Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2006

NFL Discipline Misses the Mark

Should cheap shots and celebrations both result in 15-yard penalties? Should ill-fitting pants and punches to the groin both result in $5,000 fines? If you answered yes to those two questions, you're probably an NFL executive. If you answered no, you might agree with the points I make in this week's column.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 26 Oct 2006

35 comments, Last at 30 Oct 2006, 11:11pm by Ashley Tate


by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 4:19pm

I still dont understand why the NFL has such a problem with players celebrating in the Endzone.

I think an interesting thing would be to fine players who commit illegal hits, in such a way thats recompense with the time the player misses. IE if Geather's hit on Trent Green was considered illegal, his fine would still be escalating.

by Lure Hunter (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 4:21pm

What about the hit Peyton Manning took during the game with Washington----No call?????

by Kachunk (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 4:34pm

and to add to it, what did people think of the play where Roethlisberger was injured? It looked to me like helmet-to-helmet and should have been a penalty, but I wondered what others thought.

As far A.R.E.'s celebration I thought that was one of the better ones I've seen. The pre-choreographed stuff is stupid, and doesn't seem authentic to me, whereas something like what Randle El did does. I think that makes a big difference.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:07pm

No one will agree with me on this, but I really get ticked when the officials don't throw flags when there's shoving on the field between players. I don't care if the officials can't tell who was at fault. Throw two flags, call offsetting penalties. Make a statement that if you don't react, your team'll get 15 yards.

I'd bet you see people's tempers calm down real quick if that's the case.

by Spike (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:09pm

I enjoy the NFL over watching soccer, but those European football guys sure get the latitude to celebrate however they want to--and somehow their sporting world doesn't come crashing down.

We have to assume they're trying to prevent things like Terrell Owens getting planted on the Dallas 50 or that it somehow lessens the product appeal, right? Or is there something more prudish we're missing in all this?

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:11pm

#5: The fact that we live in a country founded by Puritans?

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:21pm

Re: 3

I only saw the Roethlisberger his a couple times, but I thought that it looked like Ben ducked his head trying to avoid the blind-side hit and the guy in front of him didn't have any other choice. Like I said though, that opinion is based on limited viewing so I could be completely off-base.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:22pm


I think you meant "run by republicans" :)

Flame on!

by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:37pm

I'm not crazy about the group celebration rule either. In the same game where Cowher used profanity (and let's face it, based on about 100 years of precedent, a coach telling an official "that's a BS call" isn't going to draw a penalty, and the viewer can only lipread that in any case), Nate Washington scored and did his little touchdown dance, and in an unchoreographed manner not coordinated with Washington's act, Hines Ward took a few boogie steps lasting about three seconds and drew the flag. I'm not sure where the line is with this rule, but if it keeps being called, apparently coaches will have to instruct their players to clear out of the vicinity and stand motionless while the headliner performs. That would just seem to bring more attention to the celebration anyway.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:45pm

#8: Actually, I was referring to a comedian's routine - I think it's one of the guys who's on Who's Line Is It Anyway? - where he laments that we're a country founded by Puritans. "Why couldn't we be founded by Italians? I wake up, I have a little coffee, make a little love, and I look fabulous!"

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:57pm

8: There's a difference between the two?

by jebmak (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:57pm

Re #8
Please, neither party wants anyone to have any fun, they just have differing reasons why.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 6:25pm

Re: 8

Yeah, I was going to say that I blame Bush, but I've said that so many times over the past 6 years that even I'm starting to get tired of hearing it.

by doktarr (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 6:30pm

One of the big problems is that there's only one personal foul penalty level. They should give the referees a little latitude in this, with minor and major personal fouls.

I understand not wanting players to bring props onto the field. I understand not wanting celebrations to delay the game. I understand not allowing explicit taunting. Other than that, I really don't see the harm in celebrations, group or otherwise.

