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Hump Day Audible

Hump Day Audible

To Play or Not to Play?

Let’s start todays piece with a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on; Tampa Bay rushing the kneel-down play by the Giants. We’ve all seen the play repeatedly aired over ESPN and the NFL Network, and we’ve all heard the differing opinions of various players, coaches, commentators and analysts.
On one side is two-time Super Bowl winning coach, Tom Coughlin. “I don’t think you do that,” Coughlin said. “You don’t do that in this league. Not only that, you jeopardize the offensive line, you jeopardize the quarterback. Thank goodness we didn’t get anybody hurt — that I know of, a couple of linemen were late getting in.”
On the other side is rookie Tampa Bay head coach, Greg Schiano. “I don’t know if that’s not something that’s done in the National Football League,” the Bucs coach said, “What I do with our football team is that we fight until they tell us game over. And there’s nothing dirty about it, there’s nothing illegal about it. We crowd the ball like a sneak defense and try to knock it loose. We’re not going to quit, that’s just the way I coach and teach our players. If some people are upset about it, that’s just the way it goes. I don’t have any hesitation. That’s the way we play. We play clean, hard football until they tell us the game is over.”
I, for one, am surprised at how many football people have taken the side of Greg Schiano on the issue. Perhaps I shouldn’t be; forty percent of some one hundred and seventy thousand people took the same position in one poll I recently visited. Of those forty percent, at least some of them have to be confused about the matter.
No one is saying that he shouldn’t throw when he’s up by 40 in the fourth quarter, or that he needs to pull his starters when he has a large, late game lead. The argument is that you don’t try to crash into defenseless players, who are in a submissive stance or posture, creating the possibility for injury where there should be none. The argument isn’t that you came off the ball; it’s that you had three players going low on the center. The argument isn’t against sneak plays; the surprise onside kick or fake spike plays are much beloved (or hated) pieces of NFL history, the argument is that this was bush league, and on this point I will stand with the majority.
I believe it was a frustration call. Rather than accept that his team blew a game they clearly should have won, Schiano sent them out there grasping at straws. He suggests that he and his staff teaches playing hard on every play, but when Eli Manning knelt down on his own 7 yard line to end the first half with the Bucs leading 24-13, there was no contact at all…none. If you want to teach your team something, why don’t you try teaching them to protect a two touchdown lead in the fourth quarter? Why not teach them that allowing 604 yards of total offense will very rarely win you games in the National Football League? And ideally, teach them that when you make a mistake, you own up to it, admit it and move on, rather than standing your ground, painting a huge target on your team and creating a media distraction.
Schiano insists that his team didn’t do anything illegal, and this is technically true, but I don’t see how taking a knee is any different on the field than it is in the end zone, or how it differs from the fair catch or the quarterback slide. Maybe it isn’t a rule, but maybe it’s something the rules committee should discuss in the next off-season.
Speaking of rules, the replacement refs at times this weekend resembled the Keystone Kops in their enforcement, or sometimes non-enforcement (See Alex Smith’s nose), of the rules. Although our knee jerk reaction is to get ticked at these college zebras for the level of ineptitude they have thus far exhibited, perhaps our anger is better served when redirected. If you’re an “occupy anything” type, you are probably going to want to rant about the league, demand that they pay what the regular refs are asking, and quickly flock to the NFL offices with your picket sign held high. If, on the other hand, you work for a living, then you might find a little outrage pointed at the regular refs is a great outlet for your frustration. It’s a fair assumption that if you are fortunate enough to be the fan of a 2-0 team, you’re probably indifferent on the matter…for now. If your team loses next week, then those errors will start to grow like Rosanne Barr on a Twinkie diet, and you’ll soon feel the pain of us all.
Eventually, the regulars will be back, and more than likely they’ll be warmly received in stadiums league wide. I say let the boo-birds out when they return. But Steve, why on earth would you boo them, we want them back? Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked.
Although it is hard to get a fix on exactly what the regular refs draw for salaries (they vary depending on tenure, experience and maybe who they know), a low ball figure comes in at $3,800 dollars a game. Do the math, that’s $60,800 dollars a year, not counting preseason or playoff games. Add the four preseason games and you’re looking at $76,000 a year. That’s for the lowest paid ref in the game. This is a part time job, folks. Not only do they get that, but I’m fairly certain they get travel expenses and a more than reasonable per diem package to boot. Is this not enough? What more do they need to get the best seats in the house to the greatest sports league in human history? What, private jets? Personal masseuses? Man Friday? I’m just saying, I don’t know too many construction workers that can relate to that. I’m short on executive admin friends who bring home that kind of bread. I don’t know if you can relate or not, but if you think they’re being even a little bit selfish with their holdout, let them know by booing at them the first time they throw a flag. Everyone can get in on it, we’ll call it “occupy yellow flag” so everyone feels at home. First flag by the regulars, a standing boovation by seventy thousand strong. Wouldn’t that be something?
I had hoped to get into Jay Cutler a little bit today but I’ve got to wrap it up. In the meantime people, just let Cutler and his teammates work out their own stuff. Unless you play for the Bears, leave him alone about his relationship with his linemen. They’re big boys and capable of speaking for themselves.

