It’s not news to anyone who watched NFL games in 2016 that the officiating and league fines were absolutely out of control. As the seasons progress, the exact nature of what is and is not acceptable per the rule book has become so hazy that often, players truly don’t know what they are going to be flagged or fined for.
However the most egregious example of the league’s implementation of the rules last season can be found in their application of the ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ fine, as well as the continuously murky ‘roughing the passer’ penalty.
Per Spotrac.com’s Fines & Suspensions tracker, the NFL made $734,352 on 50 total unsportsmanlike conduct fines doled out in 2016, more than double the total in 2015.
Compare that to five seasons prior in 2011, when the league handed out five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for a total of $37,500. The leading violation back then was ‘roughing the passer’ for which the league handed out 26 fines for $377,500.
So how much did ‘roughing the passer’ costs the players in 2016, just five seasons later? A whopping $681,618 on 37 individual fines.
The league is either accusing the players of being idiots who cannot adapt to the rules, or the their explanation and application of the rules is so inconsistent that many players don’t always know what’s illegal anymore. I’ll let you decided which is more likely.
Here’s a breakdown of the total players fined and the total amount, beginning with Roger Goodell’s first season as commissioner in 2006:
15 players – $343,028
82 players – $755,000
212 players – $3,098,696
120 players – $1,610,069 (does not include Kam Chancellor’s off-field violation fine of $1,110,000)
244 players – $3,559,304 (does not include Adrian Peterson’s ‘conduct detrimental to the league’ fine of over $2 million)
Now you may have noticed that player fines actually began to decline by 2015 after a precipitous rise over the previous seven years. In 2013 the total fine amount surpassed $3 million, and two seasons later it dropped dramatically.
The most obvious explanation is to say that players had begun adapting to the modern rules implemented by Goodell. So rather than continue to enforce the rules as the players knew them, and consequently allow a more enjoyable viewing experience for the fans, the NFL turned ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ into a catch-all for anything they deemed worth penalizing.
And in the end, the decision slowed the game down, made it incredibly confusing for players, coaches and viewers, lowered TV ratings and cost players a record amount of money. Then to top it off, the New England Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl anyway.