The NFL, in touting that nine of 11 taunting penalties in the first two weeks of the season were correct, declined to identify the two penalties that should not have been called.
The fines, or lack thereof, issued as a result of the Week Two taunting calls potentially shed some light on the question of the specific fouls for taunting that league believes should not have been called.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, neither Texans tight end Jordan Akins nor Buccaneers defensive back Mike Edwards (pictured) received taunting fines. Both drew flags for incidents of taunting that seemed questionable, at best.
(Also, some have questioned whether the somersault into the end zone by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson amounted to taunting. Per the source, Jackson was not fined — which counts as indirect confirmation that he didn’t engage in taunting. And he didn’t engage in taunting because his somersault wasn’t directed at a specific player on the Kansas City defense.)
The league should commit to a much higher degree of transparency and specificity when it comes to the taunting rule. The NFL has instructed game officials to make taunting a point of emphasis, for the second time since 2014. If, upon closer review, the league believes that the officials have gotten it wrong, the league should say so directly.
The lack of fouls for Akins and Edwards suggests, indirectly, that they didn’t actually taunt. Given the consequences of a foul — 15 yards of field position — the league should be more willing to admit that mistakes were made. At least two mistakes were made in calling 11 taunting fouls in the first two weeks of the season. That’s a failure rate of more than 18 percent. And that’s not nearly good enough.
If only the NFL fully embraced the sky judge/booth umpire proposal made by the Ravens earlier this year, maybe those mistakes would have been rectified in real time.