Ever watched a high school girls volleyball game? An NFL referee would be throwing a flag for group celebration after every point.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 7:31pm

New NFL policy proposal: Fine broadcasters/sportswriters for overuse/abuse of lingo or cliches. For example, calling any old reverse a double. For pointing out that when "RB X runs 72 times or more, they win that game."

Let's hear some other finable broadcaster offenses.

by Tally (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 7:40pm

I enjoy the NFL over watching soccer, but those European football guys sure get the latitude to celebrate however they want to–and somehow their sporting world doesn’t come crashing down.

I can't wait to see T.O. score a touchdown then rip off his tights to show off a g-string with the Nike logo prominently displayed on it...oh wait, maybe I can...

by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 7:46pm

Does anybody remember Dennis Thurman breaking up the Redskins' Fun Bunch doing their group touchdown celebration? The league has to make sure that celebrations don't cause brawls; exactly where to draw the line is debatable.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 9:23pm

I don't see how any reasonable person could disagree with this article. So I guess that makes the owners unreasonable?

by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 9:31pm

Ever watched a high school girls volleyball game? An NFL referee would be throwing a flag for group celebration after every point.

:: doktarr — 10/26/2006 @ 5:30 pm

I see you've been channeling your inner Peter King

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 10:03pm

(Also, if Randle El was penalized, why did a seemingly endless stream of New York Giants get away with that silly celebration in which they pretended to shoot baskets every time they made a big defensive play on Monday night?)

Starting this year, players are not allowed to use parts of the field as a prop in celebrations (like Chad Johnson using the end zone pylon as a putter last year). Randle-El jumped on the goal post, therefore a penalty. Individual dances are allowed, so one Giant mimicking the Jim Jones "Ballin" video is fine, but two or more is not. (The Giants did so against Washington and Atlanta, and have since been warned by the league.)

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 12:46am

Travis is correct. The goal posts are considered props... as silly as that is.

No more Steve Smith, "Super Mario" celebrations...

I suppose spiking/spinning/flipping the football is okay, but you can't resucitate it, stand on it and pose, or pretend like you are Najeh Davenport with it (as funny as 80% of the NFL audience might find it).

by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 1:40am

But even according to the silly rules, something is wrong. Nate Washington scores and dances. Two other guys (one who should know better) come and dance next to them. So why fine Nate? It's not as though he invited them.

by James C (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 9:38am

What the NFL needs is a 'Joe Buck Disgustometer' at every game. They come equipped with a variety of differing levels of disgust for the digitally recorded Joe Buck to pronounce ranging all the way up to "THAT'S THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I HAVE EVER SEEN".

#5 The dumbest celebration that I ever saw in soccer has to be Robbie Fowler when he got down on his hands and knees over the sideline, covered up one nostril and then proceeded to 'snort the white line' in front of a packed stadium and on national TV. How he thought that that was appropriate in front of children is beyond me.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 9:54am

The dumbest celebration that I ever saw in soccer has to be Robbie Fowler when he got down on his hands and knees over the sideline, covered up one nostril and then proceeded to ’snort the white line’

That may be the funniest celebration I've ever heard about. LOL

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:41am


I dont see how its not appropriate in front of children. If you're worried about your children becoming coke addicts because of that, theres more of a parenting problem than a TV problem.

Thats a great celebration.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:59am
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:45am

The ‘Joe Buck Disgustometer’... classic.

by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:50am

Re #24 & 25

Robbie Fowler has bettered that, although not with a celebration.

He got arguing with Graeme Le Saux, who was playing for Chelsea at the time. Now, Le Saux is that rarity, an intelligent soccer player, and because he's intelligent and well-spoken, the myth is he's gay.

