Put on your serious cap. I’m going to get real in this article.
Let’s make one thing clear: what Myles Garret did on Thursday night was horrific. I am in no way, shape, or form, ever going to defend that type of behavior.
Mason Rudolph set off Garrett last night. There is no other logical explanation to why the brawl started. Whether it was the groin kick, pulling off his helmet, or something that happened earlier in the game, he did something to provoke Garrett.
Garrett, deservedly, has been suspended for the rest of the season, however many games that may be. Maurkice Pouncey, another belligerent in the fight, was given 3 games for kicking Garrett while he was on the ground. However, many NFL fans are disappointed that Rudolph, the instigator, was not even given a fine for his role in the brawl.
And I think I know why.
The NFL’s rules do not highlight any specific penal code outside yardage penalties and ejections. Any action relating to suspensions is not handled by the referees on the field, but rather the NFL itself. This gives Goodell and the rest of the league’s directors great flexibility when dealing with these types of incidents. And when a brawl like this happens, the outcome of the situation is much more important to the conduct review committees than the actual incidents themselves.
Consider what happened last night: Myles Garrett, a 6’4”, 280lbs, star defensive end hit a backup quarterback who weighs 50lbs less than him with his own helmet. Fortunately, Rudolph wasn’t seriously harmed. Garrett was subsequently given an indefinite ban. Rudolph received nothing.
Why is that? Just because Garrett did something awful doesn’t excuse Rudolph. Punishment is based on what happens to the people involved, not necessarily who started the fight or who did what.
Perhaps Garrett won’t get a lifetime ban. But if he had cracked Rudolph’s head open or broken his nose, he most definitely would. If he swung at Rudolph and missed, then he would receive a much lighter punishment. What we see optically, for better or worse, is much more important in determining punishment among these committees. The action, Garrett swinging a helmet at Rudolph is the same in all those circumstances: the outcome is different. The punishments would be different as well.
Sure, Rudolph was acting like a thug when kicked Garrett and tried to take his helmet, but he got hit in the head with his own helmet. Being a victim of that egregious act greatly overshadows trying to pick a cheap fight with a dirty kick to the groin.
The situation is important, too. Garrett being so physically imposing did not help his case. He was much more capable of causing serious injury, and he almost did. It made Rudolph almost powerless in the situation. Given Rudolph did not have his helmet on, he was much more vulnerable. It made Garrett much more guilty.
Earlier in this season, Garrett threw a punch at a player who had a helmet on. Since he had protective gear on it was taken lightly and nothing happened. Nobody got hurt and nobody was suspended, although a violent act was still committed. I forgot about it within a week.
I, along with the rest of the sports world, won’t be forgetting Thursday night: ever.
Optics are everything. We value outcomes much more than intentions or the actions people took. And since Mason Rudolph, guilty or not, was hit in the head with his own helmet that forcibly removed, he wasn’t punished.