The Tomlin sideline jig — big deal…or not? I’ll tell you why it’s “not”

November 29, 2013 | Drew Forrester

OK, I’ll go ahead and make my obligatory comment on Mike Tomlin and “Sideline-Gate” from Thursday night’s 22-20 Ravens win over Pittsburgh.

I don’t quite see it as the big deal that lots of folks in town are making it out to be.

Now — admittedly — as I tweeted during the game from the M&T Bank Stadium press box, had Pittsburgh somehow finagled their way to a comeback win last night, the Tomlin “play” would have been all anyone in the country was talking about today.

Thankfully, for a lot of reasons, it didn’t happen that way.

That said now, I can go back to my reaction on the whole thing:  It’s pretty much…………”meh”.


Because players intentionally violate the rules ALL THE TIME in the NFL.  Sometimes they’re penalized, sometimes they’re not.

In fact, earlier in the game, Pittsburgh’s supposed all-world cornerback Ike Taylor stopped an almost sure-fire touchdown by grabbing Torrey Smith’s arm and shoulder as #82 whizzed by him on a sharply run stop-and-go route down the same sideline of the Tomlin-quick-step.

On that occasion, actually, the referee threw a penalty flag on Taylor, so he was cited for his infraction.  But, smartly on Taylor’s part, the damage had been done.  His move kept the Ravens from scoring a touchdown.  The ensuing Justin Tucker field goal on the series resulted in the proverbial four-point swing.

How is Ike Taylor intentionally grabbing Torrey Smith to keep him from catching a touchdown pass any different than what Tomlin did?

To me, it’s not.

The most obvious part of the whole situation is that Tomlin’s dancing effort didn’t actually affect the result of the game.  Sure, it COULD have, but it didn’t.  Only in the disdain-filled Steelers-Ravens rivalry could a scene that didn’t alter the outcome be this discussed and debated.

Now, if you want to throw in a comment or two about how Mike Tomlin is the coach and, therefore, has a higher moral standard to uphold, I’d buy a few shares of stock in that argument.

Tomlin – or any coach in the league – shouldn’t be involved in a play like the one on Thursday night.

He’ll get fined by the NFL and rightfully so.

The REAL blame from Thursday’s “Sideline-Gate” should go to the referee crew.  There already IS a rule in place to cover things like the coaching stepping out on the field.  It’s called “a 15 yard penalty”.  The refs just didn’t apply the rules correctly on Thanksgiving night.

Some folks are clamoring for a Tomlin suspension — and I think that’s mainly home cooking from rabid Ravens fans who see black and yellow and turn into mean old wet hens during a late Saturday afternoon summer storm.

What Tomlin did was wrong.

And, WITHOUT QUESTION, the league needs to come up with a more penalizing rule – quickly – to strongly discourage any coach from being involved in a play like that in the future.  Should it result in an immediate ejection?  Maybe.  How about an automatic penalty of half the distance to the goal-line for any coach who steps on the sideline stripe?  Sure, perhaps.

Frankly, the referee TEN FEET BEHIND Tomlin on the sideline should have penalized him on the spot.

But, let’s not make it out to be anything other than it was:  An attempt to gain an edge.  And, in the end, it didn’t work because his team lost.

It’s the same thing, in my eyes, as Corey Graham clutching the left arm of Antonio Brown in the 4th quarter on a sideline throw and then NOT having a penalty flag thrown on the play.

It’s just football.

To borrow an old phrase familiar to the likes of Kentucky basketball, “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

16 Comments For This Post

  1. OVER40DON Says:

    Drew, this is one of the few times I disagree. Apparently Tomlin went to cheaters school under KING CHEAT up in N.E.

    On a different note Ray Rice needs to put up and shut up. 3 touches, no 1st down, 15 yd. penalty and he’s still running his mouth. The 3rd touch he was tackled by a hand reached out.

  2. Robert Says:

    It seems in cases like this (and the Jets’ coaches similar infractions) that the old adage that players play and coaches coach doesn’t hold quite as much water. Hmmm. Cheers.

  3. Lisa, Aberdeen Says:

    Not sure if I’m buying “I always look at the jumbo tron” line. I just find it odd that Jets were called for something quite similar.

    Lisa, Aberdeen

  4. The Armchair QB Says:

    This has to be one of the more lame explanations for an obvious rule infraction that, arguably, INTENTIONALLY impeded Jones’ kick return! That’s why they have “Side Judges”, who are supposed to enforce those rules!! But, I don’t think it changed the complexion of the game as much as Dean Pees’ insistence on dropping 7 & 8 in coverage expecting different results! His 3 man rush led to the Steelers’ first touchdown and failure to pressure Roethlisburger almost cost them the win!

