Cleveland Browns' President Mike Holmgren sat before the media last week and with a straight face, paraphrased Sergeant Shultz from Hogan's Heroes when he proclaimed, explaining how James Harrison's hit on Colt McCoy miraculously went unnoticed by the entire organization, "WE KNEW NOTHING!" Holmgren had the audacity to explain that after McCoy flipped the ball, "Your eyes followed the ball to Hardesty."
Fifty two players in uniform, several others standing on the sideline in sweats, an entire medical staff, a press box full of coaches, a suite of stuffed shirts and a dozen and a half coaches on the sideline, and none of them, not a single one, saw the hit and had the decency to tell the medical staff to check McCoy's brain instead of his left hand. Not one, not a single one of the 100 or so in Cleveland's entourage questioned why McCoy was in a game he didn't remember playing in.
Colonel Klink, er, I mean Commissioner Goodell, we know nothing! All 200 of our eyeballs followed Hardesty and we saw nothing. And please Mr. Commissioner, none of us saw the replay and thought to maybe question why Colt kept running around mindlessly in the game afterwards.
Like the outlaws in "Walking Tall," the entire Browns organization held up a wholesome glass of milk when the NFL came to town to ask questions. While the Browns' explanations have been more cowardly than reprehensible, the real tragedy is that the NFL saw all the friendly milk glasses and went home quietly. The NFL doesn't concern itself with sensible justice. It only cares about public relations value.
The Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL since the day their owner yanked them out of Lake Erie in 1995. They play in the city deemed by Forbes Magazine to be the most miserable city to live in America. They have had more coaches since 2005 than Pittsburgh has had since 1969. The last time any team from Cleveland has won a championship was the year America was introduced to a rock band known as the Beatles, five years before man stepped on the moon.
Success in Cleveland is when the Browns rack up single digit losses, and that happens rarely. There is no PR value in punishing the Browns' incompetent negligence in allowing McCoy to return to action. The league is smart enough not to further damage its weakest link.
Without PR value, the NFL considers it the same as the tree falling in the forest. It never made a sound. Putting the Browns aside quietly was easy for the NFL to do, and they did. The league wants to rehabilitate Cleveland, not add insult to injury. The NFL does not control it's PR machine. The league is controlled by the machine.
If Ben Roethlisberger had stayed on the ground after Phil Taylor clubbed him throwing from the pocket, the league would have been forced to take more from Taylor than a week's lunch money. The network barely showed rhe replay. The McCoy replay, a more damaging hit, but one to a quarterback clearly running the ball, a quarterback who earlier ran the same way for a first down and another time for a touchdown (subsequently reviewed to the one-foot line), was shown so often that the league saw no choice but to penalize Harrison with a suspension for a football play, albeit a penalty.
The play was egregious enough to suspend Harrison, but not bad enough to blame the Browns for putting McCoy back in the game, unless you buy the fact that no one on the Cleveland sideline or press box saw the play and could get word to team physicians to take proper actions. And if you do buy that, I have some ocean-front property in Arizona that I will sell for a great price.
This is an indisputable double standard, yet the league doesn't care. The NFL can do whatever it wants to do. It can have its cake and eat it too. Harrison committed a penalty according to the rule book, there is no question about that, and he paid an unprecedented price. But sweeping the Browns organizational failure under the rug is negligence on top of negligence and the NFL should be utterly ashamed of itself.