On Sunday in MetLife Stadium, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks refused to go back into the game against the Giants in the second half because he was unhappy over having to split playing time with Aldon Smith, who had just returned from a suspension. In that same game, veteran QB Eli Manning threw five interceptions, the primary reason his team lost the game. In Kansas City, Marshawn Lynch didn’t go into the locker room at halftime with his teammates and after the game he again defied NFL policy by refusing to meet with the media. In Green Bay, the NFC East-leading Eagles were blown out by the Packers, giving up 53 points in the process.
And in Landover, Maryland, Robert Griffin III made a comment that was taken out of context and the narrative became that he threw his teammates under the bus. The next day, his coach said he should worry more about himself and his inadequate level of play.
So, what was the big topic on the web, on talk radio, and even in non-sports media? It was, of course, Griffin. Not the player who defied his coaches during a game and refused to play. "We’ve addressed it and had those conversations," said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Onward.”
Apparently, that statement, reminiscent of Bill Belichick’s “We’re on to Cincinnati”, was good enough for both the local and national media.
No talk of the veteran quarterback imploding. Not much about the running back who stayed on the bench and gave a middle finger to the media. An ugly loss by the division leaders doesn’t move the needle.
No, there wasn’t a whole lot of media buzz that was, as Lynch would say, ‘bout that action. Not much bandwidth expended, air time filled or newspaper ink spilled with actual conduct issues and on-field disasters. Nope, it’s been all about Griffin.
No doubt the 49ers get a pass on the Brooks situation because they have been to the last three NFC title games. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. The Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champs. The Eagles have had success in recent years and are the defending NFL champs. The Redskins have not earned any benefit of the doubt.
But the Tennessee Titans haven’t been much more successful of late and they have been dealing with an ugly incident. Video came out showing that Titans tight end Chase Coffman intentionally gave a brutal cheap shot to a Ravens assistant coach who was on the sideline during a game last week. The NFL fined Coffman $30,000 but he started and played 30 snaps in the Titans game last night.
Bet you haven’t even heard of that incident. A player essentially committed assault on a coach from the other team and he’s not suspended or even widely criticized. ESPN carried the game last night and I don’t recall Coffman being mentioned at all during the game or pregame. I wasn’t intently watching the whole time, please correct me if I’m wrong here.
During the pregame they brought in their panel of ex-players and coaches and each of them had stern words for Griffin. Although I’m certain that none of them watched the eight-minute press conference or read the 1,200-word transcript to get the context for the pull quote, that’s fine. It’s what they do. But the lack of attention paid to Coffman seems wrong.
All of this is not really a complaint; it’s just the facts. Griffin has drawn attention, both positive and, lately, negative, since he came into the league. And Redskins have been click magnets and talk radio call generators for almost as long as such media have existed.
The out-of-proportion media attention is not going to change unless and until the team starts winning and maybe not even then. It’s clear that the organization needs to do a better job of managing the situation since it apparently isn’t going to go away on its own.