First the Washington Redskins couldn’t be archers. Now they can’t shoot baskets, either. It’s a good thing they’re playing football well lately.
Tight end Vernon Davis’ jump shot over the goal post after scoring a touchdown in the 27-20 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday drew an expensive unsportsmanlike penalty that contributed to the Eagles ensuring a touchdown on the kickoff. Yet, the flag was so ridiculous it angered the crowd and frustrated the players.
The No Fun League is wondering why television ratings are down 10 percent this season. It’s because of stupid penalties like this.
The NFL likes to promote the league for its intensity and personalities, yet makes every effort to turn it into a robotic sport for fantasy league players. Anything outside the lines draws a fine or flag.
The biggest problem is something done one week that’s allowed will later draw a penalty by a different officiating crew the following week. Cornerback Josh Norman pretended to pull back a bow to shoot an arrow long before it was whistled against Cleveland. Yet a different crew saw it as taunting. The NFL also fined Norman $9,115.
Actually, Norman’s archery was a pretty inventive and entertaining move. It’s not like he was pretending to shoot an arrow into an opposing player. Now that should be a penalty. But Norman was reacting no differently than when linebacker Ryan Kerrigan poses like “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels following a sack. Careful Ryan, those “guns” might be considered a threat.
Receiver DeSean Jackson was fined for wearing shoes decrying violence when playing Baltimore. The NFL isn’t against that, but Norman violating league sponsorship apparel deals. Players wearing something different threatens the NFL’s money and they can’t have that no matter the positive message.
And now Davis is penalized for a joyful moment. Starting for injured Jordan Reed, Davis scored on a wide-open 13-yard reception for a 14-0 lead. It was a big moment for Davis, a Dunbar High and Maryland grad who spent 10 years in San Francisco and Denver before returning to his hometown. He celebrated his first score at FedEx Field with a fade away for a mythical two more points. (You know, that may not be a bad option for two-point conversions.)
Coach Jay Gruden wasn’t upset with Davis despite the ensuing short kickoff caused by the 15-yard penalty leading to an 85-yard touchdown to fuel an Eagles comeback. The coach said he might have done the same thing himself as a player. And while Gruden recently showed players examples of excessive celebrations like dunking over the crossbar that was once allowed, nobody was ever penalized for taking a jump shot between the uprights before.
“[Gruden] told us about dunking it,” Davis said. “And he told us that we could get a penalty, but we didn’t address the shooting. I wanted to ask him that, but in my mind I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve been doing it. I’ve been shooting the ball and never gotten a penalty. I think I’ll be OK.’ But of course, it turned out to be a penalty.”
The NFL needs to lighten up. If Carolina quarterback Cam Newton can dab in the end zone after a touchdown, what’s a jump shot? The NFL basically wants the college model of just leaving the ball on the ground and running back to the sideline.
Boring – which is one reason why TV ratings are declining much to the NFL’s disbelief.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.