Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Nov 2009

NFL: Cursing Worse Than Punching

The NFL fined Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler $20,000 for verbally abusing an official during the Bears' Week 9 loss to Arizona. They also fined defensive lineman Tommie Harris $7,500 for punching Arizona guard Deuce Lutui on the ground after a play.

Yes, the NFL finds foul language to be more than two-and-a-half times as offensive as physical violence.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 13 Nov 2009

35 comments, Last at 16 Nov 2009, 3:56pm by MJK


by Tom Gower :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:24pm

Methinks the official versus player distinction is more important than the cursing versus punching distinction. If a player wants to test my hypothesis by punching out an official, I'll donate a dollar to charity for every thousand dollars he's fined, up to five times the amount I planned on contributing already.

by Kal :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:31pm

Yeah - I suspect that it matters a lot more who he cursed out/punched rather than the act, and he'd be fined a lot more if he punched a ref.

Though Jay Cutler punching a ref is a kind of awesome thought for same reason. Especially if it were Ed Hochuli.

by MJK :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 8:05pm

Part of that just makes sense, because a player is covered in padding and protective gear, but an official is not. It makes sense that assaulting (in the legal sense, meaning making an individual feel threatened that you may attack them, which is inclusive of verbal abuse) an individual wearing padded armor is less serious than assaulting one that is unprotected.

Your second point raises a question. Well, two questions, actually. First off, why would Cutler punch Hochuli? Shouldn't Rivers be the one that wants to punch him? Second, if a player did punch Hochuli, would the league limit the punishment Hoculi would deal back more if the player was a QB than say, a defensive lineman?

by Key19 :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 9:44pm

Well, Cutler was arguing with Hochuli in the fined instance, so that's why it would be him and not a different ref.

by Jimmy :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 6:27pm

I don't think he got flagged for what he said to Hochuli. He was shouting at the guy who starts off stood amongst the linebackers pre-snap. The guy had been incompetent during the game and had (I think) in the drive before called back a great play by Matt Forte on third down with a phantom holding call on Olin Kreutz. That and I don't think anyone who has seen the play could possibly have thought it wasn't pass interference.

Cussing out referees isn't a very good idea though.

by Eddo :: Sun, 11/15/2009 - 3:04pm

Agreed on both counts, Jimmy. Cutler should have kept his cool, but the play he was complaining about was most definitely DPI, or at least defensive holding. Olsen was being tackled while the ball was in the air.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 8:11pm

Ooh! I'd willingly watch a Bears game if it featured a Cutler-Hochuli smackdown!

by peachy (not verified) :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 1:06am

Four hundred quatloos on the ref!

by MJK :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 3:56pm

Nooo... Now I have an image of Jay Cutler wearing an aluminum-foil bikini...

by Purds :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:48pm

Well, we can safely say that it's absurd that the NFL fines more for a "stolen base slide" TD celebration than for a punch. Colts rookie CB Jacob Lacey was fined $10,000 for sliding in the end zone after returning a pick six.

by darthgoofy :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:56pm

Ditto Purds. I know it says in the rules that a player is not supposed to go to the ground for endzone displays... but that is crazy.

by MJK :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 8:07pm
by John (not verified) :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 10:17am

Thank goodness, the fine on Lacey has been rescinded entirely. Someone recognized the obvious.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 8:29pm

This was exactly my reaction to this story. Go ahead and punch a player -- mere chattel, after all -- but for gawd's sake don't be mean or boorish toward a zebra. I appreciate that the NFL wants to be the best at everything football, but trying to surpass the NCAA in absurdity is a foolish ambition.

To be clear, I am not condoning abuse of officials.

Thanks, Vince, for exposing this bit of irony.

by tuluse :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 8:49pm

I suspect Tommie Harris got lenience because it wasn't a sucker punch, he was reacting to dirty play. I fully expected him to get suspended for a game.

by B :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 9:35pm

This is just more evidence to my theory is the NFL office as has big spinning wheel they use to decide fine amounts.

by MJK :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 9:48pm

It would be awesome if they got their wheel mixed up with the "Wheel of Destiny" that "The Man Show" used to use...

by B :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 11:57am

Even better, the wheel of fish.
Cursing at a ref, you get a carp.

by TNT (not verified) :: Sun, 11/15/2009 - 3:07am

Red Snapper! Very Tasty, Weaver!

by White Rose Duelist :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:34am

Or the Wheel of Morality from Animaniacs.

Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn.
Tell us the lesson Chad Eightfive should learn.

by RickD :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 10:17pm

Let's try your logic out, and see if it's really about "cursing vs. punching".

Player 1 curses out an opposing player.

Player 2 punches a ref.

Who gets the bigger fine?

by BucNasty :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 1:11am

Punching a ref gets the bigger fine. Ronde Barber punched out a ref in 2005 and got fined $30,000; which is only $10,000 more than than you get for cursing them out. On the other hand, he was allowed to finish the game and did not receive a suspension, so it hurts your team less. In other words, if you're that heated, you might as well just let it all out.

Unfortunately the video has been taken down from youtube and I can't find another source :(

by Curt Alliaume (not verified) :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 11:21pm

Steve Cochran on WGN radio today suggested that if a player gets angry at an official, they should just punching an opposing player in order to save money.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 11:29pm

Is Steve Cochran drunk? If player geta angrr at ref and punch oppsing player ref going to throw flag and team be penalized. so not just fine money at stale here also penalties yardafe.

by lk6 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 11:41pm

Raiderjoe knows a lot about drunkeness.

by starzero :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 11:44pm

football itself is violent. if it were a game of cursing each other, then harris would get the bigger fine. though frankly i don't think either fine makes much of a difference to these guys. ochocinco probably feels his joke was worth $20,000. what else was he doing with that money? it's not like he can bribe 20,000 refs.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 11:52pm

wpuld be funny if ref took dollar. ref probably get suspended or kicker out of league

by TimK :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 7:29am

Can ref take the dollar, then flow a flag for 'unsportsmanlike conduct' - given that I'm sure bribing an official is not very sportsmanlike - or perhaps the wonderfully named 'palpably unfair act' foul might get called.

I've seen that one listed in the back of the NFL Stats books but not ever heard of it actually being called (I think it is there for the 'coach tackles returner' and other such wild events that are wrong but not specifically outlawed) - has anyone seen it in action?

by John A (not verified) :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 8:23am

Worse part about NFL is the referees and what goes on after a play.

Standing over a down player is taunting.

How many times have you seen the multi-slap on the back of the helmet as a guy is going back to the huddle? NOT taunting. WTF??

Want to stop excessive celebrations after a TD, just start the :40 sec play clock as soon as the refs hands go up. Penalty is on the K.O. and call it unsportsmanlike for 15.

by Jimmy :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 6:22pm

One of the dumbest penalties I have seen all year was when a RB ran a sweep and one of the DBs came up to make the tackle. As they were getting up the defender must have said something and playfully slapped the RBs helmet a couple of times before helping him up. They were both grinning, clearly knew each other and the act involved no malice whatsoever yet a zebra 10 yards away threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. If I recall correctly there was an offensive flag too so the play got cancelled. My point is that it was football being played hard in a competitive spirit yet the two players were able to confine their emnity to inside the whistle and it drew a bloody flag.

On the whole I would say officiating is at a low ebb right now and all the horse**** behaviour flags and ticky tacky nonsense just makes everything harder.

by Temo :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 11:11am

OR we could all agree that I was right in the MMQB XP that punching a player like Tommie Harris did was probably not as uncommon as people like to believe.

by Eddo :: Sun, 11/15/2009 - 3:03pm

I said that the first time I saw the play. While it's no excuse for Harris doing it (in front of an official, no less), I thought some people (King being one) overreacted to the incident. It wasn't Haynesworth stomping on a helmetless player's face, after all.

by Theo :: Sun, 11/15/2009 - 7:19pm

It's a fucking goddamn shame.

by Bobman :: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 5:51am

I may have to fucking punch you for saying that.

I suspect it was similar to the scene from Bull Durham (help me out here) where Costner says "that was a cocksucking call." The ump kept asking "Are you calling ME a cocksucker?" "That's not what I said..." And so on.

Applying the baseball logic, Cutler saying "that was a fucking bad call" is one thing, but "your mother should have aborted you, you fuck" is probably over the line. And spectacularly stupid to boot.