Let's just be blunt: The NFL's new taunting rules are dumb.
They're really, really dumb. And they're affecting NFL games in major ways.
There's no better example of this than Week 9's Monday Night Football matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears. The Bears sacked Ben Roethlisberger for seven-yards on 3rd and 8, but linebacker Cassius Marsh was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he looked over at the Steelers sideline after the sack. The 15-yard penalty extended the drive, which led to a 52-yard field goal from Chris Boswell. Without those three points, the Steelers need a touchdown on the final drive with 1:49 left and no timeouts instead of a field goal to win the game. It's a completely different ball game at that point.
Yes, there's an argument to be made that Chicago still needs to stop Pittsburgh in order to win the game, but at the same time, we all know how this is a game of inches and every bit of context matters.
Regardless, the call shouldn't have been made. A smart coach, however, looks at Monday night's debacle and uses it as a teaching moment.
And that's what Bruce Arians is doing.
"No doubt," Arians said when asked about constantly keeping players up-to-date with all the taunting stuff. "Every week you give a scouting report on who's calling the game and how they call it. But, yeah, with the new [emphasis], now you can't look to the other bench. That's another new one so we talked about that today. Pretty soon you just tape your mouth shut and play.
"It's better to just celebrate with your teammates."
Arians' "tape your mouth shut and play" comment was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but there's truth to it. Football is an emotional game and players are going to slip every now and then. It's really unfair -and illogical- that an objective figure that has no emotion invested such as a referee is allowed to "check" players during either one of their best moments or worst moments on the field.
Hopefully the taunting rules go the way of the NFL's pass interference challenge rules from 2019 and the Dodo. But, that obviously remains to be seen.
Until then, it's a referee's world. And we are all just living in it.
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