Sunday’s assault on the game of football should forever be called the 'Shame Game.' NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to deny the Denver Broncos a rescheduling of Week 12's bout vs. the New Orleans Saints revealed a transparent double-standard.
On this particular Monday, it seems entirely pointless to offer up the usual football breakdowns or analysis of what took place on the field because the Broncos were beaten before kickoff by the Commissioner and not the Saints. Consequently, the game's integrity has arguably been damaged.
The Broncos' set of four quarterbacks violated the NFL's ever-changing rules on social distancing and mask-wearing (whether to a greater or lesser degree). Drew Lock’s statement on Sunday reveals as much.
Over the coming days, perhaps the Broncos will opt to release the security camera footage of the QBs breaking protocol that led to the league forcing the team to field a practice-squad rookie wide receiver under center, or else forfeit the game.
The Broncos are left with almost certain playoff elimination and rocked with further injuries to star running back Phillip Lindsay and cornerback Bryce Callahan, a hefty price to pay for playing a dead rubber.
Fans experienced some degree of shock with head coach Vic Fangio's post-game comments, as he laid the blame squarely on the doorstep of the quarterback group who, “Got lax with their masks, I guess, and lax with their distancing.”
Such a statement runs the risk of turning the desire for accountability into open resentment throughout what is bound to be a super-charged locker room environment. At some point, the players would probably appreciate their head coach standing up for them.
Veteran safety Kareem Jackson broke ranks with Fangio and refused to apportion all the blame to the quarterbacks while also pointing squarely at the NFL for its double-standard with regard to accommodating teams amid COVID-19 crises.
“For me, I’m not really disappointed in our guys, the quarterbacks,” Jackson said post-game. “I know the protocols have picked up a little bit. Wearing that mask and being in the room on a day-to-day basis definitely becomes kind of irritating, but honestly, we have to do what we have to do. But at the same time, I just feel like going into the game, we weren’t given a chance.”
Most fans will sympathize with the Broncos' predicament during the pandemic; increasingly the league has increased the burden of player safety onto teams. Kudos to the Broncos players for playing the game with heart and commitment, laying their bodies on the line for the good of the game seems like a bitter irony right now.
Inevitably, fingers will now be pointed at Goodell who made the ultimate decision to deprive the Broncos of a level playing field. Prior to this weekend, the league has accommodated other teams after COVID-19 indiscretions and crises, including the New England Patriots, during which episode, the Broncos suffered through multiple delays and a game reschedule that cost them their bye week.
A deep feeling now exists that the Broncos have been made an example of in this instance. Fangio opted to skirt around that thorny issue after the game, carefully avoiding those murky waters of NFL politics.
“I’m not going to get into that. That’s more on the league level. Maybe something for [President and CEO] Joe [Ellis] or [President of Football Operations/General Manager] John [Elway] to address. I’m not going to go there,” Fangio said.
It seems doubtful given the Broncos' current lack of ownership that the organization is really in any type of position to take issue with Goodell for the perceived injustices or go to war with the NFL in the court of public opinion. That being said, it didn’t inhibit Jackson from speaking his mind.
“Earlier in the year, our game got pushed back,” Jackson pointed out. “I would say it may have been different circumstances, but I just feel like we weren’t given the same opportunity as far as pushing our game back or delaying it or anything like that.”
It's the bitter truth. For future reference, it’s best to mark an asterisk next to this game.