Football is an emotional game and therefore draws an emotional response, especially in a postgame press conference that takes place just 15 minutes after your team lives the highs and lows over the course of a typical three-plus hour game. I, in no way, was immune to that emotion.
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I’m sure there are many more examples, but it was a postgame press conference in 2003 that stands out most. The replay system in its infancy wasn’t kind to me, especially during these two weeks in 2003. I had lost four of four challenges, two during a loss to the Bengals, and another two the following week in a win over the Broncos. It was after the Broncos’ game in which I said:
"I quit. I give up. I’ve tried to be an advocate for the instant replay. I’ve tried to do the company line. I’ve said the right things. Dump the whole [expletive] thing. We have spent so much money on this thing and it doesn’t work.”
Looking back, I’m not proud of my comments and am embarrassed for the way I handled it. In fact, I am still apologizing to my mother and dropping money into her cuss jar for the expletive I chose to use. Instant replay is now an integral part of the game, and I am happy they didn’t “dump the whole (expletive) thing.”
Which brings me to my point. Players and coaches give emotional responses to questions in postgame press conferences and while it comes with the job, it almost seems unfair of the NFL to put them in that situation. Asking them to relive a specific play, or even better, a specific call by the officials, is like kicking a man when he is down.
This week, we saw Joe Flacco rip into the replacement refs during his postgame press conference regarding an offensive pass-interference penalty that nullified what would have been a 25-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones. Among other things, Flacco said the replacement officials were “affecting the integrity of the game.” During the same press conference, he even admitted that he sounded like a baby by complaining … well, that’s exactly right. When Flacco sits down to review the game tape today he will see two things. First, the offensive pass-interference call was in fact deserving of a flag. Second, Flacco will self-critique a dismal second-half performance that, by my count, had him going just 8-for-28 in the final two quarters, including an interception.
So he may blame the officials now, but when he takes a step back and comes down from the emotions of the game, he will understand that his performance and not the refs, was a bigger factor in the outcome of the game. It is just another step in the maturation of a young quarterback.
Also this week, we saw first-year head coach Greg Schiano make this statement in his postgame presser after sending his defense crashing into the Giants offensive line on a kneel down play at the end of the game, a play that made Giants coach Tom Coughlin livid:
“I don’t know if that’s not something that’s done in the National Football League, 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. There’s nothing … if people watched Rutgers, they would know that’s what we do at the end of a game. 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 agree with Schiano on one thing … it is not illegal, but it is definitely dirty. However he tries to sell himself on the idea that it is his team’s fighting until the very end, that isn’t going to fly with the other coaches of the NFL, or any level.
I understand that Schiano is trying to overhaul his team, both physically and competitively, but this isn’t the way to do it. Order your team to fight hard, but diving at the knees of offensive lineman on a play in which they are conceding is not fighting; it’s taking a cheap shot. Tom Coughlin had every right to be enraged.
Let’s remember, my postgame replay comments came after a win! So I completely understand how the emotions of a loss can find you blaming the refs or justifying a bush-league move at the end of a game. Now it may not be today, tomorrow or even this year, but eventually Joe Flacco will take blame for his poor second-half performance, and Greg Schiano will be embarrassed for, not only the order itself, but the subsequent comments he made trying to justify it. As they say … hindsight is 20/20.