Point/Counterpoint: Should the Buccaneers have rushed the Giants' QB kneel last Sunday?
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 23:09
Tim: While the replacement referees are rightfully taking center stage in the world of NFL controversies, another major on-field issue has been sparked by an incident at the end of Sunday’s Giants-Buccaneers game. The Giants had the ball with less than 10 seconds left in the game and a seven-point lead. Naturally, they decided to kneel the ball to run the clock out. However, Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano decided to challenge the Giants and sent his defenders after quarterback Eli Manning to try and force him to fumble. It didn’t work, but this was a smart, legal play.
Steve:Tom Coughlin preaches “finish” to his players. Being the oldest coach to ever win a Super Bowl, Coughlin undoubtedly knows the meaning of finish. But when the opposing team has the lead and the ball with one play left in the game, Coughlin has never pushed the envelope. There’s a code in the National Football League. A kneel-down is a respectful way to close out the game. There is a fine line between “finishing” a game and unnecessary roughness. Schiano should have accepted the loss without calling for a mad scramble to knock the ball loose.
Tim: No matter what sport you play, you are taught to play through the whistle and to play until the clock hits 0:00. That is exactly what Greg Schiano was thinking when his team was down by seven to the Giants and there was still time on the clock.
Steve: Playing through the whistle does separate the good teams from the best. However, in the Giants-Buccaneers game last weekend, the decision by Schiano to go all-out on a kneel-down play was unnecessary and unheard-of in the NFL. Schiano broke somewhat of an unwritten code.
Tim: Unwritten code? Sure. Did he break a rule? No. What happens on that play if Tampa Bay forces a fumble and takes it back for a touchdown? Instead of a controversy we’d be talking about a brilliant and gutsy call by a first-year NFL coach. That play worked four times for Schiano at Rutgers without controversy. This could be a lesson to NFL coaches now. Want to kneel? Do it out of a shotgun formation.
Steve: If the play did work, then sure, we’d see it on the top ten plays Monday morning. But as Coughlin said, he’d never seen it happen in the NFL before. Additionally, there have been no fumbles in 800 kneel downs since 2010, according to ESPN’s program “Numbers Never Lie.” While it may have worked at Rutgers, this isn’t college football. These players play to make money and support a family. Without warning, a spontaneous play like this one could have resulted in a serious injury to a defenseless player. After all, nobody would have expected this kind of play. It just doesn’t happen in the NFL. If a major injury to a player did occur, Schiano might have been in a bit of deep water.
Tim: It is unprecedented, yes. But that does not mean that it is illegal. No one is prepared for contact on a play like that because it is not a regular occurrence in the league. That is why that statistic seems so eye opening. Thankfully there were no injuries on the play. However, the only reason there could have been punishment would have been if the hit were illegal (helmet to helmet, late, etc.). Everyone has this idea that the victory formation for a kneel-down automatically means the game is over. There is still time left. If a team has the heart and desire to go for the win and try to force the fumble, they should go for it.
Steve: If Schiano wants to instill effort, heart and a “playing to the end” mentality in his new team, he should do it the right way. As former Ravens head coach Brian Billick said, “I coached one of the most intimidating and physically imposing defenses in the NFL. We didn’t get that reputation by taking cheap shots.” Clearly, the Giants saw it as a cheap shot, as would Schiano if it had happened to his team. Coaches will obviously be prepared for this type of play in the future, especially from Schiano. Hopefully this preparation will result in the dismissal of the play from any playbook it might already be in.
Tim: The Giants saw it as a cheap shot, but nowhere in the rules is there anything that says a team must give up when the winning team elects to kneel at the end of a game.