Replacement refs, "Bountygate," Rob Parker bashing RG3 for being a "cornball brother."
These are but a few of the NFL's biggest controversies in 2012.
The NFL is a massive enterprise that generates billions of dollars per year. Its fans are as passionate about the game as the players who play, and an entity of this magnitude under as much public scrutiny as it is will inevitably generate heated debates across the board.
Here are the biggest controversies of the 2012 season.
First things first: There is no doubt that the New Orleans Saints were guilty of running a "pay-for-performance" scheme that awarded players for injuring opponents.
That's not up for debate.
The controversy lies in how Roger Goodell went about disciplining the franchise for its wrongdoing.
The players weren't warned that the club had been told to shut it down, and when the hammer fell, the players were indicted right along with the men responsible.
Gregg Williams and Sean Payton deserved to be punished. And though you could debate the length of their punishments, the league rightfully came down hard on the men at the top of the chain.
Where Goodell went wrong is that he went after players for following through with what their coaches implemented. If he had just punished the coaches and the general manager, we'd still have had a controversy, but nothing as big as the mess we've been mired in all year long.
No matter what side of the fence you're on about Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback, you had to know his tenure with the New York Jets could only end one way: Disaster.
Mark Sanchez's confidence was already shaken after last year's debacle, and adding Tebow to the mix only made things worse for the "Sanchize."
From the beginning, the massive New York media stirred the pot, penning headline after headline about how Tebow should start or about how he should be used, and in the end, his impact on the Jets proved to be nothing but an endless distraction.
Not only did offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have absolutely no clue how to utilize Tebow, but it seemed anytime Sanchez started getting into some semblance of a rhythm with his receivers, Sparano would yank him out so Tebow could run up the gut for one yard.
Furthermore, none of the players inside the locker room ever believed Tebow could play the quarterback position, and the way the Jets used him in 2012 proved they weren't the only ones.
Never mind that the Jets gave up a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick for him, agreed to pay over $2.5 million of his advance salary and got a seventh-round pick back in return (h/t ESPN.com).
Not only did Tebow to the Jets prove to be one of the biggest controversies of 2012, but it also proved to be one of the worst personnel decisions that any team made this season.
Taking a knee at the end of games when the outcome is certain has long been taken for granted in the NFL, but don't tell that to Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie head coach Greg Schiano.
With the New York Giants in the vulnerable "victory" formation, he instructed his players to go after the football in Week 2 when the game was all but over, causing Tom Coughlin to dress him down on the field afterwards and later, in the press room, say (via ESPNNewYork.com):
I don't think you do that at this level. You don't do that in this league. You don't jeopardize the offensive line, you [don't] jeopardize the quarterback. Thank goodness we didn't get anybody hurt, that I know of, a couple of linemen were late coming in [after end of game].
That didn't stop Schiano from instructing his players to do the exact same thing one week later against the Dallas Cowboys...three times in a row.
I'm guessing Schiano didn't get many Christmas cards from his peers this year.
Adderall seems to have taken over as the drug of choice in the NFL, as it seems every PED suspension these days is being attributed to it.
Due to a provision in the CBA signed last year between the NFL and NFLPA, these days, the NFL can't disclose what drugs players test positive for when handing out suspensions for PEDs.
So, when players have been suspended by the league for testing positive for a banned substance, they've been claiming they took Adderall. It sounds a heck of a lot better than saying you took steroids, but at this point, it seems a bit too convenient an excuse.
According to FOX Sports' A.J. Perez, former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder recently said:
Honestly, I think Adderall is an excuse. Now, if you get busted, you just say it’s Adderall and it goes under the rug. The league can’t come out and correct you. It’s better than coming out and saying you did steroids. It’s kind of like getting busted for cocaine, but telling your grandma it was marijuana. Marijuana is more socially acceptable.
No doubt some players have actually taken Adderall, and some, like New York Giants running back Andre Brown, are doing it with a prescription. That said, I don't buy for one second that every player claiming they tested positive for Adderall actually got caught taking this particular drug.
Richard Sherman and teammate Brandon Browner were both indicted on the same day for allegedly testing positive for a banned substance (aka "Adderall").
Browner decided to take his punishment without appealing, while Sherman fought tooth and nail to overturn the ruling, eventually winning his appeal.
He claimed his sample was "tainted" because of a problem with the collection procedure. Apparently, his cup leaked, forcing the testers to use a second cup. This second cup apparently had its seal broken before being used, thus "tainting" the evidence (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter).