  5. unitastoberry Says:

    The zebras blew it again but the Ravens won. If Tomlin wants to play the game from the sideline he should watch some old Woody Hayes videos. Mediocre march to the Medowlands continues.

  6. Phil Says:

    Drew- totally disagree with you on your comparison of this to a holding or pass interference…no where near the same, those things along with many other things are an everyday part of the game. A coach being on the field and impacting a play is “Woody Hayes” like. I lost respect for Tomlin tonight.

  7. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    I know a win is a win but, 1 td, no running game again, no pass rush, penalties, dropped passes,not a good sign of a playoff team! Rice running his mouth instead of the ball, cost us 15 yds, just start doing something better for a change. Tomlin got away with 1 & should be fined. Finally Big Ben not putting the dagger in us with 2 minutes left. On to the next game, who said it was going to be easy !!!

  8. Allen Says:

    The NFL will probably fine him which is ok, but I think that they need to SUSPEND him for a few games. If they only fine him, it sends a message that if your team fails on a play, you can buy a play.

  9. Dirk Says:

    If that play had resulted in a TD or 15 additional yards to put the Ravens in a much more favorable position for a TD what could the Ravens have POTENTIALLY won by? Six (6) you say? And the spread was?

  10. Eric - Bel Air Says:

    Coaches and management staff SHOULD be held to a higher standard. Coaches influence what happens on the field by who they put out there and what calls they send in. The players decide the outcome from that point on. Flags on players during a play are part of the game. A coach standing with his foot on the field at the same spot a return man is trying to sprint by… completely unacceptable. The two are not the same.

    You are correct though, it’s inexplicable that the crew failed to call it.

  11. Chris from Bel Air Says:

    It was a fairly bush league play. He knew what was going on (“oh, was I on field? My bad”… gimme a break). Although it didn’t really keep Jones from scoring, the Pittsburgh tackler had the angle on him anyway, like you said it should have been called. The ref was right there.

    Quick nod to Joe. Let’s see, his starting RT has 3 false starts. His #1 WR drops 2 passes and has a false start. His coach has no idea how to manage the clock and his timeouts and oh, by the way, he has zero running game to work with. Still, he was able to help guide his team to a crucial victory. Well done Joseph.

  12. Chris Says:

    Honestly what he did was definitely wrong and the ref should have thrown the flag. However, I do believe tomlin when he said it wasn’t intentional. I can 100% see how coaches get lost in the moment. If the NFL wants to change it, they need to make a harsh penalty (something like the ball automatically being spotted at the 1 yard line regardless if it looks like he’ll score or not) so coaches don’t lose track of the moment. Thankfully it did not affect the outcome.

  13. charlie Says:

    drew, i’ve got to admit you really make a good explanation. i came into your article thinking the opposite, but you raised some points & perspectives that changed my mind. i think you are right on here. of course, the fact that the ravens won makes me a little less uptight about the whole thing!

  14. Dan Says:

    What Ike Taylor ( player ) did and what Tomlin ( head coach ) did, is a case of “apples and oranges” and I see through you playing “devils advocate” to generate chatter . It’s going to be interesting to see if Taylor or Tomlin gets the bigger fine from the NFL . I don’t think it’s going to be Ike Taylor . Who you trying to kid D-F :) (DF: I’m not playing devil’s advocate at all. If you read the piece, you see fully that I said it was wrong and he should be fined significantly. What I don’t get, though, is why it’s such a big deal. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, for starters. And it’s cheating — just like Ike Taylor cheated during the game and was called for it.)

  15. unitastoberry Says:

    Still thinking why Tomlin puled this stunt? Always respected him thought he always sounded rather disciplined. That video will now dog him for the rest of his days just like Jim Mora,Denny Green,Woody Hayes,and Bobby Knight.

  16. Dan Says:

    WE’ll just have to wait and see if the League fines Ike Taylor for pass interference or Micheal Oher for a false start . Then, if they fine Tomlin , maybe they will explain the difference for you. (DF: I guess you don’t get it. Or maybe you’re just trolling. In the piece I wrote – which, maybe you DIDN’T read – I said he SHOULD be fined — and will be fined. In fact, I said on the show on Friday I thought he should have been kicked out of the game. What I also said, though, is I’m not worked up about the stunt like others are because the game is filled with people who break the rules on just about every single play. I’m not sure how you’re not following that…but you’re clearly NOT.)

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