The Exponent Faceoff: The Players Code

Matthew Ahasay and Colten Bartholomew

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Go Against the Code: Matthew Ahasay

Vince Lombardi said, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” In the case of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, this is certainly true. Despite a below .500 record of 7-9-0, Schiano embraced this mentality by having the aggressive Tampa Bay defense pursue opposing quarterbacks during game ending kneel downs, in the “Victory Formation.” Thus, Schiano initiated the debate concerning the unwritten rules of the game, otherwise referred to as “the code.”

Football certainly is not the only sport with unwritten rules; however, it is a fair assertion that they are primarily in place for safety reasons.

Cut blocks, for example, essentially a block at the knee, have been known to end careers. While these blocks are not always illegal, there is a certain amount of restraint expected by players out of safety and respect.

Despite the dictation of the code, Shiano did what he did, and no one was hurt.

Not all parts of the code are created equal and therefore, are not as strictly adhered to.  John Harbaugh’s decision to take the safety in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLVII was a fair violation of the code, and in the spirit of Lombardi, he chose to take the safety and ensure victory.

Traditionally, a coach would follow the code and punt to the other team, allowing them a fair, albeit slim, chance. I, however, do not agree with that.

In the sense of entertainment, The Code, in my opinion, does not stand up.

I will be the first to say that The Code exists for a reason, and its existence is important for the safety of players, but how far is too far?

If safety is the driving force behind the professional code of conduct for the athletes, and its existence is well known, why then are there not official rules on the books?

Instead of relying on a professional code, which still allows for dangerous play, why not make it official?  Clearly The Code has not stood up this last season, and if the professional community doesn’t like a certain form of play, make it illegal.

 

Keep to the Code: Colten Bartholomew

The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the Super Bowl on Sunday mostly because of quarterback Joe Flacco’s three touchdowns and Jacoby Jones.

However, a small part of the win was the Ravens’ choice to give up a safety on a punt with four seconds to play, limiting the 49ers opportunity get a good punt return or to throw a last-second Hail Mary.

This is a small violation of long-hallowed traditions in the NFL known by players as simply “The Code.”

I understand the argument that the Ravens performed a strategic move by sacrificing the two points, and I concede The Code has never been called into question in the Super Bowl.

The problem is that The Code has been challenged already this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano repeatedly violated The Code by having his defense go after the quarterback on kneel downs. The kneel-down play is only utilized when the offense is trying to end the half or game.

Two-time Super Bowl champion and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin chastised Schiano after the game, saying, “You don’t do that in this league.  Not only that, you jeopardize the offensive line; you jeopardize the quarterback.  Thank goodness we didn’t get anybody hurt.”

Avoiding injury is the main reason The Code exists.  While the Ravens-49ers situation was not about injury, the fact that The Code has come under such fire by the men who are supposed to perpetuate it is troublesome.

What can the NFL do about it?

One solution would be to just concede the game to the offense when they are going to kneel down and the defense is out of timeouts.  Another would be to make contact with the quarterback on kneel-downs illegal, because, hey, damn near all other quarterback contact is illegal.

Unwritten rules protect the players and the most popular game in America; thus, they need to be protected and continued.

 

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