Jim Harbaugh stood on the field during Bowman’s pick-six


Despite the widespread attention devoted to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stepping on the field during a kickoff on Thanksgiving, NFL coaches are still stepping on the field during plays. And NFL officials are still refusing to call penalties.

The latest example came on Monday night, when 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman sealed a win over the Falcons with an interception return for a touchdown. At the start of that play, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was on the field. When Bowman intercepted the ball and ran the other way, Harbaugh turned and ran too, and so did the official on the sideline, about seven or eight yards beyond Harbaugh. As the official trailed the play, he appeared to alter his path to avoid colliding with Harbaugh, as well as the many other 49ers players and coaches who stepped into the white boundary area to get a closer look at Bowman’s return.

Harbaugh’s violation was nowhere near as flagrant as Tomlin’s because Tomlin was directly in the path of Ravens return man Jacoby Jones, while Harbaugh wasn’t in the path of any players on the field. But Harbaugh was in the official’s way, and the officials are supposed to be focused on the play, not on making sure they don’t run into players and coaches near the sideline. If the official hadn’t noticed Harbaugh, there could have been a collision, just as there was a collision between an official and Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi two weeks ago.

Harbaugh wasn’t flagged and Rizzi wasn’t flagged and Tomlin wasn’t flagged. For whatever reason, NFL officials just don’t flag coaches for standing on the field during plays. Perhaps it will take a coach actually knocking a player to the ground for officials to do something.

102 responses to “Jim Harbaugh stood on the field during Bowman’s pick-six

  1. A moment like that is too good to be ruined by a flag. If the Niners can win it all, that will really become an iconic moment and honestly it wouldn’t be the same without seeing him run like a maniac haha. I’m ok with no flag in that situation. Especially since it was the last game in that legendary stadium.

  2. Harbaugh’s violation was nowhere near as flagrant as Tomlin’s because Tomlin was directly in the path of Ravens return man Jacoby Jones, while Harbaugh wasn’t in the path of any players on the field.

    enuf said

  3. The coaches on the field don’t effect the game at all..
    i mean whats the worse that could happen??

    a kickoff returner alters his route and gets tackled on a sure-thing TD run???
    slim chance we’ll ever see that.

  4. Harbaugh is a clown. It’s embarrassing to watch the way he carries himself on the sideline. Give it a rest. He was still bitching to the refs, even when the 49ers had won.

  5. Umm maybe they rent getting flagged because the officials are focusing all their conscious attention on the field?

    Isnt that how it should be?

    These penalties should primarily be dealt with after the game unless an official feels compelled by the situation to deal with it in real time.

  6. the league is OK with this because it gives Godell and chance to fine more people and increase revenue.

    They were even thinking of having TV timeouts to review the coaches position on big plays & increase commercial viewability.

    “we not interrupt these commercials for some football.”

  7. Tomlin should have taught us all why they have the rule. And if you have the rule, throw the flag. Harbaugh should have known better, and others will learn pretty quickly to stay off the field of play.

  8. The Tomlin thing is overblown. Coaches clearly are trying to get a good view of plays, whether that be through the Jumbotron or down on the field, so it’s a wonder that more of these accidents of coaches wandering onto the field don’t happen.

  9. hardythekraken says:Harbaugh is a clown. It’s embarrassing to watch the way he carries himself on the sideline. Give it a rest. He was still bitching to the refs, even when the 49ers had won.

    simple solution … stop watching 49ers games. no1 is forcing you to watch a ”clown” in a 49ers game. you say harbaughs bitching after a win while your doing the same bitching. take your own advice and give it a rest.

  10. This game should have just been mailed in. There was no way the league was going to let any team come into to Candlestick and spoil the last game party.

    I’m not being real, I’m just trying to act like all the conspiracy trolls of the Minnysoda vikqueen’s do.

  11. This happens REGULARLY with coaches, players and assistants in both college and pro football.

    Is it “illegal?” Yeah. Is it ever enforced? Almost never. It’s like going 1 mph over the Speed Limit. It’s illegal – but 1 mph “violation of the law” is almost never enforced.

    This is why NFL teams hire “back-up guys.” These are not substitute players or coaches. The name very literally means, tell people to “BACK UP.” It’s because it’s a recurring issue.

    Everyone, in their wild rush to justice on Coach Tomlin – insisted he did something vile and malicious. Then, when Coach Belichick frankly came to Tomlin’s defense – everyone piled on Belichick too.

    The technical enforcement of the rule would not only have players, coaches and assistants off the field of play – they’re also supposed to be OFF that white box — which is intended for the Officials only.

    People may hate on Harbaugh, Tomlin, Belichick and others — but they’re in effect, currently doing 1 mph over the speed limit.

    If the league wants to ramp up enforcement, fine – and teams will adjust. But this has been this way forever. It just happens – and has since the 70’s (and probably before).

