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Parting Schotts

Parting Schotts: NFL needs to strengthen penalties for head shots

Parting Schotts: NFL needs to strengthen penalties for head shots

League failed Carson Wentz, Eagles
Parting Schotts: NFL needs to strengthen penalties for head shots
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney during Sunday's game.
Photographer: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

I wonder if the NFL is really concerned about player safety. But it’s still a Clown-ey show.

After watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles lose their star quarterback Carson Wentz to a concussion, thanks to a cheap shot from Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter of Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game, the NFL needs to take a look at how its officials handle head shots.

If you didn’t see the play, Wentz was scrambling for yardage when Clowney caught up to him. Clowney first got him the back with his shoulder. As Wentz was going to the ground, Clowney used his helmet to deliver a shot to back of Wentz’s head and drove him into the ground. Replays clearly showed that it was a not only a helmet-to-helmet shot, but a spear.

Like all Eagles fans, we were waiting for a flag. We’re still waiting. Referee Shawn Smith and his crew decided that there wasn’t a foul committed. Are you serious? We have seen penalties for roughing the passer that were less violent than what happened to Wentz.

Afterwards, when interviewed by a pool reporter, Smith said it was “incidental contact.” In the words of Col. Sherman T. Potter, “Horse hockey!” Clowney should have been received a 15-yard personal foul penalty, and maybe even been ejected from the game.

Plain and simple, the officiating crew blew it. Wentz went from the blue medical tent to the locker room, never to be seen on the field again. The Eagles had to use 40-year-old backup quarterback Josh McCown. While he did a decent job, he wasn’t able to lead the Eagles to victory. The Seahawks won 17-9.

If the NFL really cares about player safety, it needs to effectively penalize head shots. It’s time for the league to employ an official in the press box to monitor head shots. If there is a significant head shot not called by the on-field officials, then the official in the press box should buzz the referee to have him take a look at the play. If the referee deems it a helmet-to-helmet hit, it should be a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

Now, should the NFL go the college route and have the targeting rule, where there’s not only a 15-yard penalty, but a player ejection? I had a brief exchange on Twitter with former NFL referee Terry McAulay, who is the rules expert for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” McAulay acknowledged on Twitter that Clowney should have been penalized.

How about getting that done, NFL? Forget the pass interference controversy, start worrying about head shots.

My anger isn’t just directed at the NFL.

First, why did NBC, which televised the game, basically ignore the play? Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya spent more time talking positively about Clowney. And Tafoya failed to do her job in her postgame interview with Clowney by not asking about knocking Wentz out of the game.

Then there are those idiotic critics who say that, once again, Wentz can’t stay healthy. The concussion comes after his torn ACL in 2017 and his fractured back in 2018. 

When ESPN NFL and college football analyst Dan Orlovsky tweeted about Wentz's critics, Danny Kanell, a SiriusXM NFL analyst who couldn’t keep his job at ESPN, had the following response.

First of all, Wentz played all 16 regular-season games this season. Second, how many teams did Kanell help lead to a Super Bowl? Last time I checked, that number is zero.

When Eagles fans started ripping his response, Kanell tried to backpedal.


Nice try, but, yes, you're wrong.

Then, there is former Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who co-hosts a sportstalk show in Denver with Scotia-Glenville graduate and former 104.5 The Team (WTMM-FM) host Zach Bye. After Wentz got hurt, Stokley tweeted this: 

If Stokley had been paying attention this season, he would have seen that Foles suffered a broken collarbone in his first start with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And guess where Foles was at the end of the season — ON THE BENCH!

Eagles fans appreciate what Foles did in replacing the injured Wentz in leading them to the Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots and getting them to the playoffs last year after Wentz went down again. But everyone seems to forget that Eagles fans were calling for Nate Sudfeld to start the 2017 playoffs after Foles looked awful in the final two games of the regular season. And, truth be told, Foles was so-so in last year’s playoffs.

Weak-minded people will continue to play the Wentz-can't-stay-healthy card. But this wasn’t a knee or a back injury. He got concussed on a dirty play. It’s up to the NFL to do a better job in penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits.

On Twitter, follow Associate Sports Editor Ken Schott @slapschotts and Daily Gazette Sports @dgazettesports. Email Schott at [email protected]. Listen to “The Parting Schotts Podcast” at https://dailygazette.com/sports/partingschotts, Apple Podcasts, Castbox and Spotify.

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