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The Cleveland Browns had high expectations coming into this season with the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. and the momentum they ended the season with. Unfortunately, they have not been able to reach those lofty aspirations with how they have been playing so far. On Thursday Night Football though, they seemed to have put things together from a winning standpoint and with the game in hand in the final seconds, they were on their way to winning their second game in a row at home. Then, all hell broke loose.
On a meaningless screen pass by Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph, Cleveland defensive lineman Myles Garrett was pressuring the quarterback and took Rudolph to the ground. The screen pass was uneventful but the interaction between Rudolph and Garrett surely wasn’t. Rudolph would try to rip Garrett’s helmet off his head as Garrett had taken him to the ground. In response, Garrett ripped Rudolph’s helmet off. That set off an incident that many will not soon forget.
Garrett would have Rudolph’s helmet in his hand and actually struck him in the top of his head with it forcefully. The result was Mike Pouncey and an additional lineman taking Garrett to the ground with Pouncey punching and kicking Garrett. Meanwhile, Browns’ lineman Larry Ogunjobi came down and pushed Rudolph to the ground as he was near the action between Garrett and the Steelers’ linemen. Players were ejected from the game but the damage had been done already.
The result of that play had social media buzzing, with some calling for criminal charges for Garrett while others wanting him banned for life. The NFL had other plans, as they banned Garrett for the rest of the season and the postseason if the Browns are to make it there along with suspending Pouncey for three games. Of course there are some that will still not be happy with that punishment but this brings up many questions.
The first question was why were these two the only two punished? Did the NFL forget that Mason Rudolph instigated this matter when Garrett was only doing his job towards the end of the game? Sure, Rudolph is the one that got hit in the head with the helmet and he also is the one that took some shots to the head while he was standing in the pocket but that does not absolve him from any punishment in this matter.
While Garrett was completely and utterly wrong in his response and in no way should he have taken a helmet to Rudolph’s head while Rudolph had no helmet on, the truth is this would not have happened if Rudolph did not stir up the matter to begin with. The Browns and the Steelers were fined but that does not hurt Rudolph at all. He deserved a suspension merely on the fact that he stirred this entire thing up.
Another question in this one is the control of the Browns. It seems like they have not been under control all season long. From the Greg Robinson’s wrestling move in the first game that got him ejected to this mess that seems totally out of character for Garrett, the Browns have been riding an emotional rollercoaster all season long.
The responsibility of reeling his team in falls on head coach Freddie Kitchens and it seems like he is still trying to figure out how to be a head coach while not knowing how to command his team. Maybe this job was too big for him and maybe he just isn’t cut out to be a head coach but one thing is for sure: the Browns seem to be a little out of control under his leadership.
Last but certainly not least, the responses of some fans have to be called into question. There are fans calling for lifetime bans for Garrett and criminal charges. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, that is further from reality that what is going to happen.
Vontaze Burfict was suspended and fined over and over again for using his helmet as a weapon and injuring people along with what the NFL deemed intentionally doing things to players to harm them on the field. And as you see, it took a ton of things to happen for him to even get a year-long ban, as he finally got this season. This is Garrett’s first really serious issue to happen and despite the seriousness of it, he isn’t going to get put out of the NFL on that one issue alone.
If the NFL got rid of players for having issues one time, there would be no NFL, so please be careful what you wish for. And before you ask, I know Garrett and Burfict’s situations were not the same but the precedent had been set with the NFL. If you don’t like that, then maybe it’s time for you to go watch another sport.
With all that happened in the last seconds of that game, it ruined the feeling that Cleveland was maybe finding itself as a team. Now they lose their best defensive player along with a leader of their team in one moment where he lost his cool. It will be interesting to see how Garrett rebounds as a player from this one as well as how Pittsburgh goes forward with the leader of their line gone for three games.