When it comes to potential violations of the rules, the NFL has traded million-dollar investigations for memos.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league has sent a two-page memo to all teams reminding them that league policy prohibits public criticism of officiating or opponents’ tactics.
“We ask that you contact a member of the Football Operations department,” the memo states, “rather than making a public comment that may draw significant and unwanted public scrutiny. Such prohibited public statement may include specific statements about opposing coaches, players or the organization as a whole. . . . Innuendos and indirect statements will also be considered prohibited under the policy.”
The memo specifically points out that teams should not share information provided by V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino regarding officiating decisions made during games.
“Violations of this policy will result in prompt disciplinary action by the League office, which may include fines of the club and/or individual who make such public comments,” the memo states. “Egregious and inflammatory comments could result in the suspension of the individual(s) making the comment.”
It’s unclear whether any discipline has been taken against those who have clearly violated this policy since the regular season began. Two weeks ago, coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ official website suggested that the Patriots had deliberately interfered with the coach-to-coach communication system. Likewise, multiple coaches (including Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer) have criticized officiating and/or disclosed information provided by Blandino regarding officiating decisions made during games.
So instead of making a big deal about these things, the NFL has opted to handle the situation discreetly. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the comments continue.