On Wednesday the NFL announced that Houston Texans LB Tim Dobbins would be fined $30,000 for his hit on Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler in the second quarter of Sunday night’s game. The hit was the one that presumably gave Cutler a concussion, although he remained in the game until being removed at halftime. The play in question came on a scramble where Cutler looked to run but pulled up at the last minute and fired a pass to Devin Hester.
Except it was after the last minute, as Cutler was flagged for an illegal forward pass since he had crossed the line of scrimmage. Dobbins was also flagged for unnecessary roughness and the penalties offset. Following the hit, Cutler played 2 more series, scrambled 2 more times for 30 yards, and finished the first half before giving way to Jason Campbell in the second half.
Dobbins is appealing the fine, and on Thursday defensive coordinator Wade Phillips came to his defense, questioning the amount of the fine and the fairness of the league’s fine system. Phillips said Thursday he didn’t understand the discrepancy in the NFL’s fine system, considering the vastly different amounts from a trio of hits involving Texans that he has seen firsthand.
Said Phillips, “I don’t understand the fine system when Cushing gets put out for the season on an illegal play — I know Dobbins hit the guy. I understand that. It’s his first offense. [Matt] Schaub got hit way worse than that in the ballgame,” The first play Phillips was referring to was the illegal chop block from behind by New York Jets OL Matt Slauson that tore the ACL of Brian Cushing and ended his season. Slauson was fined only $10,000.
To that Phillips remarked, “I just don’t see the fairness in all of it. It’s only defensive players basically. If a linebacker gets put out for the season, it’s 10,000 dollars, but it’s 30,000 if the quarterback gets hit.” Phillips has a valid point. The league promotes player safety above all else, but looks out for the quarterback over anything else. Despite all of the rules to protect them, three quarterbacks, including Cutler, left Sunday games with a concussion.
Dobbins did hit Cutler up high, which is against the rules and probably did warrant a fine. However, Cutler had scrambled passed the line of scrimmage, turning from a quarterback to a runner. In my opinion, the league overreacted due to the fact Cutler sustained a concussion and left the game. A case in point is another hit Phillips referred to on Matt Schaub in a game against the Denver Broncos in week 3. Broncos LB Von Miller hit Schaub with a helmet to helmet shot in the pocket. Miller drew the same 15 yard personal foul penalty that Dobbins did. However, there was a distinct difference in the fines each player received. Miller was fined $15,750 for his hit.
Was Dobbins fined almost twice as much because Cutler sustained a concussion? Or was it because Cutler was on the run, which made the hit look more violent than if he had not been a moving target? Either way, the inconsistency in the fine system is puzzling to say the least.