Sal Alosi, in a brief moment, in a poor decision, made himself the most infamous strength coach in the NFL.
Dolphins punt gunner Nolan Carroll raced down the white stripe of the Jets' sideline during their Week 14 game in New York, heading for the return man, Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes. As he reached a line of inactive Jets players and coaches, who had oddly formed a wall on the correct side of that while line, Alosi extended his knee, making contact with Carroll.
Carroll hit the ground, and appeared to be injured well away from where Holmes fielded the punt and ran for a minimal gain.
Alosi was suspended by the Jets for the remainder of the season - three regular season games plus three playoff games - a penalty given by the team upon consultation with the league. The Jets were fined $100,000.
Fast forward to 2013, Thanksgiving Night.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a foot on the field, and is looking up at the big screen in M&T Bank Stadium, allegedly watching Jacoby Jones' punt return. Tomlin is standing alone, no one else in view of the camera is near him and no one is on the wrong side of the white line. Tomlin appears to step out of the way as Jones draws near. He says he lost his place on the sideline, and his actions were not intentional.
Alosi's actions appeared to be independent, but it's hard to argue there was a collaborative effort to interfere with the Dolphins' punt gunners - who had been penalized for running out of bounds on punt coverage earlier in the game.
Tomlin's actions appear independent, if not absent-minded, and no contact was made. Jones moved due to where Tomlin was, but with Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen in pursuit, it's impossible to tell whether Jones would or would not have been taken down at the same spot anyway.
With speculation flying in regards to the level of punishment currently being considered by the league, the most recent precedent the league could go by is that of Alosi - someone who admitted to doing it intentionally, and video evidence clearly in support of that.
The only thing video evidence will support in Tomlin's case is he's standing at a spot he's clearly not supposed to be standing.
Alosi, at least, was where he should have been, and as shady as it might be to coordinate a wall to prevent the free movement of opponents' special teams players, they were where they were supposed to be. If he didn't extend his knee, he would have no guilt of any kind - except an ethical breach, which could be argued either way.
Clearly, through title and compensation, more is expected of a head coach. If he truly just got lost on the sideline watching a wider angle of his team's special teams play, it's one of the dumber things Tomlin will have done. But it still isn't comparable to the malicious act of a coach initiating contact with a player intentionally.
While the scenarios bear some similarities, it's ultimately not a comparable situation. A fine seems like the likely outcome, but sources have dropped to several members of the media, suspension and a forfeiture of a draft pick have also been considered.
The league is expected to render its decision on the matter "early this week,"
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