Memo to Goodell: Stop being a hypocrite
The NFL fined Packers linebacker Clay Matthews(notes) $5,000 for wearing yellow cleats with his nasty throwback uniform.
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu(notes) got docked twice that amount for borrowing a team doctor's cell phone on the sidelines – to assure his wife he was OK after suffering an apparent head injury.
And the Jousting Jims, Harbaugh and Schwartz? After a contentious postgame handshake and bumping incident involving the 49ers' and Lions' charged-up coaches turned into a full-fledged spectacle at Ford Field two Sundays ago, the NFL took swift and decisive action.
Get this: The league reportedly sent out a memo to all 32 teams, reminding everyone to behave at game's end.
Yep, tough love at its finest.
Failing to fine Harbaugh and Schwartz for their conspicuously contentious conduct was beyond weak. Not only did numerous players express this publicly, but as my colleague Jason Cole reported Tuesday, Browns president Mike Holmgren went so far as to put in a call to the league office to express his opinion that both coaches should have been dinged.
Considering that Holmgren is his team's top football executive and a longtime NFL coach, that's kind of embarrassing – though surely not as embarrassing as (gasp) uniform violations.
[Related video: Dolphins reportedly contact Bill Cowher about coaching job]
This latest example of the league's egregious double standard when it comes to discipline involving players and coaches makes me want to extract a pound of flesh from somebody, but that sounds kind of messy. Instead, I think I'll send a memo to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:
As you know, I'm a big fan. While you've taken your share of grief lately, I've repeatedly defended you against your detractors – even during the lockout.
However, I believe you have a blind spot on the issue of punishing coaches whose behavior tarnishes "The Shield," and it kind of makes you look like a hypocrite.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of fining players for things like improper shoe color or calling wifey on the phone (possibly in a loopy state) to say, "Honey, let's have a candlelight dinner tonight … actually, make that dinner in a completely darkened room." But I get it – you're the Sheriff, and rules are rules.
That said, if you're going to flex your power, it kind of helps your credibility when you at least go through the motions of doing so in an even-handed manner. Too often, your decisions seem arbitrary.
Two years ago, after Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall(notes) had a jawing match during a game, you fined Smith $15,000 and let the player skate. I thought that was the wrong decision, but at least it was the rare case of a coach being held to a higher standard – which is supposedly what your personal-conduct policy dictates.
Usually, however, it's the other way around. As I told you then, your complete unwillingness to investigate the incident in which former Raiders assistant Randy Hanson argued with then-coach Tom Cable in a meeting room and emerged with a broken jaw was shameful. You also blew off Cable's admission that he had struck his first wife amid numerous allegations of domestic violence.
What Harbaugh and Schwartz did in the heat of the moment two Sundays ago wasn't nearly that severe, and many of us (myself included) found it entertaining. However, both men exhibited a clear lack of professionalism – Harbaugh with a post-handshake shove to Schwartz's back, Schwartz with an aggressive shoulder bump and continued effort to get back in his rival's face before leaving the field – which was clearly embarrassing to the league.
As Detroit-area sports scandals go, this wasn't the Malice at the Palace or anything close to it. However, the Fracas at Ford was arguably more of a stain on the league's image than a certain linebacker's lemon-colored footwear or a certain safety's decision to use a 21st-century communications tool to soothe his wife's nerves.
Harbaugh and Schwartz are good coaches whose intensity and competitiveness are qualities which have helped them turn around struggling franchises. However, they're also representatives of billion-dollar companies who, when conducting business on a telecast seen by tens of millions of viewers, should be able to exhibit professionalism and mutual respect for a few seconds before heading to their separate locker rooms.
Neither coach did this after the 49ers-Lions game, and you should have fined them as a deterrent for those who might behave even less appropriately in the future.
Take my advice and reconsider your decision to let them slide, if only to reassure legions of skeptical players that you're fair about ensuring that everyone must follow the same standard of behavior.
Oh, and one more thing: Live from Northern California, it's 32Q!!!!!!
1. Green Bay Packers: What kind of man kicks another man in the groin and then apologizes via social media rather than picking up the phone and doing it directly?
2. New England Patriots: If the Pats' pass defense is this lousy in games, how badly do New England's defensive backs get abused by Tom Brady(notes) in practice?
Braylon Edwards(notes) has just 4 catches in '11.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Why do I get the feeling Braylon Edwards is about to carve up the Browns' secondary on Sunday?
