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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Schiano makes Giant mistake
All eyes this weekend were supposed to be on the Sunday night game, when the Lions and 49ers faced off for the first time since the infamous handshake between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz. But instead, the Giants-Buccaneers game proved to be the one to watch for fans of skirmishes between coaches. With time dwindling down and the Giants up seven points and in possession of the ball, Eli Manning and Big Blue set up to take a knee, a play popularly known as the victory formation.
When the Giants snapped the ball, however, instead of submitting to defeat like most teams do, the Buccaneers pushed hard through the line. The Giants’ offensive linemen, in a state of disbelief were pushed back and driven into Eli Manning, who was knocked down before he could kneel down. After the clock hit zero, Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano met at midfield, where Coughlin scolded Schiano for allowing his defense to play so hard when the Giants were clearly taking a knee.
You hear a lot of sayings like “play to the whistle” or “it’s not over till the fat lady sings,” and they makes sense in principle. One of the main ideas underlying athletics is that you hustle and play until the game is over, and never give up. Personally, I think sportsmanship has almost become too big of an issue, especially in such a politically correct world where anything that even resembles an insult or a slip-up gets posted all over the Internet, and oftentimes gets taken out of context and criticized to no end.
That said, I also believe in following precedent and abiding by the unwritten rules of the game. One of the most important unwritten rules in football is that when a team goes into the victory formation, the quarterback is taking a knee and the game is essentially over. There won’t be one last heave down the field or one more run up the middle, just a nice kneel down so that no one gets hurt. The offense does not run up the score, and the defense accepts their defeat. It has been a part of football for decades, and rarely—if ever—has a defense done what Schiano’s defense did last Sunday by bringing such heavy pressure on a kneel down.
The reasons for pushing hard are understandable. The Bucs were only down seven at the time and the Giants were on their own 30-yard line; if the Giants had fumbled the ball, it technically would have been possible for the Bucs to recover the ball and return it for a touchdown to tie the game. But the odds of that were slim to none; very rarely does a quarterback fumble a snap, especially one in which he is right under center. Even if the Giants did fumble the ball, could the Bucs have really recovered it? In the victory formation, the quarterback has two running backs right next to him, so in the off chance that the quarterback didn’t just fall on the ball himself and recover it, the running backs next to him would have almost certainly been able to do so before a defender got to it. Then, in the .0000000001 percent chance that the defense did recover a botched snap, and got past the rest of the offense, there would be a running back 10 yards back that would be ready to catch and tackle any defender who made the recovery, which would most likely be a slow defensive lineman, being that he would have been closest to the fumbled ball.
Compare the chances of the Buccaneers scoring to the chances that someone gets injured on such a play, however, and it’s easy to see that Schiano made a mistake. When you have 10 300-plus-pound men falling all over each other and going for each other’s knees, bad things can happen, and injuries can result. The chances that someone—even one of Schiano’s own players—got injured were high enough to the point where the potential costs heavily outweighed potential benefits of going after it on an innocent play.
It is difficult to fault players for doing their jobs, and playing hard until the final whistle is blown. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean Schiano can sacrifice the important rules of the game–written or unwritten–for the sake of leaving it all on the field.