January 07, 2020
Philadelphia Eagles fans have already begun shifting into offseason mode after Sunday's disappointing playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
There's no sense in dwelling too much on a game that was ruined by cheap-shot artist Jadeveon Clowney, who quickly became a folk villain for his contortionist head hit on Carson Wentz in the first quarter. Clowney called the play "bang-bang" and later said the Eagles have "the worst fans in the world."
"This team hates me. Their fans hate me for some reason," Clowney said after the game. "They think I tried to kill Nick Foles [in 2018]. You remember that play? It was bang-bang. I didn't take him to the ground, either."
The NFL announced early this week that it will review the Seahawks pass rusher's hit on on Wentz, who was knocked out of his first postseason action with a concussion. The Eagles lost 17-9 despite a valiant effort from 40-year-old backup Josh McCown.
If anyone was hoping the NFL would come down harshly on Clowney, that doesn't appear likely, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.
The NFL is reviewing #Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on #Eagles QB Carson Wentz for a possible fine, I’m told. No suspension and may not even result in a fine. Clowney wasn’t flagged on the play, which took Wentz out of Sunday’s playoff game with a concussion.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 7, 2020
"He was a runner and he did not give himself up," NFL official Shawn Smith said in a pool report on the game. "We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgement, we didn't rule that to be a foul. From what we saw on the field it was incidental."
Eagles fans have pointed to the Week 2 game in Atlanta, when Wentz ran for what looked like a two-point conversion, only to have it reversed because he "gave himself up."
The issue in question on that play in Atlanta is not the same as the Clowney play, but you'll note that in a similar "bang-bang" situation, the Falcons defender didn't hit anywhere near Wentz's head. And, of course, with similar dives, how can Wentz be "giving himself up" in the one where he's clearly trying to dive for the end zone but not in the one where he's already heading to the ground to try to avoid injury?
Expecting a defensive end not to try to inflict pain on quarterbacks, especially in big games, is naive. Hitting them in the head is expressly against the rules, however, and therefore dirty by definition when it happens on a play where the only purpose of the hit is to inflict pain, not just to get the quarterback down. Wentz was clearly going down on that play. Clowney ran over to him on his way to the ground.
If Clowney did not intend to strike in the area of Wentz's helmet, he could have done literally anything other than what he did. While he may not have intended to concuss Wentz, he was more than willing to take the chance.
If there's one thing the NFL hates doing, it's admitting that it got something wrong. Clowney shouldn't face a suspension. That would punish him in the extreme for the league's own failure to throw a flag. But a fine would be appropriate to discourage that type of play and the reputation that comes with being a dirty player.