for the benefit of you, me, the Miami Dolphins or anybody else. I think you're a good person. Trust me, I acknowledge people make mistakes. Nobody knows that more than me."
Johnson: "Coach, I've never been in trouble before. Ever. And I buy into your program, most definitely. Because after that talk we had, I was hushed from that point on. And I was gonna stay that way the entire year."
Philbin: "It's not really just last night. It's where we are as a program, and where you are, and where we're headed. I just don't see the mesh right now. I wish it was different. I wish I could tell you something more encouraging, but I just think it's best for both of us that we kind of part ways at this point in time. It's not like I'm trying to flex my muscle, to say, 'I'm the head coach, and let's make an example of Chad Johnson.' It has nothing to do with that. It's more about how you fit in, and how we fit in together, and where this thing is heading. Just don't see it being where I thought it would be or what I hoped it would be. I'm sure it's not good news; it's not good news for us, either. But I'm certain you can overcome this thing."
Johnson: "Thank you for the opportunity. I've enjoyed myself. There's not much more I can say. I appreciate it, though. Thank you for the chance."
Philbin: "I wish we were having a different type of a conversation, I mean that. I wish you well, I really do."
The show ended with equipment managers cleaning out Johnson's locker.
However the lead-up to his dismissal was also intriguing.
Dolphins Director of Security Stuart Weinstein was shown talking to Philbin before the embattled wideout appeared at the team's facilities Sunday, a day after his arrest. "I just got a call from him, and he is choked up. His voice is cracking. He thinks you're gonna cut him," Weinstein tells Philbin before relaying that Johnson guessed, "This is probably gonna be my death penalty."
The coach responded, "He obviously has some inkling of what may be coming."
Philbin telegraphed his concerns about Johnson in the Hard Knocks premier last week and again cited the loquacious wideout's profanity and tweeting as problems (not to mention the dropped pass in the team's preseason opener).
Tonight's show also had an undertow of further struggles on the field for Johnson -- he couldn't shake CB Sean Smith in practice while lamenting his own mistakes -- and suggestions from QB David Garrard that the receiver was struggling with the playbook (an issue that dogged him last year in New England).
What else did we learn?
Philbin, still struggling with the death of his son, Michael, earlier this year, can relate to the tragedy Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid is going through after the recent passing of his son, Garrett. Philbin poignantly admits still feeling "lots of" pain on a daily basis.
The Dolphins could be in the market for tight end depth, with Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman telling rookie Michael Egnew at one point: "You were terrible, terrible (in practice). I would cut you today if I was the general manager."
The wideouts, especially sans Johnson, aren't much better, though RB Reggie Bush has taken a liking to undrafted free agent WR Chris Hogan while dubbing him "7-Eleven" because Hogan is always open.
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill can't sing, even though he gave an enthusiastic rendering of Lean on Me for the veterans in a team meeting. Tannehill also needs to work on sliding rather than diving head-first on the field.
However Philbin doesn't seem to be much of a fan of any of the rookie hazing, which in Miami largely means horrid haircuts. G Josh Samuda seemed to have a phallic symbol shaved onto his head. "Glad we're such a first-class organization, Josh, way to go," an unsmiling Philbin said in front of the team, shaking his head.
Even though Tannehill, Garrard (now injured) and Matt Moore are competing to start, the quarterback trio seems to have close-knit relationship and appear eager to help each other.