In 1991 I was covering Atlanta-Washington in the playoffs. I talked to the Falcons' defensive end, Tim Green, and he said, "Ask Glanville about JoeGibbs throwing the out and up in the fourth quarter when they were ahead, 42-17. He's been using that as a motivational tool all week."
The Redskins' out and up went for 64 yards and a touchdown to Art Monk in that November meeting and moved the score to 49-17. It ended up 56-17. So when I talked to Falcons coach Jerry Glanville that evening in his hotel suite I asked him about it. His eyes narrowed.
"That's just football," he said. Then he flashed rage.
"You came in here to stir things up, didn't you, didn't you?" he said. I told him I heard he'd been bothered by it.
"Get the hell out of here," he said, and next thing I knew my notebook and I were out in the hall.
Ten years later I met Glanville at a party at the league meetings in March. He didn't remember me. I asked him, casually, about Gibbs throwing the out and up, leading 42-17. Rage once again, only this time it wasn't directed at me.
"That son of a bitch," he said. "I'll never forget it. Someday I'll get even."
All the coaches have formed a solid blue line of defense for BillBelichick's going deep with 38 points on the board against the Redskins, for piling on more scores until the count reached 52. They sound like the police department when one of their own is called to task. Hey, that's just football. You run your offense. You take care of your own team. You want to prevent it, then stop them. Blah blah blah.
It's all lies, of course. They hate it when it's done to them and they never forget. But to whine about it, to go public, uh uh. It shows weakness. It's un-American. Your players might start to wonder.
Who can guess why Belichick failed to call off the hounds against Washington? Maybe he was so wired to details that he didn't quite notice the score. Do you believe that one? Nah, me neither, but it is an explanation. Personally I think he was trying to send a message of fear throughout the league. If you slip just one little bit against us, you could be looking at the wrong end of 52-7. That might be a bit too psychological, but who knows what drives someone who's driven?
Coaches, of course, have a very high threshold for other peoples' pain, and some players who are out on the field performing these hijinks might have other ideas about how safe they are.
"We were playing, I think it was Buffalo, my first year under Hank Stram," said the Chiefs' Hall of Fame quarterback, Len Dawson. "Now Henry was a guy who loved running up the score. We had 34 points late in the fourth quarter and we were calling time outs and still trying to score more. The Bills had a plane they were trying to catch back home, and we're slowing the game and trying to humiliate them.
"I mean they were really pissed. They were yelling across the line at me, 'Hey Dawson, we'll see you at our place. We won't forget this, Dawson.'
"I told Henry, 'It's enough. We have to play these guys again.' He said, 'Nah, we're gonna score all we can.' Sure enough, when we played them up there, they had smoke coming out of their noses. They beat us and I got hurt in the game. Ribs or something."
Leave your starters in. Score as many as you can. Sure, it's good, sound football. Until it backfires.