There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the start of the NFL season.
After all, the Washington Football Team will be looking to defend its first division crown since 2015. The offense should take a massive leap forward following the investments made at quarterback and wide receiver and along offensive line.
The defense, meanwhile, should improve upon a season where it finished second in yards allowed per game (304.6) and fourth in points (20.6).
You know what the return of the NFL also means, though? The return of poor officiating. Ticky-tack holding calls, missing blatant false starts, countless pass interference penalties (normally a controversial ruling), etc.
Unfortunately, another penalty might be joining that group in 2021, as the NFL has urged its officiating crews to crackdown on taunting.
Needless to say fans would prefer to let the players play — to an extent, obviously — but head coach Ron Rivera is in lockstep with the NFL’s decision.
Football Team head coach Ron Rivera agrees with the NFL’s crackdown of taunting penalties.
"“If you make a great play, great. Be excited, but don’t do it toward your opponent,” Rivera said. “That’s all we’re asking. That’s what the rule is for because what we don’t want is an escalation of some things that have happened in the past.”“That’s not a good look for any sport, let alone football, and somebody’s going to get hurt, and you just don’t want that. Quite honestly, we don’t need the young people to see that. We don’t need the Pop Warner, pee-wee football kids seeing us act like that. We want to put it out there as professionally as possible.”"
Per usual, Rivera handled himself well in front of the microphone despite speaking on a highly polarizing subject. He’s right in saying that “taunting” could potentially escalate into team brawls. Nobody wants to see that. It’s a bad look for the sport, and puts players involved in a potential scrap at high risk of injury.
In a vacuum, Rivera, a member of the competition committee, made some salient points. Under different circumstances, he would’ve convinced us that we have nothing to worry about heading into the new campaign.
However, that simply isn’t the case after the taunting penalty heard around the world last weekend when Colts running back Benny LeMay was flagged 15 yards for “taunting” after he carried a cluster of Carolina defenders for a first down.
If that’s the standard the NFL is setting for taunting penalties, then sorry, but Rivera’s comments did little to quell our concerns. There has to be a middle ground between verbally berating and actually taunting opponents and trash-talking and showboating a little bit after a highlight-reel play.
If you can’t look back at a defender (and vice versa) and hit them with a flex to know you just embarrassed them, then what can do you? Put your head down, pat yourself on the back and run back to the huddle or sidelines?
That isn’t football. While Rivera represented the Football Team and the competition committee admirably with his comments, we simply can’t trust officials to not abuse the power bestowed on them by the NFL.
Based on the above tweet, close to 90,000 fans feel the same way.