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Steve Massey is the author of Grid Iron Audible at, a weekly column covering all things NFL related. He is originally from California, but now resides in Northern Arkansas with his beautiful wife and best friend, Debbie. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMassey9


In response to “Hump Day Audible”

  1. Preston Anderson Sep 19 201210:28 pm


    I am 100% behind Schiano. You play until the end and even though it’s a kneel down, it’s still a play just like any normal run or pass or whatever. Coughlin, Eli, and company need to stop whining and grow up. It was a one score game and if it would’ve worked and Eli would’ve fumbled and Tampa would have gotten, they would have looked so bad and embarrassed, like a guy giving up on legging out a grounder cause he automatically assumes he’s out. I mean teams have forced fumbles and caused disruption on that play, it’s apart of the game. Play to the end, or don’t play at all.

    1. Steve Massey Sep 20 201212:01 am


      Preston, thanks for your opinion. I’m always welcome to others viewpoints, even when they differ from mine. Like I said, 40% feel the same way you do, and 60% the same way as I do, there is no lukewarm on this topic (which is exactly why I chose to write about it).
      Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race, I’m merely expressing my view. I like Coughlin and Schiano, and respect them both. For the record, I’ve listened to a lot of professional sports personalities make the same case you have, and concede that there is validity in your argument.
      A well worded and thought out shout out, thanks again.


  2. Steven Keys Sep 20 20122:05 am


    Schiano’s made it clear he wants no part of this expectation of safety on QB kneel-downs. But he should be aware, his own QBs will no longer receive the same respect, the same protection from other teams. I’m sure the Tampa signal-callers are all thrilled.

    The wrong that Schiano committed was not giving opposing teams a warning of his different, strange, dangerous view on this long held NFL expectation that QBs will not be hit on kneel-down. He thinks he’s real cute. I think he’s an amateur and out of his league.

  3. Steve Massey Sep 20 20128:05 am


    Well said, Steven. It will be interesting to see how the next few ‘victory formations’ go down when either for, or against the Bucs.
    As for Schiano, this is a land with a long standing history of redemption, so he still has a great chance earn the respect of say…well let’s say of a Tom Coughlin, but he may have made it a steeper uphill climb for himself.

    I appreciate your always quality comments, Steve

  4. John "Hawkeye" Smith Sep 21 20122:56 pm


    Steve, first off, outstanding piece of writing. There are quite a number of issues in here and I am glad someone has come up with the thought of making a weekly piece out of it. In fact, if you could get someone else to do like a on-on-one like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith do it, that would rock!!!

    Anyways, my professional opinion is like everyone else’s- just an opinion. No one is going to take it with anymore than a grain of salt. Schiano knew that going after Manning was wrong. I don’t care what he says. Anyone that has watched professional football knows that when a QB kneels then give him the respect he deserves. With that being said, Schiano and his players didn’t do that so you can expect that his players are going to get disrespected quite nicely sometime soon. You just do not go after a team’s QB with a cheap shot like that.

    This is the kind of things like ruin people’s careers, whether it is an injury or just bad press. Schiano, in my opinion was making a statement, not trying to win the game. Really, a show of hands- out of 100,000 tries- how many times would that play have worked? One. That’s it. The chances of hurting your players or the opposing players- the numbers go up exponentially.

    Schiano, you will probably never read this but here is a piece of advice… If you want to keep your job, ensure your players play better offense and defense and you won’t have to make questionable plays like that. You will be a coach a lot longer in the league if you do so.

    1. Steve Massey Sep 21 20123:33 pm


      Hawkeye, thank you for the kudos.
      I’m fairly certain that Greg Schiano’s career will survive this incident; he does, after all, have forty percent of the people behind him on this issue.
      As Steven Keys so adroitly pointed out, the wrong committed was in not giving warning, but I don’t believe that will sway anyone because the very argument they use as justification is the “sneak play”. I mean, would we warn an opposing coach we were going to try a sneak onside kick? I think not.
      What troubles me most about this is Schiano’s adamancy that Coughlin and all who side with him are full of sour grapes. The last rookie head coach I saw with a similar attitude was Josh McDaniels’, when his Denver squad held an early season 2 1/2 game lead in the AFC West 3 years ago; we all know how that ended.
      I fear that his bravado has put his team on the radar in a big way, when a little humility would have quickly swept the matter under the rug, where it would soon be forgotten altogether.
      I appreciate your comments, thanks for reading.

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