Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Jan 2006

Cowher Calls Porter's Remarks 'Ridiculous'

I'm sure Bill Cowher calls Joey Porter (or his comments) ridiculous at least once a week, so nothing surprising there. What's interesting however, is that the NFL said they will not fine Porter for suggesting the officials were conspiring against the Steelers during Sunday's game. Let's see, Clinton Portis gets slapped with a $20K fine for wearing mismatched socks, Sean Taylor loses $17K for spitting in another player's face, and Joey Porter gets off clean for saying the fix was in. Yeah, maybe the league office should come up with some kind of cheat sheet of fineable offenses, just so it doesn't look like they're making this up as they go along.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 18 Jan 2006

34 comments, Last at 07 Feb 2006, 2:25pm by dryheat


by David (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:34pm

Let's not forget Jim Mora's $30,000 hit for making a call on his cell phone.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:34pm

Your comments are right on. Everybody understands that Porter's comments were made just after the heat of the battle... but so was Taylor's spitting offense--IN the battle. (Portis's heinous sartorial offense was premeditated, unless maybe he's color blind.)

If gambling is so verboten in pro sports, then the suggestion--no, the direct public accusation--of an official conspiracy to rig a game should be answered with a huge foot coming down on someone. You'd think, no? Every time a player says "we covered the spread" I flinch in anticipation of the league visiting him at night with a baseball bat and an invoice.

Someone has got to put his foot down... and that foot is me.

(Bizarro universe theory: The league needs to pay for a new LA stadium, so maybe they made some sort of dirty deal with the boys in Vegas. "Okay, we'll bet $500 million on Indy to win--no spread. Just this once. We swear.") As a Colt fan, that's doubly sad: not only was my team incompetent but their whole umbrella organization was too!

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:38pm

That's just because Mora doesn't have cell service from Sprint, the NFL's official Cellular partner. (Read the fine print in his contract!)

Okay, just kidding. You're right, that WAS ridiculous. It's okay to use radios and headsets, but not a phone. Sure, sure, whatever.

I agree with the people who said he and his staff should have known what the ramifications of a tie were to their playoff chances BEFORE the game, but still.... it seems pretty petty.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:40pm

maybe the league office should come up with some kind of cheat sheet of fineable offenses, just so it doesn’t look like they’re making this up as they go along.

You'd better watch out, or the league will fine you $48.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:45pm

Maybe this just means the league office agrees with Porter?

by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 2:47pm

Seriously, who does make these penalties up? Tags? Some anonymous committee? Is there some big wheel of fortune they spin, with stuff like "$30,000 Fine", "Public Apology", "One More Spin", or "Get Off Free" on it? Maybe they could hire Bob Barker and the offenders could come on a show on NFL Network and spin the wheel to find out what the penalty is. I'd watch.

Maybe a weekday based system - if you commit your offense on a day beginning with an S, you get a fine, a day beginning with a T, you have to apologize and go on probation, but if you can hold off doing something stupid until Monday, nothing bad happens and you get a coupon for a free ice cream sundae.

by johnt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 3:20pm

I'm sure there was a deal worked out here: Cowher supports the officials, says Porter was out of line. In exchange, no fine for Porter and the officials agree to fix next week's game for the Steelers (hey, I wouldn't be surprised).

by Dante Svalbard (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 3:28pm

Since match-fixing is presumably a criminal offense (it certainly is in Europe - a German soccer referee was just sent to prison for it), Porter's statement may in fact be actionable as slander - any law-talkin' guys around?

And whether the referee can take action, I agree that it is absurd that there is not going to be any punishment. I don't think you can make a more serious accusation against the league, and they're just going to let it slide? Where's the famous iron fist of Tags?

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 3:38pm

As far as I can tell there's only two reasons the NFL would let this slide. One is the refs really did try and fix the game, so the NFL is afraid if the matter ends up before an arbritrator, the truth would come out. The second is that the refs are just really incompetent and it coincidently looks like the fix was in. I don't really beleive the NFL would try and fix a game, so I'm inclined to think it's the second one. After all, what can they say in return besides "Sure, our refs screwed up, but it's not cause they had it in for the Steelers, it's because they really really suck."

