Sportsmanship is the last element of football we consider while watching for 12 hours every Sunday. We’re more focused on massive men hurting each other, diving catches, long runs ignited by blazing speed, and TWINS!!!
But now we’ve had two weeks in a row in which a team has been accused of breaking a rule related to sportsmanship, and two weeks in a row in which the opposition has complained enough to prompt a league-wide memo from commissioner Roger Goodell.
In Week 2 it was the Giants and their frequent flopping that kept Goodell’s secretary busy, and now the same reactive measure has been taken following the accusations Monday night involving Cowboys center Phil Costa and the Redskins’ defensive line. Costa botched three snaps that luckily didn’t cost Dallas the game, with his premature snapping resulting in the ball bouncing away from quarterback Tony Romo.
After the game both Romo and Costa said the Redskins were imitating the snap cadence, causing Costa to snap the ball at an unprepared Romo. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the league issued a warning, telling KRLD-FM in Dallas during a Friday radio appearance that a memo was distributed reminding defenses that any interference with the snap count will result in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Translation: the NFL has sided with America’s team. That means America wins?
But like Romo, Costa, and Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Jones said the small matter of getting the ball from the center to the quarterback properly is something that’s ultimately the team’s responsibility, even if there’s noise or other distractions.
“We in general though are approaching it, we’ve just got to make it work. We’ve got to get in here and have our count and have our snaps and not make it a point of concern for our quarterback and certainly not make it a point of concern for the game, because those are like turnovers and can be turnovers and do stop drives.”
Former Cowboy and current Redskins defensive lineman Stephen Bowen was cast as the prime culprit in The Great Snap Mimic of 2011, and he was quite blunt with his opinion of those accusations on Thursday:
“Honestly, I don’t understand how I could simulate his snap count. Am I supposed to memorize the colors and the numbers he was saying? Honestly, I lost a lot of respect for Costa. If that was the case, then why didn’t any of their offensive linemen jump offsides? It makes no sense, because he’s lying. Just be a man and stand by your word. Everybody respects a man that tells the truth.”
Like the Giants’ fondness of faking last week, this is another routine occurrence that’s generated a small public outcry for some sense of traditional, respectful football. Because football has always been a game filled with respect.
Faking injuries and attempting to imitate the cadence of the opposing quarterback are football’s answer to sign stealing in baseball, with the only difference being that both are technically illegal, although a call for either is about as common as a penguin on a New Zealand beach. They’re frowned upon and disliked practices, but in a league filled with parity even the most minor edge could be game-changing.
So the rules are bent, and pushed to their limit. Since we’ve had two consecutive weeks with league-wide memos issued on these rare calls, I’d say we’re reaching that line, even if the Redskins were much more innocent than the Giants.