  12. Say what u will about harbaugh but he is hardly a clown. He took the niners to the nfc champ game and superbowl his first two years as their coach. Did they have a lot of talent on the team already? Sure. But isnt that the jib if the coach? To get the most out of your players?

    Funny though that the guy calling harbaugh a clown cheers for a grown man who believes he is a kraken. Just sayin.

  13. No where near Tomlin’s interference is the ‘correct’ assessment.

    The excitement and implications of that play… I was running right along side Harbaugh… from my living room.

    @harveykraken – Absolutely Harbaugh acted foolishly during his first year… chalk it up to gitters and trying to exude confidence, whatever.
    Facts are he’s toned down and settled in… and all coaches work the Ref’s. Harbaugh has performed much more respectably this year.

  14. nfl4days says:
    Dec 24, 2013 10:23 AM
    As long as Harbaugh keeps winning he can bitch as much as he wants. First year divisional round OT loss second year NFC champions third year ????

    …..First round loss. This team is very over-rated.

  15. The refs would never flag him for that, can you imagine how much he’d cry after that? I’m sure he’d follow them to the airport throwing a tantrum, good for the refs for choosing to avoid it.

  16. When it is noticed, warnings should be given.
    Then flags should be thrown.
    If it continues after that the coaches should get ejected.

  17. Can somebody, anybody please name a team whose coach hasn’t done this also? It’s amazing that Harbaugh is called a crybaby but people come online to whine about a coach stepping on the line from 50 yards behind the play

  18. If they interfere with the play (ie Tomlin) then yes throw the flag, if not let it be – no harm no foul.

  19. anyone else think that NaVorro Bowman hurt himself on that dive into the end zone? he immediately grabbed at his leg, needed a little help getting off, and when he returned to the field on the next defensive series he looked very ineffective before coming out. that would be an utter shame.

  20. I don’t mind the flag not being thrown, especially in a big moment like it was last night. And I don’t even mind if harbaugh doesn’t get fined. But what burns me is the league is going to take a draft pick from the steelers and will probably do nothing here, which would be the model if goodell’s inconsistency. I know I know, Tomlin was more egregious but as was said then, shouldn’t head coaches be held to a higher standard.

  21. Someone needs to go back and look at every play from very game and count how many times a coach is on the field during a play. I guarantee it’s hundreds. Send this tape to goodell and all media so everyone can see how the overblown Tomlin incident was a ridiculous non story.

  22. Its ridiculous coaches still come onto the field. It happens since nfl isn’t really interested in enforcing.

    Out of curiosity, as someone who covers the nfl, can you tell us how many plays a game the coaches are on the field? Probably more useful than random images, right?

  23. Coaches need to stay off the field of play and follow the rules of the game. The NFL should make this a point of emphasis for next season and start penalizing coaches 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. If referees do that consistently the coaches will learn to stay off the field and out of the white area very quickly. Coaches coach and players play. Coaches don’t belong on the field.

  24. supremekingz says:
    Dec 24, 2013 10:32 AM
    Can somebody, anybody please name a team whose coach hasn’t done this also? It’s amazing that Harbaugh is called a crybaby but people come online to whine about a coach stepping on the line from 50 yards behind the play


    Harbaugh has a reputation that follows him. He has ALWAYS been a whiner…Going back to his playing days. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine having to be at a family holiday with him and his brother if they’re anything like how they are on the field…I’m sure a lot of booze is consumed by all the in-laws.

  25. “Tomlin was directly in the path of Ravens return man Jacoby Jones”

    His toes were on the field! This shouldn’t even be a rule. it’s never been an issue before.

  26. All coaches have done this at some point. I noticed that sports writers and bloggers were slamming Tomlin while on the other hand his peers and former NFL coaches seem to support him and understand the mishap.

    Refs please start flagging this so that we don’t have to read about this anymore.

    Happy Holidays folks.

  27. I hate when these coaches step on the field even if it is to argues a call, they are not players, there coaches, the NFL needs to start calling 12 men on the field when they step where they dont belong.

  28. It’s comical how all the commenters who repeatedly accuse Harbaugh of whining are really the ones whining themselves. Over and over and over. It’s almost like they don’t like the 49ers, and are upset by our success…

  29. It was called against one of the Washington Redskins coaches earlier in the season and he wasn’t on the field, but he was in the white out of bounds line.

  30. Tomlin was trying to impact the return guy. Clearly.
    Every single person in the world who watched it happen knows it.

  31. I love how all the Niner fans are pooh poohing this. That play decided just about every teams fate in the NFC! The point is he is constantly on the field as is P. C. in Seattle. You can’t have different rules for different teams and coaches. The credibility of the NFL is about as low as a WWE event at this point.

