The etiquette of kneeling, and the curious case of Wes Welker
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Play to the final whistle: every athlete has had that line drilled into their head since they started playing their chosen sport. But it turns out that the rules are a little different when you get to the top level.
Last week, in the Giants-Buccaneers game, the Giants were up 41–34, a one-possession game. On the final play, Eli Manning stepped to the line, told the Bucs that he was taking a knee, took the snap, and got hit. The Giants were incensed. Firing off when you know the QB is going to take a knee? Inexcusable behaviour, right?
While most of the NFL seems to be howling about what a bush league move it was, I find myself wondering why this hasn’t happened before. There’s no rule that says you can’t go after the QB in that situation, and if they did jar the ball loose, the Bucs had a good chance to tie things up. What’s wrong with that? Why concede defeat before the game is over?
Greg Schiano apparently ran the same play when he was coaching at Rutgers, so he decided to give it a go in the NFL. Is the college game such a joke that it has a completely different set of rules from the big league? Why is it considered bush-league to try and get a win? I don’t see allowing a QB to take a knee freely as a gentlemanly/sportsman-like courtesy; I see it as a defeatist attitude. In a sport where 300-pound men routinely take cheap shots at the QB after the ball has been thrown, it seems curious that this incident is what got the entire league talking. Looks like a bit of a disconnect here. Perhaps this is just one of those things that you only understand after you’ve had a concussion or two.
In other news, Wes Welker (as of this writing) has put on a bit of a disappearing act. He’s somehow not being involved in every single Patriots play. The man put up a paltry 95 yards on five receptions in week two, and is clearly on his way out of New England.
Welker has been in on approximately 70.5% of the Pats plays to date. While that figure is massively down from last year’s 87.9%, it is well in keeping with seasons previous: 2007–69.4%, 2008– 74.4%, 2009–62.3%, and 2010–70.1%. The Patriots have a ton of weapons. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Steven Ridley, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, and even Deion Branch are all valuable members of a dangerous offense—though with Tom Brady behind centre, a mailbox could probably be a scoring threat. Welker, as one can tell from the numbers, last season aside, has never been the kind of receiver who plays every snap. The only reason he almost did so last year was because they had no one else. Branch, Chad Ochocinco, a young Edelman, and Matthew Slater (if you can even count him as a WR) were the only other receivers on the roster. It had to be Welker. This season, with Brandon Lloyd in town, the Patriots can afford to have Welker return to his pre-2011-season snap count. Like so many things with the Patriots, the media has decided to try and create controversy from a non-story. The fact that Welker is in a contract year on a franchise tag is irrelevant. Bill Belichick is not the kind of coach who sits players just because of contract issues. He knows he’s only got a few more years with Brady and that it would be foolish to waste one of those years squabbling with one of the team’s most dangerous receivers.
To finish up, the NFL has still made no progress with their “real” referees. But they should step on it. One of my favourite blunders from the replacements was in the Rams-Redskins game. Steven Jackson was deemed to have fumbled the ball at the one-yard line. The refs weren’t going to review the play. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher tossed out his challenge flag despite the play not being a challengeable play. Not only does Fisher not have the right to challenge the play, but, by tossing his flag, he should actually be charged with a penalty. What did the refs do? They reviewed the play, overturned the call, and didn’t charge Fisher with a penalty. Understandably, ‘Skins coach Mike Shanahan was livid. The officials broke just about every rule in the book on that one.
The league has to hurry up and get the top men back on the field. It’s getting embarrassing.