If there is a National Football Conference team I can usually root for, it’s the Giants. I like frowny-face Eli Manning. I think coach Tom Caughlin is one of the best. This was my general point of view until last weekend when Caughlin’s Giants struggled to win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
My perception has completely changed after that game and now I think Caughlin is the leader of a bunch of crying babies. Or maybe it’s just the red-faced Caughlin who is the crying baby. I’m not sure.
Anyway, on Sunday the reigning Super Bowl champions had their hands full with Tampa Bay. In fact, Tampa Bay controlled most of the game until Manning decided to actually play quarterback in the fourth quarter and score enough points to take the lead.
With the score at 41-34 and a win under their belts, the Giants went into victory formation for the last play of the game. All seemed like a normal last play of the game until the Buccaneers defense blasted across the line of scrimmage in a last-ditch effort to try and get the ball from Manning.
While the defensive linemen were able to get some penetration, causing Manning to fall on his back, the unexpected blast didn’t work. Manning, who was about to kneel, held onto the ball and the Giants scraped by in a game the Buccaneers shouldn’t have lost.
At their meeting midfield following the game, Caughlin gave the Buc’s rookie head coach Greg Schiano a piece of his mind for telling his players to try for the ball even though the Giants were in the so-called victory formation. Caughlin called it a “cheap shot.”
The play has since opened up a debate as to whether it was a cheap shot or not. Some, like Caughlin, believe it was as cheap as it gets. Others think, well, it’s the NFL; these guys should play until the clock reads 0:00.
A full day after sparking the debate, coach Schiano remained unapologetic, according to The New York Times.
“I don’t have any remorse or regret,” Schiano told The Times. It’s clean, hard football.”
As it turns out, Schiano has supported that type of play ever since he began his football coaching career. Schiano said he’s always tried to instill a never-say-die attitude. He did so during his 11 years of coaching at Rutgers, where crashing a victory formation like Tampa did on Sunday produced four fumbles in his last five years at Rutgers.
But apparently there is this belief in the NFL that once a victory formation is on the field, the game is over, and Schiano broke this unwritten rule.
“You don’t do that in this league. You don’t just – you jeopardize the offensive line, you jeopardize the quarterback,” Caughlin told The Times. “Thank goodness we didn’t get anyone hurt.”
Even former coach and current ESPN analyst Herman Edwards, who knows the importance of playing until the clock reads zero, agrees with Caughlin. Edwards played hard to the very end in 1978 when he was able to grab a loose ball that was the result of a bad handoff to a running back after snapping the ball in victory formation. Edwards grabbed the ball and ran for a touchdown and won the game 19-17. But Edwards said that play was different and he’s siding with Caughlin on this one.
“Greg [Schiano] is trying to bring toughness to his football team; I get all of that,” Edwards said. “He got caught up in the moment and probably didn’t think about the repercussions of it.”
Has the Commissioner Roger Goodell fined Schiano for breaking this unwritten rule? What are the repercussions? Tom Caughlin will no longer shake his hand after a game? I am lost here. What are the repercussions?
I’d say if there is a lesson to be learned here it is that anyone and everyone who will play the Buccaneers under Schiano’s leadership should be read to play until the very end and that there is no such thing as standing around when the victory formation is on the field.
Edwards said it was kind of a cheap shot because most offensive linemen stand around as if the game was over when the victory formation is on the field. These linemen are paid millions of dollars to play football so why can’t they be ready to take a hit and actually block on the last play of the game if the defense is coming?
I like Schiano’s style here. Could a player get hurt? Yes. Should they be ready to take on some contact? Yes. You never know when a snap is going to be botched, and to go hard into a victory formation may just cause that mishandled snap.
I wonder what we would be talking about right now if the defensive push on the last play of the game worked and Eli did fumble the ball causing a turnover. Would coaches still say Schiano broke this unwritten rule? Or would the sporting world be calling Schiano a genius for not quitting and playing to the end. He’d be a genius if it worked.
What are kids taught throughout childhood and adolescence? Never give up. Coaches, teachers, parents constantly hammer this phrase into kids’ ears all the time. So what happens when a coach, an NFL coach, takes that phrase to heart? He’s ridiculed for it.
Frankly, I thought Caughlin was a tougher guy than he seems now. I would have thought Caughlin could understand why the Bucs’ defense drilled the line on that last play. They were playing tough to the end. Nothing wrong with that in my book.
If you ask me, Caughlin got his whitey-tighties in a bunch at the end of that game because he knew how close his team was to going 0-2 on the season. Caughlin knows his team may not be the Super Bowl champions they were last year and he’s embarrassed. So instead, he directed his anger and frustration at a rookie coach playing to the end.
I like Schiano’s style and I hope he doesn’t change a thing. This is football, isn’t it?