|In the eyes of the NFL, close-talking is not a crime. (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
The NFL seems uninterested in dispelling the perception that there are two sets of rules -- one for the players and one for everyone else associated with the league. The latest instance came after Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz reenacted the "Wait, what did he just do to me?!" scene that has played out at every pro wrestling match ever staged.
On merit alone the incident isn't worth a fine (and none was levied); the sheer embarrassment of being a part of such a spectacle is punishment enough. But this is the NFL, where no transgression is deemed too small (see, for example) … except when it doesn't involve players.
Remember when the Colts announced before the season that they had hired former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel as a game-day consultant? Instead of meting out the punishment, the league seemed happy to let Indianapolis handle it, but only after the story went public. That would've never happened had Tressel been a player (like, say, Terrelle Pryor).
Understandably, these inconsistencies irk players, and two of them spoke out about it Thursday during an appearance on NFL Network's Total Access. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Texans wideout Derrick Mason, who have 28 years of NFL experience between them, were amazed Harbaugh and Schwartz escaped punishment.
(For what it's worth -- and we imagine not much -- NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said this on Monday: "Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine. … However, both coaches told [VP of football operations] Ray Anderson today that their post-game conduct was wrong and will not happen again. ... We believe their response is the correct one and that their post-game conduct going forward will be more appropriate.")
“What if that was a player? How would (the NFL) react to that?,” Bailey asked. “These are supposed to be the leaders of our team(s), and you let them get away with it, so to speak, and now how do you think the players will start acting? I like it personally, but I just know how the NFL operates today, it’s amazing to me they let this slide.”
“I think they should have (been fined), because these are the leaders of your team,” he said. “I think the NFL should have slapped them with some type of fine, $5,000 or $10,000 here or there, to at least show them they have to be responsible for what they do on the field.”
We love that Mason has no idea how much the coaches should've been fined, no doubt because the league has a history of arbitrarily handing out punishments.
It's one thing to be strict -- we get that. There's a plan, and even if most people don't agree with it, they know the rules going in. But when the judge, jury and executioner is a paranoid schizophrenic you're going to have issues like this crop up several times a season.
(By the way, Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar notes that "it could certainly be argued that both [Schwartz and Harbaugh] stepped on the wrong side of this one," and then points to the NFL's fine schedule which plainly states that "Sportsmanship: Excessive Profanity; other Unsportsmanlike Conduct (e.g., toward opponent(s), game personnel, fans, etc.): $10,000 / $20,000.")
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This seems like a good place to include what some other NFL coaches had to say about The Handshake when it invariably came up at their respective weekly press conferences.
Bill Belichick: "[The post-game handshake] is so heavily scrutinized by the media that it’s an event bigger than the game itself, which is so absurd. Like a lot of things, it takes any personalization out of the game and makes it a public topic of discussion. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that the media focuses on it the way it does.
“I’d like to think that the reason that the people are there is to see the game and to see the competition. But they seem to want to talk about everything but the game. That’s not uncommon. That’s the media’s job, so that’s what they do. It certainly takes away from, as a coach, the things that you would say, so you find other times to do it outside of that. Maybe before the game, or a phone call to the coach after the game, that kind of thing.”
Mike Tomlin: "I really have no thoughts [on the handshake]. I think it is the same sometimes, when we pay attention to things that are meaningless, insignificant. The story of the NFL should be on the game itself. That was a hard-fought game played by two really good football teams, two exciting teams on the rise. I think that should be the story, not some unfortunate incident that happened after the game. I think that is silly."
When asked what does into a handshake, Tomlin was frank.
"I don't practice it. I don't think about it. I am just going to be cordial, be respectful and wish them well moving forward. I don't know about the norms, OK. I don't get into that. If I spend too much time thinking about the handshake, then I am not doing my job."
John Harbaugh: "I can just tell you this: I think I know who was right. But whoever was right or wrong, I know whose side I’m on. I’m definitely taking sides. [It’s] the same side I’ve always taken. … You know what? Everybody’s got a lot to learn. So I guess right now, [Jim's] 5-1. If the biggest lesson he has right now is how to shake hands postgame, after a victory, he’s doing OK.”
Fair point. But as one NFL coach told CBSSports.com's Clark Judge, Harbaugh and Scwhartz "are going to regret it in the morning. They just bought a film clip for life."
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