Draw your own conclusions here, but Sherman seems to have won his appeal on a technicality.
Given the way he and Browner both rose to the pinnacle of the NFL out of nowhere, I have no doubt that some people won't ever believe Sherman is innocent of taking PEDs.
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz knew the rules, but he broke them anyway in the heat of battle, and who can blame him?
On Thanksgiving, Justin Forsett's elbow and knee both touched the ground before he bounced back up and finished what ended up being an 81-yard touchdown run for the Houston Texans.
Everyone but the officials saw that Forsett was down, and Schwartz hastily reached for his red challenge flag and tossed it onto the field. Unfortunately, a quirky rule (page 89 of the NFL rule book) that is designed to keep coaches from manipulating the game clock took away any chance that the play could be overturned in the replay booth, and the touchdown stood as called.
The Texans went on to win the game, 34-31, in overtime, and Schwartz's mistake surely cost his team the game.
Jim Schwartz wasn't the only person from the Detroit Lions involved in a Thanksgiving Day controversy.
Ndamukong Suh infamously stomped on Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith this past Thanksgiving, earning an ejection and two-game suspension for his egregious offense.
Suh followed up that Thanksgiving spectacle with another gem in 2012, when he "unintentionally" kicked Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin.
The NFL couldn't find absolute proof to determine if Suh did indeed intend to kick Schaub in his nether region. That said, his actions incurred a $30,000 fine from the league office and his continuous, questionable behavior on the field further implicates him as a dirty player, and one prone to controversy.
Alex Smith was on a serious roll before he went out with a concussion in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams.
He had completed 25-of-27 passes for 304 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last four-plus quarters and is currently tied with Robert Griffin III as the second-highest-rated passer in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers.
That doesn't matter to Jim Harbaugh, who turned over the San Francisco 49ers offense to second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick after the youngster lit up the Chicago Bears in Week 11 in relief of a concussed Smith.
Kaepernick has gone 4-2 since becoming the team's full-time starter.
He seemed to put any controversy to rest in Week 15 when he threw four touchdowns against the New England Patriots and outdueled Tom Brady in the process, but the pot was once again stirred in Week 16 when the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the 49ers at CenturyLink Field in the rain.
And so the debate rages on.
Robert Griffin III entered Rob Parker's crosshairs recently on ESPN's First Take, as I'm sure you've all seen/heard.
Parker asked the question, "Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?"
When pressed further to explain himself, Parker referenced RG3's white fiance and his affiliation with the Republican party, saying, "He's [Griffin] not down with the cause."
It's people like Parker that perpetuate racial stereotypes. Instead of allowing an African-American like Griffin to be who he wants to be, Parker wants to put him in a box and define what he should look like, talk like and vote for.
ESPN suspended Parker for 30 days, though I personally would have advocated for a more permanent punishment.
The NFL overplayed its hand when attempting to gain leverage on the referees while the two sides tried to hammer out a working contract at the beginning of the season.
Roger Goodell and his people assumed that they could get away with using replacement refs, but the results proved to be disastrous, both in practice and in principle.
The mistakes the replacement refs made are too numerous to count, and it's safe to say we've never seen such incompetence on a consistent basis as we saw from the poor chaps attempting to do the job they never should have been given.
Some mistakes, like the one we've featured in the video, were hilarious.
Others, like the one we're about to take a closer look at, altered the very fabric of the NFL's playoff picture in 2012.
The lasting impression we have of the NFL's replacement refs of 2012 is the failed call in Seattle—an infamous play that was the NFL's biggest controversy of 2012.
The Seahawks were down, 12-7, at the end of the game when Russell Wilson heaved up a desperation pass to the end zone. Golden Tate shoved Sam Shields in the back, then went up to try to break up an M.D. Jennings interception.
When the dust settled, one ref signaled a Seahawks touchdown while the other signaled a Packers interception/touchback, and neither of them threw a flag on the obvious offensive-pass-interference shove from Tate.
In the end, somehow, they ended up giving the Seahawks the touchdown, even though replays consistently and categorically showed Jennings had full possession while Tate only had one hand on the ball for a fraction of the play.
As a result of the incompetency of the replacement refs, the Packers could potentially lose out on a chance to get a first-round bye in the 2012 playoffs, should the Minnesota Vikings beat them in Week 17 and the San Francisco 49ers win at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
Needless to say, the NFL didn't take long afterwards to get the real officials back in action.