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 3:58pm

Another interesting theory was forwarded by King Kaufman today: That this mess is because the NFL is trying to take officiating out of the hands of the officials. I think I buy it, too. There is no doubt in my mind that if he were sitting at home watching it, Morelli would've called that an interception. But he had to quickly run through his head every single stupid exception and modification that has been codified into the rulebook to make officiating entirely mechanical, and simply got his rules mixed up. In that way, make the rules simple and turn officials into judges: let them interpret the rule as it applies to the situation.

by goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 4:04pm

Re: 10

Interestingly, in the NHL, at least in the playoffs, if there is a review in progress and it is dicey, they call in to the head office to make the call. They are set up for this, and the whole process takes less time than an NFL review...

by DNL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 4:20pm

I think there's a maximum fine in the CBA for playoff games -- a player can't be fined more than one game's salary. That explains Taylor's fine (it being the max under that rubric).

by DNL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 4:20pm

I think there's a maximum fine in the CBA for playoff games -- a player can't be fined more than one game's salary. That explains Taylor's fine (it being the max under that rubric).

by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 5:06pm

#8, no chance of slander charges here. Remember, with our First Amendment, free speech is much more protected in the U.S. than it is in just about any other country. It even gives you the freedom to make repeated jackass comments, a freedom that Joey Porter exercises liberally.

by JMM (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 5:12pm

If fixing matches were illegal, "pro wrestling" would cease to exist in it's current form.

Porter only described how he felt. I think he would beat a slander suit. (I'm not a laywer but I have stayed at Holiday Inn Express-- but not last night)

I'm sure Cowher is doing what he can to put it behind him.

The NFL is damned if you do and damned if you don't wrt a fine. Do you keep it in the papers? what happens the next time someone says it?

I expect Joey to get an opportunity to visit NFL HQ after the Pitt season ends for a "pleasant chat" with Gene Washington or someone on his staff. You can bet Rooney will also have a "pleasant chat" with him.

I wonder what he will say this week?

by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 6:06pm

I think he got off because the call was wrong and he didn't distinctly say they were deliberately changing the call to advantage the Colts.

by Bracey (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 7:27pm

Come on, the NFL can't win in this situation. The way I view it is that the NFL not fining Porter shows how bad the they really think the officiating was. I'm sure the NFL would hand out a very significant fine in most other situations.

by Craigo (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 7:32pm

I'd like to agree with #7, as I was surprised at how supportive Cowher was of NFL officiating. I'm sure he cut a deal to get his player off the hook.

But I doubt that the league was really looking forward to fining Porter for saying what we were all thinking, and for being at least half-right.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 8:01pm

What amazes me is that anybody who watched the game (not through Steelers glasses, of course) could think the fix was in for the Colts. There were so many bad calls/no-calls that went in Pitt's favor, highlighted by the silly do-over, followed by the uncalled Bus Push, with an extremely generous spot on both that 4th down and the next 3rd and 4th, to keep a drive going and take an extra five minutes off the clock with a two score lead. The whole game, the officiating was just awful.

It reminded me of the Michigan/Nebraska bowl game, where the officials were thoroughly incompetent against both teams, but all anyone remembers or talks about is the one, biggest play at the end. The officials in this one were just terrible, and really neither side can claim to have gotten the worst of it. Of course, the Steelers and their fans do because they're a bunch of whiny douchebags, but that's an article for another day.

by Vlad (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 8:27pm

"The officials in this one were just terrible, and really neither side can claim to have gotten the worst of it"

Yeah, because a couple of five-yard penalties are totally comparable to a fifty-yard pass interference and a late-game turnover.

Joey Porter still has a ways to go before he catches Greg "I hate the Irish" Lloyd on the franchise leaderboard for Dumb Comments by Linebackers.

by fromanchu (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 8:46pm

re: 15
um, you do realize that pro wrestling isn't real right?

maybe when they give drive sustaining first downs. thanks for the exhibit re:19

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 9:19pm

But he had to quickly run through his head every single stupid exception and modification that has been codified into the rulebook to make officiating entirely mechanical, and simply got his rules mixed up.

bingo--that's the BEST argument for no instant replay

it makes the officials (try to) think too much

to paraphrase Yogi : "you can't think and ref at the same time"

by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 9:45pm

I agree with #7. There was no fix but the officiating was so poor in that game particulary against the Steelers that the NFL just wants the controversy to go away. So ask Cowher to come out in support, throw Porter under the bridge, and no fine. Plus Cowher gets to suck up a little to the officials for the next game(s). Interestingly, I've heard the theory floated about that the fix was in against the Steelers and the Patriots so as to pave the way for Indy in the Superbowl. The basis of this theory is that the NFL wanted Indy to go all the way, and though an Indy-Patriots AFC Championship Game was the most desired by the networks and some NFL staff, the concern was that the Patriots would take out Indy but Indy could beat Denver (as they have before). Though the Patriots clearly turned the ball over too many time, they arguably outplayed Denver in every aspect of the game, and the zebras essentially handed Denver 17 points with "bad" calls. Hmmmm...maybe there was a conspiracy...

