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Shutdown Corner Mailbag: Was Mike Tomlin’s move gamesmanship or cheating?

Jay Busbee
Shutdown Corner

It's that horrid time known as "the days between football," friends, and so we’re throwing the doors wide open to you and your questions, comments, complaints, rants and one-liners here in the Shutdown Mailbag. You know the drill here: unburden your football soul via email at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or via Twitter at @jaybusbee. All these are real, actual emails, tweets, comments and the like. Now, gather ‘round as we discuss Mike Tomlin.

You know the Tomlin story by now, yes? In the Steelers-Ravens game on Thanksgiving night, the Steelers coach was edging up a little too close to the field of play when Jacoby Jones was running by, and POW! MORAL CRIME! In my writeup of the play Thursday, I called it "old-school crafty," and oh, that didn't sit so well with some of our readership. First off, let's take one more look at the play itself:

All frothed up with MORAL OUTRAGE? Just spittin' turkey at the CHEATING on display? Good. Let's get to it:

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Old-school crafty my butt! That's cheating! Pure and simple. I think the NFL should fine him for that. I'll be highly disappointed if they don't. Just because the refs didn't catch it doesn't make it any less of a low life tactic. What would they do if he had actually tripped? I see missed calls all the time in games. I'd sure like to give the officials a few choice words. Is there any way to contact them directly? I seriously doubt there is, short of yelling at them from the stands, but it sure is fun to think about. ;)
-Gene Whitsel

Considering the email I got from writing this one article, I'm frankly surprised the NFL doesn't blur the faces of its referees when they come on camera. Seriously, Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore must have to think twice about where they go out to eat in hostile NFL cities. Lord only knows what those Eagles fans would shove into your cheesesteak if they didn't like you.

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For all the sanctimonious THIS AIN'T THE WAY REAL MEN PLAY FOOTBALL nonsense that erupted in the wake of Tomlin's sideline jab, the old-school coaches would have LOVED what he did. Nobody got injured, the act didn't materially change the play (Jones was going to be tackled in another five yards regardless), and it added a spark of life to an otherwise mortally dull game. Shoot, if Bill Cowher didn't once take out someone with his chin on a runback, I'd be amazed.

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If you think Tomlin's move was 'SLICK' then you have a problem. It's downright unsportsman like conduct. It was cheating cut & dry. These coaches/players are suppposed to be setting an example for the fans and for the children. Unless he gets a fine for his 'move' what's being said it that's it's ok to cheat as long as you can get away with it. Then he smiles to make it even worse. Obviously he's not setting the right example!
-"YouJustRelax"

No. No no no no. I don't want any "for the children" rationalizations here. If we start ratcheting the NFL down to a level that it's teaching life lessons to children, we're on the doorstep of "let's not keep score" and "everybody gets a trophy." Kids are great. Football is great. But like bourbon and Cap'n Crunch, they are great things that should in no way affect one another. Trust me on this.

And now we get to the unedited, [sic]'d portion of our emailers. English teachers, you might want to turn away.

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Jay Busbee, what a friggin low life to call this stunt, "fine little gamesmanship by coaches getting onto the field of play". I suppose having a kid distract you while another picks your pocket makes you want to dance for joy at the "gamesmanship"??

Stop using terms you obviously have no idea what they mean, like "gamesmanship". You have no idea what sports are about, nor any valid moral compass I suppose you Have a pic of Woody Hayes punching the Clemson Player as your desktop so you can celebrate that gamesmanship every time you look at your computer??
-Charles Fiero

Even better. I have a screensaver of Woody Hayes punching a little kid.

And finally, an email obviously written from the midst of a Wal-Mart Black Friday battle. Because our brave anonymous letter writer had a little issue with profanity, we've subbed in happy Thanksgiving terms for his more family-unfriendly ones.

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Subject: Cheating is now "slick"

Um okay, got it. And nice false equivalency between Jason Kidd and Mike Tomlin. Mike Tomlin stopped a touchdown in a game that was still competitive. Jason Kidd spilled soda in a game that was already over. Could you possibly be any more biased? You have no [stuffing] idea what you are talking about. If the refs had seen this, they would have had to award a touchdown to the Ravens for gross misconduct.

Holy [cranberry sauce] how the [candied yams] do people like you get work? Go back to [Turkey]sburgh where you belong, cretin!
-"Hi There"

Hi there, Hi There. Here's how we get work, by living in the realm of facts:

1. The Kidd game was by no means over; New Jersey still had a chance to win.

2. "If the refs had seen this ... " I know. If only. What an outrage it was that the refs weren't in position to see this. All we have is a uncertain, blurry, inconclusive photo of the scene. The Zapruder film of The Tomlin Incident, if you will. We've annotated it with the ultimate in high-tech graphical analysis for your edification:

View photo

.

Who is that mystery man on the far right? We may never know.

3. [Turkey]sburgh is delightful this time of year. You should visit.

We done here? Cool. Let's move on.

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Commercial break! Time for a classic (and very easy) You Make The Call:

Of course, if the player's helmet came off and his skull was nearly ripped off his neck, it wouldn't be a touchdown!

Also, how ridiculous is the rest of that IBM commercial. A computer in your home? That'll never catch on.

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I almost fell for it, almost starting buying into Romo again. Letdown year after letdown year, I've come to love the offseason. I regain hope and believe that this will in fact be our year with all the talent around this team. Jerry fires scapegoat after scapegoat and I buy into the hype that it's not Romo's fault. But let's face it, this team's successes and failures center around Romo. Images of Rob Jackson picking off Romo to seal our fate at the end of the season last year has made me numb to the hype this year. I've come to terms with the fact that we'll never win a Super Bowl with Romo at the helm.
-Rob

Rob! You gotta have faith! I've come around on Romo, and I used to loathe the guy! He's absolutely got the ability to take this team at least one win into the playoffs. The thing with Romo is that everyone assumes he's going to screw up, and then if he does, the bias is confirmed. If he doesn't, it's just a sign that he's waiting for later to screw up when it would hurt even more. If Romo does manage to win the Super Bowl, Dallas fans will assume he's going to somehow get the team moved to Mexico City.

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Which teams are going to get the wild cards?
-Whitt
Tampa, Fla.

I've got to believe that San Francisco and Carolina are going to hang on and get the NFC seeds, though Arizona and Chicago could make for some weirdness in the season's final weeks. Over in the AFC, the Chiefs are Sharpie'd in. But that sixth AFC spot? A full 28 teams, including the Titans, Jets, Ravens, Alabama, the Heat, and the Avengers are all in the mix. I'll go with the San Diego Chargers for now, but reserve the right to change my mind right up to kickoff of the wild card game.

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Can Tom Brady make it through the year without getting hurt?
-Cohen
Richmond, Va.

Considering the way that the rules are aligned to protect quarterbacks now, I think Brady's more likely to be injured sculpting his hair or pulling on his Uggs than taking a hit. Still, bad things can happen, as Aaron Rodgers could tell you. If Brady were to go down, the Patriots would evaporate and their fans would collapse in a writhing pile of woe-ahhh-we sorrow, bemoaning a cruel fate that hasn't given them a championship in six full weeks.

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All right, friends, that’ll do it for this week. Think you can do better than this week’s round of letter-writers? Take your shot by emailing or tweeting via the contacts below. This is also a reminder that you can tune in to our twice-weekly podcast, the catchily-named Shutdown Corner Podcast, right here on iTunes. And come on back to Shutdown Corner every day, multiple times a day, for the best NFL coverage in the known universe.

Enjoy the games, everybody!

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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