As many football fans are now aware, during the Thursday night game between the Ravens and Steelers, Mike Tomlin came close to interfering with kick returner Jacoby Jones on a kick return, in which he was then tackled from behind.
The Steelers’ favorite media person, Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that Tomlin and the team will likely face hefty fines, and that the team could potentially lose a draft pick. I’ve read elsewhere that it would likely be a late round pick.
I think that Mike Tomlin should absolutely be punished. I did not really think that it looked like Tomlin slowed Jones down, but who knows. Even a moment’s hesitation may have caused Jones to lose focus, and slow down just enough for Cortez Allen to catch him.
If Tomlin had made contact with Jones, and the Steelers had eventually won the game, the NFL would have a massive problem on their hands.
There is some precedent here, as 3 years ago New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi intentionally tripped a gunner on a punt return. The Jets were fined $100,000 and Alosi “resigned” after the season.
This is a little different because everything from the Jets situation seemed as if Alosi was doing this on his own, without any instruction from Rex Ryan or anyone else. Obviously, Mike Tomlin is a bigger name than a strength coach.
The situation with Tomlin is a bigger black eye for the league. It happened on a potentially game turning play, in prime-time, in a game with huge playoff implications.
Tomlin and the Steelers will be fined heavily, as they should be. I think threatening the loss of picks is also not a bad thing to leak out, to make sure that any team that even thinks about doing something like this again would quickly realize it’s not worth it.
I don’t expect any draft picks to be taken away though. I’m trying to look at this without any bias, but I think that a loss of picks would be extreme.
To my knowledge, the only time draft picks were taken away in recent history were from the Saints for placing bounties on offensive players, from the Patriots for video taping defensive signals, and from the 49ers for tampering with a player under contract with another team.
To me, intent should be part of the decision, when discussing a punishment. I have a hard time believing that Coach Tomlin intentionally got in the way. I’d like to see video of whether he was already there at the start of play, or moved there once Jones started running up the sideline.
All of the previous situations where a pick was taken away, teams clearly knew what they were doing was wrong, they denied it initially, and they got caught. That’s not the case here. Nobody talked about picks with the Sal Alosi situation, so I don’t think they should be doing so now.
Though it hasn’t been discussed much, something like a one game suspension for Mike Tomlin (in addition to a fine) would be more fitting in my opinion. It shows that the league isn’t taking the matter lightly, it’s more severe than the Alosi punishment, but it doesn’t punish the entire franchise long term like taking away a draft pick would.
I could also see some sort of discussion this off-season regarding what happens on the field (in terms of a penalty flag) if there is interference from the sideline. If Coach Tomlin is still a member of the competition committee by then, they could make him stand front and center in the discussion.
I would expect some sort of punishment to be issued today, and for Coach Tomlin to take responsibility and accept whatever that punishment is, during his Tuesday press conference.