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Labriola on 'forced out,' Steratore, Peyton


Ready or not, here it comes:*

  • It's not really fair to say that Dick LeBeau was forced out. It's not fair to write that either, even in those situations where the number of characters is limited, such as a tweet. Or a headline.
  • It's not fair because that wasn't the intent, and because it isn't an accurate reflection of how things could have turned out.
  • During the conclusion of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, LeBeau said, "My mother always said, 'Onward and upward, age is just a number.'" That's an inspirational way to look at one's life, but professional sports is an occupation where eventually age is more than just a number. Dick LeBeau will be 78 before the start of the 2015 NFL season, and the man has said he has no intention of retiring, that he loves what he does, that he wants to keep doing it.
  • That put Mike Tomlin in a tough spot. LeBeau's contract was up. Keith Butler's contract was up as well, and, in the interest of continuity, the succession plan had Butler following LeBeau as the Steelers defensive coordinator. How long do you want to put that off? Maybe the more significant issue becomes, how much longer can that be put off?
  • And finally, the level of respect for what Dick LeBeau contributed to the Steelers, and management's deep personal respect for Dick LeBeau, would have allowed for keeping him within the organization in some capacity. Senior advisor. Consultant. Still with a physical presence and a voice, but LeBeau wasn't interested in that. At least not with the Steelers.
  • Dick LeBeau doesn't deserve any criticism for a parting of the ways he himself described as "mutual." He still wants to coach, and being without a contract he is free to shop his services however and to whomever he wants.
  • The Steelers don't deserve any criticism for this, either.
  • Dallas vs. Green Bay: How about the playing surface at "legendary" Lambeau Field. Looked like they were grazing cattle on that grass on the days leading up to kickoff. And players complain about the surface at Heinz Field.
  • Two examples of how perception has become reality: That game back in 2007 played against Miami during a historic late-November rain fall in Western Pennsylvania where a punt stuck in the turf like a pitching wedge on a soft green has become what everyone thinks about when the subject of the Heinz Field grass comes up; and the constant blathering by talking heads about "legendary" Lambeau Field has served to be the architectural equivalent of putting earrings on a hog.
  • Watch Steelers-Ravens III, then watch Packers-Cowboys, and then let's talk quality of the playing surface. And you can throw Invesco Field in Denver into that conversation, too.
  • Another round of the NFL Playoffs completed, and another example of the officiating being way too big a part of the conversation. Art Rooney Sr. once opined that officials should be like the football – integral to the game but something that should go unnoticed by the fans. In a game that contained Aaron Rodgers, DeMarco Murray, and Tony Romo, the guy who ended up being the most talked about was Gene Steratore.
  • The referee. How awful for an NFL playoff game to end and to have the referee emerge from it with a higher profile than either of the quarterbacks. Just awful.
  • Anyone who played a lot of pickup basketball has been involved in call-your-own games, where players will call their own fouls, out-of-bounds, etc. And in those games, if anyone gets too ticky-tacky with foul calls he can find himself overruled. If Cowboys-Packers was call-your-own, there isn't a Green Bay defensive player on the field who would have called Dez Bryant's catch incomplete. If they had, they would have been overruled.
  • Except in the NFL, where there is enough convoluted verbiage in the rule book to make anything possible. Or incomplete.
  • New York Giants co-owner John Mara said about the Dez Bryant catch, "We have to look at that. That was very uncomfortable for me watching that play and having it ruled as an incomplete pass. I think it was probably the right call technically, according to the language that was in the rule book, but I really think we need to look at that."
  • Hopefully, "look at that" is code for "change it yesterday."
  • Then again, there is a poetry to the Cowboys losing a playoff game because of officiating one week after winning a playoff game because of officiating.
  • Denver losing to Indianapolis marked the ninth time in Peyton Manning's career that a team he quarterbacked was one-and-done in the playoffs. Nine times. Someone cannot be the greatest quarterback of all-time and go one-and-done in the playoffs nine times. Contradiction in terms.
  • During the preseason, Emmanuel Sanders made a comparison between Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger that got a lot of media attention. Wonder if Sanders had any thoughts on Peyton vs. Ben as he was running under all of those errant throws in the loss to Indianapolis.
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