Taking six days to arrive at a decision over Mike Tomlin’s stepping on the field of play/interference in the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Baltimore Ravens game seemed a little long to me, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over a few extra days. The fining of $100,000? That is not out of line, but more on that in a moment. The conditional losing of draft picks based on what happens and how playoff seedings are effected is where the league loses me.
Yesterday I wrote a blog disagreeing with ESPN’s Steven A. Smith on his position about the N.Y. Yankees and whether or not they should overpay Robinson Cano. Today I am going to whole heartedly agree with him that whatever the league is going to do punishment wise, needs to be done now.
Tomlin, a deserving well-respected coach, made a mistake. One he deserves to be punished for. But neither he, nor the Steelers deserve to have this dangle over their heads and be a story for months. But this goes farther than that, as the league’s position is wrong on other levels as well.
Firstly, I think the taking of a draft pick is not warranted here. Mike Tomlin acted on his own in the heat of the moment. There is no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, of organizational misconduct. This interference is not an example of something that the organization knew about or should have known about. The latter being just cause to punish the team by taking a draft pick.
And the principle of making the pick or picks forfeited contingent on the ultimate effect it has on Pittsburgh’s playoff positioning is unprecedented. If we’re going to do that why don’t we suspend players for illegal hits based on how long the opposing player they injure misses games? And if the injured player’s team misses the playoffs why don’t we take draft picks from them?
Baseball can do the same. If a pitcher beans an opposing player and he is out for the season, that pitcher is gone for the season. Intentionally beaning someone with a deadly weapon is a far worse offense that does more to challenge the integrity of the game then stepping on the field. (And does warrant a stiffer penalty then a free pass to first base, but I digress.)
Do you see what opening this door can do?
But if this is the direction the NFL wanted to go, taking a pick or picks depending on whether or not the four fewer points Baltimore scored affects them getting into the playoffs or their playoff position, the league should have:
A- As Stephen A. suggests, just awarded Pittsburgh the four points and came down with a definitive punishment.
B- Establish that if Ravens miss the playoffs because of the missing points, Pittsburgh will lose “X”, or if they get a worse seeding, they will lose “Y”.
C- If Pittsburgh’s playoff positioning is unaffected by the incident they lose “Z”.
At least this way, we avoid speculation and everyone knows what is what.
The intention of this fine and punishment is to reprimand Tomlin for a violation and to discourage the act from being done by anyone else again. I get that. So let’s look at the fine first:
A hundred K is a decent amount of cheese. It’s real and more than the run of the mill ten to fifty thousand dollar slap on the wrist. Okay. But would it deter a coach from engaging in an act that he felt could help win an important game? I don’t think so. So the fine sounds nice, I would have been okay with a 50K fine, but it is appropriate, however on it’s own, it doesn’t do much for me.
I do think a loss of a high draft pick will serve as deterrence, but as previously stated, I do think this punishment fits this “crime”.
The “just” punishment in this instance would have been a one game suspension. No need to waste time on trying to figure out intent, (even though Steven A., Skip Bayless and many others think it was intentional), if a coach or any player not on the field of play interferes with a play on the field it should be a 15 yard penalty against that team and an automatic ejection from that game and one game suspension. Period. Done. No need for additional fines and histrionics.
This would be similar to the NBA rule having to do with players leaving the bench during an altercation. Doesn’t matter if it is just their toe crossing the in-bounds line, if they do it, bam automatic one game suspension.
A fine is one thing, but coaches do not want to miss games. This would be about a close as a deterrent as losing a draft pick, and a stiff loss of wage from the suspension all rolled up into one. I doubt we would see this again. And if it does occur again, it would take six days to come out with an incomplete disciplinary action.