It looks like it’s time for 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to make a trip to Manhattan.
Nearly three years after the NFL began to enforce more aggressively the rules regarding hits on defenseless receivers, players are still complaining about penalties called and fines imposed for hits that clearly cross the line of what the NFL does and doesn’t permit.
Fueling player confusion are the messages they receive from the men responsible for teaching them how to stay on the right side of the line.
Two years ago, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin heaped film-room praise on safety Ryan Clark for a hit that drew a $40,000 fine. That resulted in Tomlin and his boss, Art Rooney II, being called to the league office for a meeting with the Commissioner. Since then, there have been no inconsistencies and fewer (relatively speaking) complaints from Steelers players about the rules. (It didn’t hurt that the league put Tomlin on the Competition Committee.)
Now, Fangio has spoken out about the manner in which officials enforce the rules regarding hits against defenseless players, questioning both a flag thrown and penalty imposed for a recent hit from 49ers safety Donte W/Hitner and complaining about the league’s preference that officials err on the side of safety.
But they no longer err on the side of safety. “Err” has been removed from the equation. Officials are instructed to aggressively enforce rules regarding player safety. Even with that approach, multiple hits that resulted in fines weren’t flagged (e.g., DeMeco Ryans on Malcom Floyd, George Iloka on Jermichael Finley).
As to the hit from W/Hitner, the officials and the league have spoken. It was a violation. Any player in a defenseless posture should not be struck in the head/neck area. For Fangio to say it was a “good play” contributes to general confusion regarding the rules, player and fan resentment of the league office, and ultimately unsafe play.
If coaches won’t be helping players understand what they can and can’t do, who will? And if the problem persists, maybe coaches should also be fined when one of their players applies an illegal hit.
We’ve got a feeling that, if the money was coming out of the coaches’ paychecks, the situation would improve dramatically, and quickly.