It's clear the Colt McCoy hit by James Harrison was the final brick in the wall for the NFL. Harrison was suspended for one game today -- though I disagree with the ruling; more about that later -- and the league made it clear the suspension was for the accumulation of illegal hits, not just this one.
In the NFL's statement, Harrison is tidily shot at sunrise with the facts of his history. Five illegal hits on quarterbacks in three seasons. Two additional fines for unnecessary roughness, including the hit on Mohammed Massaquoi across the middle last year. Six fines in a two-year span. And this line from the 2011 League Policies from Players: Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.''
There's no question the league felt it couldn't practice business as usual with Harrison. Money was not a meaningful deterrent. It's also clear, going forward, that Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau have to practice a different form of coaching with Harrison. They have to stress with this great football player that if he doesn't begin aiming lower on his hits -- and on this hit, he clearly could have and should have aimed lower on McCoy -- his career is going to be constantly interrupted by fines and suspensions. He'll be miserable. The Steelers will be miserable. He simply has to change. The league's not going to.
That said, I urge you to watch the play again. If you're a defensive player and your job is to tackle the ball-carrier, who appears to be in the process of running and not passing, you have to wonder what a defensive player can do in this case. McCoy took five full strides as a runner with the ball tucked under his arm. Just before contact, he pulled the ball out and threw it. By that time, Harrison was already coiling to strike.
He should have aimed lower. We know that. But the fact is, until a split-second before Harrison knew that McCoy was going to throw the ball, he was a runner, with the protection of a running back; that means that he could have been hit in the helmet. I'm just not a big fan of suspending a guy on such a borderline play.
The news Monday that Tony Sparano and Todd Haley wouldn't coach the Dolphins and Chiefs, respectively, in 2012 wasn't really newsy; you could see each firing coming a mile away. It was interesting, though, that they weren't allowed to finish the season. That shows how untenable the situation had become in both Miami and Kansas City. A few thoughts on both, then your mail:
Now, as for where the Dolphins go: The word on the NFL street is owner Steve Ross is interested in former Chiefs president Carl Peterson as franchise czar. I like Peterson, but I'm not sure why he'd be considered the football guy for the organization, other than a business relationship he has with Ross. His Chiefs didn't win a playoff game for the last 15 years of his tenure, and he's been out of the NFL for three full seasons.
I find it curious, too, that Jeff Ireland survives, for the time being, as the GM. I expect Ross or Peterson, through Ireland, to make a call to Bill Cowher first. Be careful what you wish for, however. When a coach has been off the sideline for five full seasons, it's doubtful he comes back with the same edge. I do believe Cowher could be the exception. We'll see. Certainly Jeff Fisher will come into play here, too, after his one-year hiatus.
Two other points: Haley hadn't lost the team; that's clear. But to so blindly support backup quarterback Tyler Palko when he played so poorly, instead of playing Ricky Stanzi in New Jersey the other day ... I don't get it. Especially down 28-0 in the second quarter. What's the point?
And Pioli deserves his share of the wreckage, particularly for the poor backup quarterback situation, the struggles of the offensive line and his so-so drafts. Want the profile of the next coach? Think disciplined, even-keeled and even-handed, controlled on the sidelines, smart, works well with others. I could see a coach out of left field here.
Now on with your email:
YOU"VE GOT A POINT.
I agree, with one caveat. I think it would be difficult for most, if not all teams to generate much money in a stock sale unless they do something such as the Packers do to generate interest in stock sales. All stockholders are invited to attend the annual meeting and listen to club officials discuss the state of the team. For many stockholders, that's worth spending $250. It makes them feel like a part of the team. Now, many stockholders have no intention of doing this and only buy the stock so they can put it in a nice frame and stick it on a wall. But I simply don't think that many teams would be able to generate the kind of interest Green Bay would.
THE LEAGUE SHOULD FOLLOW UP.
I got no feedback from the league. I didn't expect to hear from the league. But I do expect the NFLPA to push harder to study players' long-term health, because I can tell you current players have become more and more interested in this topic since the spate of serious head injuries has become commonplace in the league.
MAKE SURE YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I WROTE.
Tim, what I said in Monday's column was, "I do not blame Harrison for thinking McCoy was a runner," and also, "I do blame him for where he aimed and where he hit him." So let's get that right. If you read what I wrote about Harrison, the simple point was that he needs to begin aiming lower than the head. That is unmistakable. I understand the rush to judgment on Harrison, and, as I wrote in the top of this column, his history of discipline violations with the league certainly meant something here. I just think you have to watch that play, particularly in regular speed, the way Harrison saw it, and then make a judgment about the hit.
The reason you're hearing a lot about Tebow is because of three things. One, we have become an NFL-crazed society. All media outlets, and ESPN in particular, are ratcheting up the hours and the volume on everything NFL. So, if there's a big story in the NFL, you're going to get hit over the head with it. Two, Tebow is one of the most interesting stories I've seen in the 27 years I've covered the NFL. Three, it's impossible to ignore, when it happens over and over and over again, the fact that Tebow inherited a 1-4 team and has won seven of eight, with five of the wins coming in late, dramatic fashion. So, we're going to keep covering Tim Tebow. Sorry.
WE WILL AGREE TO DISAGREE.
Sharon, you write a very nice letter. But I have to ask you a question: Are you seriously telling me that Tony Romo is a clutch quarterback after what you witnessed with him earlier this year against the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions? If you can honestly tell me after watching his performance as a whole this year, down the stretch in games, that he's a better clutch quarterback than Eli Manning, then I think we'll just have to agree to disagree and I wish you well as you go through the rest of your season.