4. New Orleans Saints: If I'd told you the Saints could score 62 points in a game with Sean Payton not calling plays, would you have asked Pete Carmichael to be his agent?
5. Buffalo Bills: Will Shawne Merriman's(notes) season-ending surgery and the resulting void at outside linebacker be the team's Achilles' heel?
6. New York Giants: If their defensive line is really at full strength, how sore is Matt Moore(notes) going to be on the flight home to Miami on Sunday night?
7. Baltimore Ravens: If Terrell Suggs(notes) were the Ravens' head coach, would he sack Cam Cameron?
8. Oakland Raiders: If Hue Jackson had gone into a Schwartzesque rage toward Todd Haley after Sunday's tense postgame handshake, would someone on the Chiefs have had to make a seventh interception to protect his coach's welfare?
[ Related video: Former Raiders QB suffered from sleep apnea ]
9. Atlanta Falcons: How big a blow is the season-ending injury to Ovie Mughelli(notes) – and how low is Jason Snelling's(notes) fantasy value now?
Tom Brady accounted for 4 TDs vs. the Steelers last season.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Who owns the Steelers – the Rooney family or the Patriots' quarterback?
11. Detroit Lions: When Ndamukong Suh(notes) said he doesn't need "Rodney" White's respect, did another Rodney turn over in his grave?
12. Dallas Cowboys: At this point, is DeMarco Murray(notes) the only person in North Texas who doesn't mind if he remains a third-string halfback?
[ Related: Tony Romo announces wife's pregnancy ]
13. New York Jets: After Rex Ryan shrugged off Chargers tight end Randy McMichael's(notes) diss of the Jets' secondary by paying homage to "Anchorman's" Ron Burgundy, did the dudes from the Spanish-language station take offense?
14. Houston Texans: When veteran Houston Chronicle NFL writer John McClain calls Sunday's victory over the Titans the best performance in franchise history, who are we to argue?
Matt Forte(notes) is third in the NFL with 672 rushing yards.
15. Chicago Bears: When Matt Forte finally gets paid, should he give Brian Urlacher(notes) an agent fee?
16. San Diego Chargers: What's wrong with Philip Rivers(notes) – and if it doesn't get rectified soon, can this team score enough points to stay competitive?
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yo, Raheem Morris – will you also hold yourself accountable for Aqib Talib's(notes) mother's actions?
18. Cincinnati Bengals: Pac is back – what could possibly go wrong?
19. Philadelphia Eagles: What's more ridiculous – that Asante Samuel(notes) described himself as a "business entity first," or that he did so in the third person?
20. Kansas City Chiefs: If I'd told you two weeks into the season that "by Halloween the Chiefs could be in first," would you have waited for me to add, "in the Suck For Luck Derby"?
21. Carolina Panthers: Is Superman a softie?
22. Washington Redskins: So, do you think Mike Shanahan can talk Jake Plummer out of retirement?
[ Related: Mike Shanahan reeling from wrong decisions at QB ]
23. Tennessee Titans: Who body-snatched Chris Johnson, and could he/she kindly return the real CJ to the Titans' huddle?
Colt McCoy(notes) was sacked five times in Week 7.
24. Cleveland Browns: When you're being credibly compared to Charlie Frye(notes), is it a sign that your career trajectory is fluttering like a Colt McCoy pass against the Seahawks?
25. Seattle Seahawks: Can you believe the Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil compared backup quarterbacks to communism in the wake of Charlie Whitehurt's miserable outing against the Browns – and is there any other NFL writer who would dare bust out the C-word when making an analogy?
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Was that really the Jags' defense Monday night or did Ray Lewis(notes) and friends switch uniforms with their opponents?
27. Denver Broncos: Did Tim Tebow(notes) recover that onside kick, too, or does he just have friends in high places?
28. Minnesota Vikings: Now that the Vikings are the most lawless NFL team of the 21st century, will Zygi Wilf commemorate the achievement by giving Chris Cook(notes) a pair of golden handcuffs for Christmas?
[ Related: NFL players arrested less than average citizen ]
29. Arizona Cardinals: When Ken Whisenhunt, in response to a question about whether he'd bench Kevin Kolb(notes), answered, "I'm not saying that," should he have added, "and there are 62 million reasons why"?
30. Miami Dolphins: When Tony Sparano talked to himself Sunday night, did he say, "Tony, your defensive coordinator is clueless"?
31. Indianapolis Colts: Really?
32. St. Louis Rams: Who's worse at wrapping up – the Rams' defenders or Lord Voldemort.
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