The Mike Tomlin incident on Thanksgiving night against the Ravens -- the Steelers coach nearly tripped Jacoby Jones on a third-quarter return -- probably won't go away until the NFL issues punishment on it. That's not happening until later in the week, but we learned that the officials on the play certainly made a mistake.
NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino appeared on NFL Network Tuesday night and said that the officials in the game "should've flagged Coach Tomlin."
The basis for the flag that didn't happen was Tomlin appearing in the "white area" (I like to call it the "no fly zone") on the sidelines, an illegal area for coaches and players to stand.
"The key is the white area. That's for the officials. That has to be clear on the sidelines," Blandino said. "Any time a player or a coach is in this white area, that's a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. And if they interfere with the play it could be called a palpably unfair act, and in that instance the referee could basically penalize the team whatever he deems equitable. That's not the case here, but certainly Coach Tomlin was in the white. He should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct."
This isn't a penalty you see flagged very much, though. Blandino said on Tuesday that typically refs let it slide, but that typically when the foul occurs it's behind the play and thus not as susceptible to result in actual interference.
"When it tends to happen is behind the play. That's where we let it go -- this was unusual because it was in front of the play," Blandino said. "Coach Tomlin has taken full responsibility for being there at the instance where he shouldn't have been. He lost track of where he was. You see that more often when it's behind the play and they're trying to watch what's in front of them."
It's interesting that Blandino, who works for the league, used the phrases "full responsibility" and "lost track of where he was," right? He's not in charge of figuring out Tomlin's punishment and he certainly can't accuse Tomlin of being there on purpose, but it at least indicates an opinion that could be coming from the league.
Or maybe Blandino's just referring to Tomlin's press conference on Tuesday, when the coach said that he deserves blame for the incident even though he had no intention to actually interfere in the play.
Tomlin's alleged that anyone who thinks he purposefully got in Jones way is "crazy" and maybe the league will agree with him and take it easy in terms of a fine. It certainly didn't look incidental at first, but at this point so many different angles -- and memes! -- have emerged that it's almost impossible to keep up with any given conspiracy theory.
All that really matters is the way the NFL feels about it. And we'll have that answer soon enough.