Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones’ hit to Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s head in the second half of New England’s 16-10 win in Buffalo on Sunday has created more passionate polar-opposite reactions than the MAGA hat that once resided in Tom Brady’s locker.
Depending on perspective it was either an ugly, egregious act worthy of ejection or, apparently, exactly how you coach it up.
Immediately after the game Bills coach Sean McDermott declared, “There’s no room in football for that. It is a shame to see a player like Josh, or any player for that matter, go down on a hit like that. I thought (Jones) should have been thrown out.”
That created an almost equal and opposite reaction from Bill Belichick on Monday that would make Newton proud.
“I think that Jon did what we’ve coach him to do. So, if that’s a foul I’ll have to change how we are coaching them,” Belichick said during his weekly appearance on the Ordway, Merloni and Fauria Show on WEEI.
Of course, recall that Belichick is a guy who is prone to his own slanted overreactions, who once curiously claimed that then-Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker’s pick-play hit that knocked New England cornerback Aqib Talib out of action was “one of the worst plays I’ve seen” in his decades in the game that date back to the wild west days of the 1970s.
So which biased coach’s response to Sunday’s hit – aligning thoughts from which trickled down through the two fan bases over the last couple days creating Twitter tirades and talk-radio tantrums from New York to New England and well beyond – are we to acknowledge as valid?
Neither. Because as with so many things in life, the truth is in the middle.
First let’s start with this, the reality is that at all levels of football helmet-to-helmet hits of all kinds are well on their way to being phased out of the game whenever possible. Call it overreaction to the concussion and CTE era and subsequent lawsuits or call it simple common sense, but that’s what’s going on.
Sure there are rules focused on lowering of the helmet, hitting with the crown, defenseless players and such, but details aside officials are going to err on the side of legislating as many helmet-to-helmet hits out of the game as is feasible.
Understanding that fact, while most have seen the Jones hit endless times, let’s review what happened.
Down a single score early in the fourth quarter in an emotional battle of undefeated AFC East rivals, Allen faced a third-and-8 from the Patriots 45. He ran up the middle for 7 yards, selling out for the first down as he was wrapped up by New England safety Duron Harmon. In less than a split second, Allen’s momentum and Harmon’s force begin the quarterback’s decent via gravity toward the turf as he’s leaning forward for the first down and attempts to brace for more contact. Jones enters the picture from Allen’s left seemingly attempting to lead with his own right shoulder, but due to the many high-speed circumstances of the play his head and the quarterback’s align for a direct blow.
Allen is knocked out of the game. Jones is assessed with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call.
Almost immediately after the game NFL head of officiating Al Riveron made it clear in a pool report that Jones’ hit did not warrant an ejection and, subsequently, wasn’t seen as worthy of a possible suspension.
Seems simple, right? Ugly collision that is simply part of football, the type that simultaneously creates cheers and cringes. Called on the field at full speed as the officials deemed necessary.
Everybody can move on.
McDermott and his followers want more punishment.
Belichick and his disciples want less.
This time, though, both sides are wrong. And the NFL, in a stunning rarity, got it right.
Even in his stubborn defense of his player, Belichick would have to agree that Jones could have lowered his strike zone on Allen, even if the quarterback was going down in part thanks to Harmon’s previous contact. That might have removed the heads from the equation altogether.
And don’t give me the big guy-vs.-little guy argument for Allen that Belichick and so many others brought up. I recall seeing then-Seattle safety Earl Thomas put a helmet in Rob Gronkowski’s chest for a hit that reverberated through the much larger tight end’s body for weeks. It’s not easy – football’s not an easy game – but little-man-to-big-man hits can happen without heads being involved.
Make no mistake, NFL players are in a lose-lose situation in these bang-bang plays. They make split-second decisions with ramifications both in terms of on-field action and individual health. Business decisions as some refer to it, many based simply in primordial instincts.
That’s why this argument is both so explosive and so unnecessary. It’s a big deal and not a big deal all at once.
And certainly there is no question, as some Bills players alluded to, that had Tom Brady been the running quarterback in the same exact scenario, the reactions from both sides would have been spun 180 degrees, likely with even more vocal outcry from all of Patriot Nation and beyond regarding the GOAT.
Jones could have gone lower.
Allen could have decided to slide long before the contact and given up the down.
Both sold out for their craft and their teams.
Both paid the price.
Isn’t that how life, and to a lesser degree football, works?
So why all the consternation?