  32. Let’s not forget the injury to Sean Payton a couple years ago. He was either on the field, or so close it wasn’t worth argueing about.

    Sure, if memory serves, it was a result of a player colliding with him out of bounds. But still, he was very close to the field.

    If the league is truly concerned about safety, they need to re-examine just how close people can get to the field.

    We’ve seen player running into camera men out of bounds. Why were they that close. I seem to remember a player hurting his knee in such a collision. And BTW, helmet to TV camera can cause a concussion just as easily as helmet to helmet.

  33. The NFL has given the 49ers special and friendly treatment ever since the Bill Walsh years. Its the same where the Steelers never get called for lots of their fouls on the field of play. The Tomlon thing was too blatant to hide so they made an example of him while ignoring Harbaugh’s infraction. The RuleBook does not say it is NOT a foul if the play came no where near the coach, the RuleBook states that a penalty is to be called if the coach or his staff is on the playing field. The RuleBook has its language in Black and White, the NFL tells its refs to look the other way where favored teams are involved and the 49ers are a favored team.

  34. It’s only an issue if someone is from a team in Pittsburgh.
    It gives everyone who isn’t a fan of a team from Pittsburgh a good reason to whine and cry all over the internet.

  35. So many people still with their panties in a bunch over the Jones/Tomlin deal. Maybe if the Ratbirds had a productive offense instead of an over rated under performing over paid QB they would need to depend on special teams to score a touchdown.

    This is NFL football. So many crybabies. Im surprised Chess isnt more popular in the USofA.

  36. this rule was made because of harbaugh and carroll always on the feild. they were always chasing the refs, still do.

  37. Harbaugh is annoying and thinks that the rules don’t apply to him anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Th They should just take the rule out since they don’t ever call it during the game. Either it is a rules violation and flagged or take it out entirely. There shoudn’t be any “gray area” That is where trouble ensues.

  38. A player is on the field with his sock down enough to show some skin is not penalty but there is a fine associated with it. A coach or player stands on the field or too close to it and is a penalty has no fine associated with it. The NFL is a mixed bag of penalties and fines that is frustrating for all involved.

  39. Perhaps it will take a coach actually knocking a player to the ground for officials to do something.

    My money is on a Harbaugh going Woody Hayes on a play at some point.

  40. Since it hasn’t been called on a regular basis, I can understand letting it go at this point in the season.

    That said, it should be called consistently from the beginning of the season onward because there’s a good reason for the rule. After a few coaches get called for it, they’ll start standing where they’re supposed to.

  41. Realitycheckbaby
    Difference is Tomlin impacted the play and the other team.

    If Harbaugh wants to get in the way of his guy fine.

    If he slows a defender, suspend him for a season.////impacted the play? Jones was getting caught, admitted as much in his first interview, then after the media blew this thing out of proportion then he started crying. A rule is a rule, Tomlin admitted it and moved on. If it’s a rule then enforce regardless if the impact of the play. They don’t not throw a flag if a hold occurs on the other side of the field away from the play. Grow up

  42. This happens in the NFL & NBA a lot. Quite simply, a lot of things against the rules or aren’t ever going to be called in modern sports. They’re under enough scrutiny to get the plays on the field/court right, unless it directly changes the outcome of a play or game, it’s usually unnoticed or ignored. That’s the simple truth. Anyways, go Rams & Saints next week.

  43. Can’t wait to see one of these ego-maniac coaches get absolutely blown up by a player running full speed on the field. Then maybe it will be recognized as a safety issue and the idiots will be penalized for violating the rules. Merry Christmas!

  44. According to Rule 13 on Non-Player Conduct, Harbaugh was certainly “subject to penalty by officials” for violating Article 4, entering the restricted area. But the spirit and language of the rule suggests discretionary latitude by officials to assess severity and intent before penalization. Whereas, Tomlin’s interference appeared to violate 3 separate articles under Rule 13: 1) Article 4, entering the restricted area; 2) Article 5, excessive lateral movement along the sidelines; 3) Article 7, a non-player who committed or attempted to commit an act which was palpably unfair.

  45. Difference is Tomlin impacted the play and the other team.

    It’s really funny that the biggest whiners about this are the raven fans. Every one else has let it go. Yet you don’t like revisiting Ray Lewis….practice what you preach and move on.

  46. Why doesn’t the NFL pour over old photo and video of Vince Lombardi to see if he ever stepped on the field so they can issue retroactive fines.

  47. Field of play is the field of play. They need to start blowing the ball dead and calling too many players on the field. That would fix it.
    I don’t like Jim Harbaugh as much as his brother John, and I am still a niner fan (after my Falcons).
    Rules are rules, and they need to enforce them or change them.

