At a time when the league is trying to get the media and the fans to understand the difference between legal and illegal hits, the NFL has to contend not only with a failure or refusal of certain elements of the media to provide clear, accurate information, but also with a head coach who remains nearly as stubborn and petulant as his linebacker who spent a day or two considering the possibility of quitting after being fined.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, continues to believe that the hit for which James Harrison received a $75,000 fine did not violate the rules.
So when Bouchette told Tomlin that defensive players on the team have confusion about the line between clean and dirty hits, Tomlin said, “There’s no confusion. There really isn’t. It’s a very emotional thing, but there’s no confusion.”
But there is confusion. Tomlin thinks that the hit for which Harrison will surrender more dollars than many families make in a year was legal. It’s only natural, then, that his players would be confused, given that the man to whom they look for guidance is telling them something that conflicts with the NFL’s interpretation.
To make matters worse, Tomlin thinks no changes need to be made to the team’s approach to hitting offensive players.
“At the end of the day, no,” Tomlin said. “We just need to take a
conscious effort in terms of safeguarding players as much as we can and
eliminate some of the other things that have transpired here of late.”
None of this makes a bit of sense. And if the league believes public complaints from coaches about in-game officiating calls merit a fine, Tomlin’s conscious inability to accept the league’s position on this important matter creates an even bigger problem. It undermines the league’s safety rules, and it confuses the players, the media, and the fans.