During their argument, Fowler turned his back on Le Saux, bent over and patted his arse in 'take me big boy' fashion.
Le Saux went wild, started throwing punches and was sent off.
While Fowler's actions were terrible, they got an opposition player sent off, and my God, it was funny to watch.

by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 12:08pm

RE: 17

See, that's an example of placing the blame in the wrong place. (Disclaimer: I'm a 'skins fan.) There was nothing about the "fun bunch" celebration that would reasonably qualify as taunting, and it was rated G. If somebody tries to start a fight over that celebration, that is HIS fault, and he and he alone deserves a penalty.

Rather than regulate against people celebrating in inoffensive ways, they should hand out suspensions for trying to instigate fights. (Example to show that I'm not a complete homer: I'd be OK with Santana Moss getting a 1-game suspension for his two retaliatory body checks after the whistle in the WASH-INDY game.)

RE: 19

I don't read Peter King. Did he make a similar comment?

RE: 21

Wow, it's really stupid that the goal post is considered a "prop". Steve Smith's "Super Mario" celebration is a great, creative celebration that was fun to watch. You really need to ask what the harm was in that one.

RE: Joe Buck disgustometer

In principle, I think this makes sense: in addition to not delaying the game, explicitly taunting, or using props, celebrations should be "G" rated. Look, I think the "coke line" celebration is funny, and I was OK with guys pretending to slit someone's throat after getting a sack, but I totally understand parents who don't want to explain what that means to their seven year-old kid. Kids grow up fast enough already.

That said, Joe Buck might not be the best judge of this. Randy Moss's infamous "mooning" celebration at Lambeau was not only very, very mildly offensive, but it was a clever reference to the Green Bay tradition of mooning the opposing team bus as it leaves the stadium.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 12:43pm

doktarr, The real problem is parents are just completely delusional about what they know. They believe they understand about 10% of the dirty words that actually do, have completely unrealistic beliefs about childrens sex habits etc. I really can't imagine much happening on a football field that a good parent shouldn't be able to explain to child in under 5 mins.

by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 1:12pm

Becephalus, when it comes to middle school age and older, sure. But I specifically mentioned a seven year-old. There are plenty of seven year-olds (most, actually) who don't understand a reference to snorting coke.

Do I think that there is a sort of puritanical haze that distorts public perception of what is appropriate? Sure. But that doesn't mean that the NFL shouldn't attempt to create a "familiy product". They have a vested interest in appealing to the broadest market possible. The NFL is a private enterprise, so this isn't a question of censorship. I'm just trying to state where I would suggest they draw the line - and note that I am suggesting something more lenient than the current rules.

And since we're way off on a tangent here, it's worth noting that none of this should distract from MDS's main point, which was that dirty plays should be penalized more harshly than just about any form of celebration.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 1:29pm

#s 23-25 - You're all wrong. The greatest endzone celebration ever is Gus Frerotte head-butting the goalpost, and then getting taken out of the game due to resulting neck injury. He was then replaced by Trent Green, who went on to put up decent numbers in a losing season.

Of course, this being the skins, they cut Green at the end of the year, after which he signed with St. Louis and became part of one of the greatest 'what-if?' questions in NFL history.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:39pm

Independent George,
The whole Trent Green leaving Washington is wholly misunderstood by Redskin fans and others alike.

What everyone forgets in that history is that the Redskins were in the middle of being sold, and weren't able to negotiate new free agent contracts due to league rules. This is why they didn't re-sign Trent Green. He wasn't cut. Mike Martz was the then Redskin QB coach... and when Martz went to St. Loius he brought Green with him.

by Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 8:21pm

It is currently a 15-yard penalty for two men to dance together. /homophobia

by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:11pm

#32: Slight correction: Gus Frerotte head-butted the end-zone wall, not the goal post.

My wife and I had the misfortunte of attending that very game. 8PM...in Washington...40 degrees...four hours long...7-7 tie vs NYG...In the waning seconds Michael Westbrook rips his helmet off to celebrate a nice catch putting Washington in FG range--resulting in a 15 yard penalty taking them back out of field goal range!

Oh, yeah. I'll never forget that one. At least the tickets were free!