Though not on the inside of the NFL to know the following with certainty, it is my guess that the League has been regularly notifying teams of the importance of keeping the sideline boundaries clear during play. And like many “rules” in many sports and other endeavors, some are historically less enforced than others.
So it is my strong suspicion that the NFL has been harping on this subject in internal memos, and now, sure enough, an action has brought the matter to the front burner of the sport and of media attention. Therefore, someone needs to pay – and that someone is Mike Tomlin, and he will be paying a $100,000 fine levied by NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson.
Look for the white zones around the NFL to be unusually free of sidelines spectators this coming weekend!
If you just flew back into the USA from a third world country with no internet connections, all of this references the Thanksgiving evening Ravens-Steelers game where Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin’s positioning on the sideline altered a Jacoby Jones kickoff runback. A touchdown by Jones was possibly eliminated by defensive back Cortez Allen making a tackle on the 73-yard play, and the Ravens would later have to settle for a field goal. It could have altered the outcome of the game.
A smirky-faced video of Tomlin after the play seemed to indicate that he was internally reveling over a trick maneuver… or what he grinning sheepishly about a dumb mistake? But there is no mistaking a very repentant attitude in his remarks this week.
In an extended press conference Tuesday… “My descriptions of my actions on that play are a lot of things — embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, a blunder, being many of the things I’d use to describe it. I take full responsibility for my actions on that play. I acknowledge that my actions unfortunately became part of the play. I also embrace that as head coaches, we’re held to the highest standards of conduct, and I realize that that blunder fell woefully short of that expectation. In that vein, I embrace the responsibilities that come with my position, and understand the repercussions from a blunder of that nature. I also understand that with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football. My biggest error was not realizing that that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint.”
Another blunder was the lack of a flag by the officiating crew at the time of the incident. Though they could have given the touchdown to the Ravens, even the minimally appropriate 15-yard penalty would have likely saved Tomlin $100,000.
Again, the officials have been slow to enforce this rule. And to be fair to the side judge who actually ran around Tomlin – between the coach and the others on the sidelines – this ref’s focus was on the play and marking the spot of the tackle. But it was still a mistake to not through the flag.
In the released statement from the NFL, there is additional talk of the Steelers possibly suffering the removal or alteration of draft picks.
This writer is no Steelers fan – not before, not now, not ever … guarantee it – but taking the issue to that extent seems beyond the scope of things to be fair, gotta say.
The fine is the second largest ever levied by the NFL against a coach – only the Spygate Scandal and the role of Patriots Coach Bill Belichick tops this.
Sadly lost in all of this is the wonderful fact that the Baltimore Ravens WON THE GAME 22-20!!