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Mike Tomlin: Cheat, or Just Really Clueless?

December 07, 2013 by Palmer Sucks

Mike Tomlin: Cheat, or Just Really Clueless?

Commentary by PalmerSucks

December 6, 2013


I never thought I’d be saying this but: I’m glad the Ravens beat the Stillers last Thursday. Imagine the whining we’d be hearing had Baltimore actually lost this game.


No, the bitching from Baltimore over Sidelinegate is bad enough, and apparently the dumb sports media can’t shut up about it. 


Of course there is one guy in Crabtown no doubt happy about the whole thing: Joe Flacco.


Once again Flacco pulled his classic second-half fade, filled with field goals and the need for Jacoby Jones to provide another face-saving kick return. This time, Jones didn’t score, but Joe’s new bud Tomlin was there to deflect all the attention. Is there a luckier guy on earth than Joe Flacco? Seriously, parking meters must cough up coins like slot machines when Average Joe walks by.


Anyway, before I get to the big story, let me quickly recap the game. The Stillers violated both Flacco rules, and lost. First, they allowed a patented Flacco moon-ball touchdown. You’d think by now the Stillers would know Flacco’s game, but it seemed to me they were caught off guard both times Flacco launched it deep early on. (They even wasted getting lucky when Flacco badly overthrew the first bomb, which would’ve gone for a TD.)


Second, they allowed a Flacco-saving special-teams play. Having just taken the momentum with a nice touchdown drive, the Stillers immediately gave it back by allowing Jones to break a big return. You cannot allow the Ravens to play total team football; you must make Flacco beat you, not allow him the luxury of being just another role player. That’s exactly, though, what happens when you allow big special teams plays.


So then, on to the matter at hand (or foot, as it were). Right now Mike Tomlin is being raked over the coals, as he should be: the thing is, it’s probably for the wrong reason.


Did Tomlin’s action, stepping onto the field during an opponent’s kick return and altering the return path, expose him as the “cheater” he supposedly is? Or is something else more likely the explanation? I’m going with the latter, and here’s why.


First let’s look at the case being made for Tomlin as a cheater, which is being done in two ways:


Some video that “proves” he did it on purpose: I’ve read at least two accounts linking to video purporting to show that what Tomlin did was pre-meditated. One is network footage, the other is from a Ravens fan who attended the game. In the first, all I can see is a guy caught up with watching the Jumbotron, and in the case of the fan’s footage, that’s shot from so high up, I got a nosebleed just watching. They basically all look like ants. Frankly, these videos are all worthless.


The “sly smile”: Tomlin’s post-play grin is supposedly the big smoking gun here. What it is in reality, however, is just a sleazy editing trick. Tomlin does not smile right after the play as the edited replays suggest. As all those funny Photoshops going around the ‘net reveal, Tomlin is actually bug-eyed with panic as it happens (the smile doesn’t come in til later). In fact it’s this reaction that leads me to believe this wasn’t intentional, more than any other factor.


Did Tomlin try to interfere with Jones as the blogosphere seems to think? Of course that’s possible, but I don’t think he did. In fact, saying he had this move all planned is giving Mike Tomlin too much credit.


The fact is, Mike Tomlin is one of the weakest in-game coaches in football. Time and time again we’ve seen him struggle with such “live” aspects of the game as clock management, coach’s challenges and the like. What I believe the footage shows is that Mike Tomlin was watching the game more as a fan than a coach – he simply got lost in the action.


When Tomlin’s foot touches the field he’s not there to trip Jones, he’s simply stepped in the wrong direction; he quickly steps backward to get out of the way. That’s not the move of a cheater, that’s the move of someone who, incredible as it seems for an NFL coach, temporarily forgets where he is. Mike Tomlin, head coach, is watching the game more as Mikey Tomlin, slob fan, and might as well have been holding a bottle of Bud Light and a plate of hot wings.


Keep in mind that while I’m saying Tomlin’s no cheat, this is no compliment. If anything, it’s even more embarrassing in some ways. He’s clueless here. Also keep in mind that Tomlin is watching the action on what’s really just a big TV screen; his back turned to Jones, it created a mirror image of things, which I believe is what made Tomlin initially step toward the field (i.e. the “wrong” way).


