Three years ago next month, the football-following world became acquainted with the name Sal Alosi.
The former Jets strength coach, Alosi aligned a phalanx of inactive players on the border of the sideline during punt plays by the opposing team to disrupt the “gunners” charged with trying to get to the kicked ball.
It blew up for Alosi when he tripped Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll. The Jets were fined $100,000, and Alosi “resigned” after the season — possibly with a severance agreement that prevented Alosi from ever saying that coach Rex Ryan knew about the practice. (Ryan denied any knowledge of Alosi’s shenanigans.)
Fast forward to last night. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t on the border of the sideline during the long kickoff return by Jacoby Jones. He was deep into the white stripe, with one foot in the field of play as Jones approached. When Tomlin finally noticed Jones, Tomlin reaction was to flinch in Jones’ direction before getting out of the way.
The move forced Jones to move inside, and he was caught from behind by Cortez Allen.
There was no contact with Jones, and Allen quite possibly would have caught Jones anyway. But it’s a bad look for a head coach to actually have a foot on the field at a moment when the action is moving toward him.
Tomlin seemed credible in his post-game press conference, explaining that he simply “lost my placement” and accepting responsibility for the gaffe. Still, under that reasoning Tomlin could have wandered to the middle of the field.
It’s honorable that Tomlin took responsibility, but what else could he have said? It wasn’t my fault?
The next question becomes whether the league will do anything about it. If executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson lets it go, cries will arise of favoritism to the Rooneys. If Anderson smacks Tomlin, cries will arise that it was an overreaction, and that the Steelers once again are being persecuted by a fine-happy league office.
Regardless, the NFL needs to make it clear to all coaches that, whether intentional or not, no one should ever be in position to even possibly affect the play on the field. Even without making contact, Tomlin came close enough to Jones that the penalty imposed against the Steelers and/or their coach will ensure that every coach: (1) knows where he is; (2) knows where the ball is; and (3) stays the hell away.