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 9:49pm

Hmmmm…maybe there was a conspiracy…

just shows to go ya what a loser Peyton REALLY is--can't even win when the fix is in

by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 10:04pm

Steeler fan here.

Three things.
1) Porter should be fined for consistency. But the NFL should pay it. As long as they insist on having players and coaches be interviewed by media, then they need to deal with the results. Ban sideline reporters and all reporters for an hour after the game--if they have that kind of time to think about their answers and still say it, then absolutely fine them (not sure of just when Porter made his comments). Besides, they rarely are worth hearing--only when its juicy like this one is it reported further (who really wanted to hear T.O.'s daily thoughts?)

2. Fire Morelli. He's tainted. Either its a fix or he's incompetent (I believe the latter). Either way he can't be the guy on a field making calls without question. His regular job is as a high school principal, he won't be hurting. Also, he apparently got a rock thru his living room window. Cops have no idea if it was a student or a Steeler fan; either way it was inappropriate--correct response is the firing. New England fans may feel the same way about their nemesis. Accountability for players needs to be reflected with accountability for NFL officials.

3. Hire refs full time, with appropriate pay. No day jobs. They practice (Maybe with NFL Europe) they spend their time knowing their jobs inside and out. They get tested on the rules. Mistakes will happen, but nowhere near the current rate. How much money does the NFL make??? and guys who can change the course of a game with a single decision are part-timers?

by Dante Svalbard (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 10:57pm

It may not rise to the level of slander, but Porter is - in barely veiled terms - accusing an official of a crime. (At least I think it's a crime; I don't know what the law would be in the US.) I understand completely why the league would rather the whole thing disappeared as quickly as possible, but I believe they're making a mistake in setting a precedent like this. Once you can make a public accusation of match-fixing and get away with it, it becomes much harder for the league to punish any lesser offence... which is not the Tags we know and love. (And let me add, I think that many of the said offences are trivial beyond belief, deserving of nothing more than a stern frown.)

by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 01/18/2006 - 11:12pm

#24 Manning is truly the choke artist

by Nicanor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:17am

The NFL does not fine players for their comments about officials. The NFL does fine coaches for their comments on officials. If Cowher had said it he would have been fined.

It is a fact. You can look it up.

by kachunk (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 3:03am

Re #19: "Of course, the Steelers and their fans do because they’re a bunch of whiny douchebags, but that’s an article for another day."

Aw c'mon Trogdor...every team in every sport in existence (and its fans) think they're being cheated by the officials, even when the calls are made correctly.

So of course when there's and ACTUAL wrong call the team and fans are going to freak out. Note--I am a Steelers fan, but I am also a sometime referee, so I understand about officiating mistakes.

by kachunk (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 3:35am

RE #25--Refs are practically full time. There was a Jerry markbreit column a few weeks ago stating that refs spend 30+ hours preparing each week. They have to study game tape of their previous week's game, game tape of each of the teams that they will be officiating for next week, do fitness work, and take a weekly test on the rules of the game.

These guys essentially work 2 full time jobs during the season. The problem is that you would have to pay them for the offseason as well. They need their other jobs to have something to do.

by Guy Poland (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 5:40am

Re 21 Of course does he realize that pro wrestling is phony, that's exactly his point! If fixing matches were illegal, “pro wrestling� would cease to exist in it’s current form.

by Jeesh! (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 10:05am

..talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill...

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 3:18pm

Porter was saying what I was thinking. My wife happened to walk in while they were showing the replay, and asked me what the replay official could possibly be looking at for so long. I told her "He's not looking at the play, he's on a conference call with the Commissioner who's telling him to find a way to overturn the call."

I believed it then, and I still believe it. Call me cynical, but I think ratings and promoting the NFL take precedence over fair competition at NFL headquarters. I expect the NFL to do everything in its power over the next several years to ensure us of at least one Manning/Manning Super Bowl.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:25pm

I just wanted to re-iterate my the second sentance of the second paragraph in my post immediately above, in light of The Super Bowl.

Anybody feel differently now than they did when it was written?