  48. What irks me (and i dont have anything against Harbaugh or TOmlin), but imagine this: A defensive player (12th man) is rushing to get off the field when the offense snaps the ball. That gets called everytime (unless missed) regardless of affect on the game. If they refuse to call on coaches then they need to get rid of the rule while the 12th player is making attempt to get off the field.

  49. That area is reserved for the movement of the officials. If an official has to run around a coach or player while in that area. they should throw a flag.
    By the same token, if the official runs around the offender and doesn’t throw a flag, then whose fault is it?

  50. Gödel only has eyes for the Steelers when it comes seeing the technical rule compared to what is ever called. Coaches are all over the field yet Tomlin was the bad guy. Godel probably went to the bathroom as this was shown.

  51. As some have mentioned there is a difference with Tomlin and Hairball on the field , no both are against the rules neither had a flag yet Godel and his henchman hide in a room deciding who get penalized who doesn’t.

  52. Late flags and dubious calls made by the zebras, bother me a lot more than non-players stepping over the white line. To watch an RB or WR bust a long run, only to have it called back by a late “off sides”, or unprovable PI, out of the TV line of vision flag, is far more egregious than seeing a coaches brogans a foot or two beyond the stripe.

  53. Mike Smith was out on the field for some action as well. It seems that so long as you don’t interfere with an official you won’t get penalized, and if you don’t interfere with the play you won’t get fined $100k.

  54. Rules are Rules, standards are standards, they crucified Tomlin, but Jim gets a free pass.

    We notice he yells at the refs 100 times more, and never gets called for a penalty, he breaks all the rules and disrespects the refs and nothing is done.

    I have never seen a coach in a refs face so much and whine, and nothing is done.

    Rules are rules, it doesn’t matter if it is a special moment.

  55. They don’t have the rule to prevent coaches from getting a better view without interfering, they have the rule to prevent coaches from tripping players.

    Every. Single. Coach. Has been on the field during a play this season and probably this week without a doubt. There you go, you now have 30 other articles to write about coaches not being flagged.

  56. Harbawl has to be fined since Godell set a precedent with Tomlin. If Harbawl is not fined, it is an inconsistent travesty. You can make some case that Tomlin’s penalty should be stiffer due to the circumstances (not that I agree Tomlin and the Steelers should have been penalized so much), but at least Harbawl should be fined. I think $25-50K. Can you imagine how he would have cried if he lost the game, but they lucked out with that INT.

  57. Here’s an idea, send out a league wide email explaining that in order to protect players and officials, refs will throw a flag any time when a player or coach enters the field during a play, with no exceptions. Also explain that any violation will incur a minimum $10,000 fine. Problem solved. Then if a bonehead coach enters the field, he has no one to blame but himself for the flag. We try to baby these coaches too much. It’s no surprise that they continue to enter the field, because there’s no enforcement. Currently, if a ref did throw a flag, he’d be massively criticized for selective enforcement. But, if a flag was automatic, there wouldn’t be any selective enforcement and no one could complain.

  58. You guys need to find a better way to hate on Harbaugh. This is ridiculous. Can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a coach on the field on a big return or play – nothing to see here!!

  59. These comments are idiotic.

    All coaches are on the field. Every. Single. Game.

    Tomlin did something illegal. He purposefully tried to alter a play by stepping on the field. Huge difference. We don’t need any changes in rules.

  60. Likely outcome that will change the rule: The sidejudge is watching the play, pivots and sprints to keep up and wham – bowls over the coach. Sidejudge can’t see the play, nothing is called, and the call is not reviewable. Who’s fault is it then? The refs for not calling it or the league for not enforcing it? (It’s pretty obvious it’s never the coaches fault).

  61. Oh yeah sure, an official is going to throw that flag and possibly negate that interception and/or return?!?

    Officials have a long history of failure of courage in the face of home team fans – the supposed “immaculate reception” was called a touchdown only after the referee was unable to secure protection for he and his crew at Pittsburgh…(Source: NFL Films)

    The way 49ers fans have behaved lately, you really think they’re gonna throw a flag against Harbaugh and the sideline?!?

  62. Tomlin did something illegal. He purposefully tried to alter a play by stepping on the field. Huge difference. We don’t need any changes in rules.

    How can you prove he intentional tried to block his path? Do you have proof you are keeping secret? Sshh you are being biased towards Tomlin shame on you.

  63. I think the more obvious question is the Falcons trying to lose on purpose. That’s the only reason I can come up for the play call they made on 1st down, with 2 minutes left and all 3 timeouts. Wtf were they thinking? Let’s score in a hurry so we can give the Niners the ball back with 1:57 left on the clock. What possible benefit was it to throw? At least run it twice, burn some time. And worst case you’re settling for a game tying FG. Asinine.

  64. The refs don’t know all of the rules and inconsistently enforce the rules they know. NFL officiating is a joke that undermines the integrity of the game and erodes the fan base.

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