Sunday, December 16, 2007

The NFL's Stupid Parade

Everyone on the field – players, coaches, and officials – is a highly paid professional. How do I know? They call it professional football.

So today I watched the Dallas Cowboys at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys were driving for a score in the first half, when the Eagles’ defensive back Quentin Mikkell intercepted Tony Romo in the endzone. Good play. Eagles ball on the 20-yard line.

Except Mikkell, from five yards deep in the end zone, inexplicably decided to run the ball out instead of taking the touchback and the ball on the 20-yard line. He was tackled by Dallas on the 14-yard line, which meant that Philadelphia would lose six yards in field position because of Mikkell’s bad decision to run the ball out.

Except Mikkell fumbled, recovered by Dallas. Stupid is as stupid does.

I guess the Eagles didn’t want to make Mikkell feel he was all alone in stupidity, so at this point the Eagles’ coaching staff joined the Stupid Parade. As Dallas was about to start with their new first and ten on the Eagles’ 14-yard line, the Philly coach, Andy Reid, called a time out.

Why did he call a time out?

To see if he should throw a challenge flag for an instant replay.

Why not just throw the challenge flag? If the Eagles lose the challenge, they’ll lose a challenge and a time out. Apparently the Eagles’ brain trust wanted a chance to look at a replay before deciding to risk wasting a challenge.

After reviewing the play, and seeing the same thing I saw - the ball was coming out before Mikkell was down by contact – the Eagles threw the challenge flag, lost their challenge, and lost another timeout.

Dallas ran three uninspired plays, then kicked a field goal.

The final bill for Mikkell’s and the Eagles’ coaches stupidity? Dallas scores three points (it should have been seven), and Philly throws away two time outs and a challenge.

Eagles coach Andy Reid achieved a “stupid” encore when he chose to attempt a 47-yard field goal instead of going for a first down on fourth-and-short on the Dallas 30-yard line. Before I call his choice stupid, I should review his options on the play.

Punt – which would probably only result in a touchback and Dallas ball on the 20-yard line, a gain of about 10 yards in field position for the Eagles.

Good Eagles’ decision not to punt.

Go for the first down – Philadelphia might make the short yards and earn four more downs inside the Dallas 30-yard line. If not, Dallas’ ball on about their own 30-yard line.

Field goal attempt – three points if the kick is good, Dallas ball on their 37-yard line if it misses. Would it influence your decision if you know that the Eagles’ kicker David Akers was only two for nine in kicking field goals over 40 yards this season?

Akers is now only two for ten for kicks over 40 yards. Dallas ball on their 37-yard line.

I don’t want to just pick on the Eagles’ players on the field or their coaches. Even their sideline players got into the Stupid Parade. On a good defensive play on a Dallas pass attempt, the Eagles’ backup quarterback, A. J. Freely, impeded an official on the sideline and cost his team a 15-yard penalty.

Not to be outdone, the officials got into the Stupid Parade too, and did their usual crappy work. When Dallas defensive back Ken Hamlin put a Philadelphia receiver out for the game with a helmet-to-helmet tackle, the referees appeared to be blind. I am willing to bet that when NFL officials review the hit, Hamlin will be fined. But Dallas should have been penalized during the game. Justice is not served when the penalty is a financial penalty a week after the game is history.

When Dallas running back Marion Barber was tackled for a loss, he spiked the ball in frustration. That’s an automatic delay of game penalty, except when Barber did it right in front of a referee, it wasn’t called.

Earlier in the day, in the Tampa Bay – Atlanta game, the Buccaneer’s defensive end Greg White drew a 15-yard penalty for participating in a “choreographed” celebration of a fumble recovery. Both the Dallas and the Philadelphia players did the same sorts of celebrations following just about every significant play, and after many plays that were of little significance.

What is penalized, and when it is penalized, is capricious and arbitrary.

So that means the management of the National Football League is stupid, too.

They’re responsible for putting an activity worth billions of dollars in front of the American sports public each week that is officiated by referees whose rulings are capricious and arbitrary.

So there we have rampant stupidity in professional football: players whose stupid actions jeopardize their team’s ability to win. Coaches whose stupid decisions jeopardize their team’s chances to win. Officials whose unprofessional rulings reduce fans’ enjoyment of the games.

Any management group that jeopardizes a multi-billion dollar industry by putting unprofessional officiating on every field every week are clearly qualified to be the leaders of the Stupid Parade.

Take a bow, National Football League, and take your well-earned places leading the Parade.

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