Monday, December 21, 2015

Yipes, stripes

Odell Beckham Jr. is perhaps the most scintillating player in football right now, and all you have to see to confirm that is what he did on the New York Giants' game-tying drive against the unbeaten Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon.

First there was the brilliant catch-and-run slant that got the Giants down inside the 20.

Then there was the touchdown reception from Eli Manning -- Beckham shedding his game-long nemesis, Panthers DB Josh Norman, to complete the drive that briefly put the Panthers' perfect season in jeopardy until Cam Newton could get back on the field and take his team to Graham Gano's game-winning field goal.

That wasn't the most jaw-dropping thing Beckham did Sunday, however.

The most jaw-dropping thing was that he was still in the game at that point.

Three egregious personal fouls should have put him on the sideline long before, had the game been under the purvey of a reasonably competent NFL officiating crew. Alas, we got Terry McAulay's crew instead.

McAulay could have (and should have) banished Beckham for any one of the personal-foul penalties, and certainly should have for the second offense. But how he didn't do it after Beckham's third-quarter stealth hit on Norman is beyond rational explanation.

First he swiped at Norman's head as he ran his route. Then, after the play was over, he circled back, ran at Norman and delivered a clearly targeted head-to-head shot from behind.

Mind you, this was not the kind of accidental head-to-head contact you see on a pass rush, and which nonetheless routinely draws penalties and/or fines or suspension. But Beckham deliberately speared Norman in the head, and went out of his way to do it. How does he stay in the game after that? How can McAulay not eject him and still remain consistent with the NFL's clamp-down on even accidental head hits?

It was beyond ridiculous. But then, when hasn't the officiating in the NFL been ridiculous this season?

That the stripes have been even more awful than usual has become an article of faith, and that's not just the sentiment of disgruntled fan bases. People with no dog in any hunt have made the same observation,. That this particular instance could have resulted in the last unbeaten NFL team going down only made it worse this time; without Beckham in the game, the Giants don't tie it, and Carolina doesn't need more Cam heroics to pull it out.

And what the NFL needs to do now is crystal.

One, suspend Beckham (the fine's a given) for the rest of the season.

Two, suspend McAulay for the rest of the season, too.

They are, after all, equally culpable here. And should be equally held to account.

Update: Beckham was suspended for one game today.

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