Colin Dunlap: Officials in Tomlin Incident Must Face Discipline
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got his.
And rightly so.
But the gettin’ can’t stop with Mike Tomlin.
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Football League handed down the punishment for the now-famous Tomlin Two-Step that occurred as Ravens player Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff in the third quarter near the Pittsburgh sideline of a Thanksgiving Night tussle between the two teams.
Here is the long and short of it: Tomlin got his wallet hit for $100,000 and the Steelers, as an NFL press release states, could see a, “modification or forfeiture of draft choices … after the final order of the 2014 draft has been determined.”
All well and good and all deserved. People who aren’t participants aren’t supposed to be on the playing surface as the game is being played — with intent to interrupt or not.
Mike Tomlin knows as much and relayed as much in his press gathering on Tuesday. Tomlin was contrite, remorseful and repentant and seemingly knew a heavy punishment was on the way. He also communicated a willingness to accept, as with the action comes the reprimand.
But there’s a deeper level to this, and one that the NFL must act swiftly on.
Where is the level of responsibility for what didn’t happen on the field that night?
In the very same media release that outlined Tomlin’s punishment — and potentially one for the Steelers — the following is communicated: “Tomlin’s positioning in the white border during play should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
But it didn’t. It drew nothing. The men in the stripes froze up — or obviously blew it — and the league has admitted to it.
And they didn’t just miss a run-of-the-mill holding, facemask or block-in-the-back call.
Know what they missed?
The guys in the stripes — every one of them on Thanksgiving — missed a call that merited a fine of $100,000 that ESPN.com reported is just the fourth six-figure fine in league history handed down to a coach. New England’s Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for his role in his team’s Spygate scandal, a record fine levied against a coach.
It is unconscionable to miss a call the magnitude of the transgression against Tomlin. No other way to put it; it is reprehensible for an entire officiating crew to miss an on-field call that costs a coach $100,000 and, potentially, a team draft picks.
While it might not be as big of a problem as a non-participant going onto the field of play and (potentially) distorting the outcome of a game, muffed calls of this scale by officials cannot simply be overlooked by the NFL.
Here are the guys who blew it that Thanksgiving night:
Referee – Clete Blakeman
Umpire – Garth DeFelice
Head Linesman – Tony Veteri
Field Judge – David Meslow
Line Judge – Ron Marinucci
Back Judge – Terrence Miles
Side Judge – Greg Meyer
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin justly got his. No one can argue that Tomlin was somewhere he shouldn’t have been and now he — and maybe even the Steelers as an organization with a pick — will have to pay up.
But, those seven aforementioned gentlemen can’t skate by unscathed. The league must fine them a hefty sum or impose some means of punishment for the gaffe on their part.
Tomlin was wrong and will pay the piper.
In fairness, the officials better do the same.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.