The dumb sports media fawn all over Tomlin as if he’s the second coming of Lombardi. That’s why they don’t understand what Tomlin’s really saying when he claims he did nothing intentionally. Either you do something on purpose or not; but if not, that means it was an accident. For an NFL coach to step toward a player accidentally shows you just have no idea of what’s going on around you. That, incredible as it sounds, fits in with Tomlin’s weaknesses as a coach. Whatever his strengths, on-field awareness isn’t one of them.


Which leads me back to “the grin”: yes, a smile like that can indicate you’re all pleased you got away with something, but it also can happen out of embarrassment. I believe it’s the latter, and Tomlin’s actually laughing because he’s been exposed for his blooper on national TV. Tomlin’s grin is likely more sheepish than devious.


And consider this: if Tomlin really had hatched some scheme to block Jones, why was he the only one standing in the white area? Wouldn’t he have instructed others to do the same? No, Tomlin simply got caught up in the moment – or rather, lost himself in it.


Such obliviousness fits in perfect with Tomlin’s other clueless acts, whether it be a lack of knowing when to go for two points, or when not to challenge plays he should. Plus, I doubt Tomlin’s dumb or brazen enough to try cheating when there’s no way to hide what you’re doing.


Again, this is not to defend Mike Tomlin, who deserves the fine he received – in fact, I’d want to take it a step further. I’d have also suspended him a game for this embarrassing and amateurish gaffe. Tomlin had no business standing where he was, intentionally or otherwise, and had no business drifting onto the field of play.


Fine and suspend the coach: punishment delivered, message sent. But instead, the NFL, in an effort to save its own egg-coated face, comes up with a bullshit way of handling things.


Tomlin isn’t the only one to blame for this debacle. Had the officials determined Tomlin interfered with Jones, they had business to throw a flag. They could’ve awarded Baltimore a touchdown; instead they did nothing. Then, after their own refs ignored what was happening right in front of them, the NFL had the audacity to pronounce Tomlin guilty after the fact.


Had Baltimore been awarded a penalty TD, and should the playoff tiebreakers come down to total points scored (which is about as likely as the Stillers making the Super Bowl this season) there’d be no complaining that Baltimore deserved another 4 points. Instead, the NFL is leaving the last part of Tomlin’s punishment dangling.


Supposedly, if the Stillers are docked a draft choice, that choice will be calculated using some formula yet to be determined. That’s because the season has to end first to see whether or not Baltimore misses the playoffs, along with their season’s point total. That of course is utter horseshit. Because the responsibility for Baltimore not being award a touchdown isn’t Mike Tomlin’s, it’s the officials’. And therefore it’s the responsibility of the NFL.


Two wrongs don’t make a right. Unfortunately, only one guy’s wrong will be recognized. If the Baltimore Ravens get shut out of the playoffs because of the total-points-scored factor, the blame will go to the wrong guy.


Again, the right way to handle things is to fine and suspend Tomlin, which will make his punishment worse than even Belichick’s (so the chowd’heads can stop whining about that one). Then end it there. But expecting the NFL to do the right thing is like asking the Pope to turn Buddhist.


I understand anyone who thinks Tomlin interfered purposely with Jones. To me however, that’s giving him credit for being smarter more devious than he actually is. Tomlin’s no evil genius; he’s just a guy who got all bothered by the other guys’ running back a kick – no different from you or me. The difference was, he was standing on the field where the game was being played.


--For all the whining, it’s unlikely Jones actually scores on the play regardless of where Tomlin’s standing. One thing nobody’s mentioned is that Cortez Allen has the angle on Jones chasing him; it’s likely he catches him five or ten yards max downfield. This makes the whole sorry debacle even more embarrassing.


--The stat total for Jason Worilds: 2 sacks, 6 solos, 4 assists and a forced fumble. That’s a career day, the likes of which haven’t been seen from the LOLB position in quite some time. When the Stillers clean house after this season, the first broom they should break out is for Woodley. Either that, or tell him to lose a few pounds so they can move him to nose tackle.


--Win out and you’re in? Incredibly the Stillers keep losing and keep getting shots to make the playoffs. Enjoy the latest chapter of the 2013 March to Glory this Sunday. It should be truly, uh, legendary.

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