New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin may have been "disappointed and embarrassed" by his team's six-turnover performance in a 36-31 Sunday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but it seems that there are those on the Dallas side of things who aren't altogether happy with how the Giants' conducted themselves in one particular stretch of time. Specifically, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the Giants were feigning injuries to stop Dallas' no-huddle offense.
"I thought us experts on football were the only ones who could see that," Jones said with a smile after the game, per Clarence Hill of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. "I didn’t know everybody could. It was so obvious it was funny. It wasn’t humorous, because we really wanted the advantage and knew we could get it if we could get the ball snapped."
The most obvious example, if this actually occurred, came with 4:44 left in the first half. The Cowboys had the ball at the Giants' 48-yard line after a five-yard pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten when Giants defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins went to the ground with some sort of upper-body injury. He jogged off the field after a short consultation with the team's training staff and returned to the game later.
Witten is seen telling side judge Ronald Torbert that Jenkins is "faking it," and Romo is seen talking to referee Tony Corrente, presumably about the same thing.
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It's interesting that, while the Cowboys had run a lot of shotgun through the first and second quarters, they didn't run any no-huddle snaps until there was 6:39 left in the first half -- four plays before the Jenkins injury. On the play before that, Giants linebacker Dan Connor was injured. After a two-play break, Dallas returned to no-huddle, and finished off a 9-play, 71-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Witten.
"it’s absolutely not true," Coughlin said on his Monday conference call. "Both of those payers were injured. Connor never returned to the game. Cullen was in a position where he needed to regroup. That really wasn’t orchestrated at all."
If the Giants actually did this, it wouldn't be the first time they've been accused of such nefarious tactics. In September 2011, the St. Louis Rams were driving with their no-huddle on a depleted New York secondary, and after one no-huddle play, two Giants defenders -- safety Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams -- suddenly dropped to the ground.
"They couldn't get subbed, they couldn't line up," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said about the Giants' reaction to his hurry-up offense. "Someone said, 'Someone go down, someone go down,' so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp."
The Rams spoke to the league about it, and the league subsequently sent out a "zero-tolerance memo" to all 32 teams.
Going forward, be advised that should the league office determine that there is reasonable cause, all those suspected of being involved in faking injuries will be summoned promptly to this office … to discuss the matter. Those found to be violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action for conduct detrimental to the game.
We have been fortunate that teams and players have consistently complied with the spirit of the rule over the years and this has not been an issue for the NFL. We are determined to take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not become an issue.
The league sent out a similar memo last week. And as anyone who's watched professional football for any length of time will tell you, that statement ranges from naiveté to flat-out hilarity. One wonders if the individual at the league offices who was writing it up did so with a chuckle.
There is a long and storied history of fake injury subterfuge against various hurry-up tactics -- it goes back to at least the late 1980s, when the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals were blowing defenses away with their fast-paced offenses, and defenses were faking injuries and shuffling extra players in and out to slow things back down.
Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher recently said on FOX Sports that the Bears had a "designated dive guy" -- a defensive player who would flop after receiving a signal from coaches.
And when I asked Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll about this phenomenon a few days after the Giants-Rams episode, he didn't exactly seem stunned by the idea. Carroll coached in the NFL in the 1980s and '90s before his long run at USC and subsequent time in Seattle, so he knew the history.
"I think it's legit -- they saw something and they're on it," he said. "There was a time, though … there was a time. That's not the first time that's ever happened in football [laughs]. When we used to play against Buffalo in the old days with the 'K-Gun' [no-huddle] offense, guys were going down, and that happened before. I've seen it happen … they were snapping the ball every 17 seconds, and every once in a while, guys got those '17-second cramps.' I think the fact that two guys went down on one play -- that was a little telling. So, as they tried to compete at that moment, they got nailed."
The question is, what (if anything) will the NFL do about it? It's just about impossible for officials to decide who's faking it on the field, and they should never be put in such a position. The league has already had enough fallout from improperly diagnosed concussions; you can only imagine the uproar if a player was really hurt and his team was penalized for it. Unless the NFL finds a way to ding teams after the fact, this strategy will be a part of the game.
One addendum to the Giants-Cowboys angle: After Romo's touchdown pass to Witten, the Giants took the field and ran their first no-huddle snaps of the game. The result? A 70-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz.
Perhaps the Cowboys should have done some flopping of their own.