Stop me when you’ve read this before. In a game against the Buffalo Bills, wide receiver Jarvis Landry made a questionable block on a defensive back. This time, however, the play did not result in a penalty.
Landry made the block on the final play of the Cleveland Browns’ first drive of the game, a 4-yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde. While some may argue that Landry was merely making a block to spring his running back, it’s fairly clear that there was no need to drive his shoulder up high on Bills cornerback Taron Johnson, who had taken such a poor angle on the play that there was no way he would have been able to tackle Hyde.
If this were the first time Landry had made this kind of block, maybe we could give him a pass. I’ve only been a writer here for two years, yet this is the second time I’ve written an article about Landry injuring a Bills’ defensive back on an illegal “crackback block.” When he ended Aaron Williams’s NFL career two years ago with a hit up high, the officials threw a penalty flag and Landry was fined after the game. Somehow, there was no flag on Landry’s most recent illegal block.
If you watch the block, Landry hits Johnson while running parallel to the line of scrimmage. As per NFL rules, this is a foul. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 governs defenseless players, and subsection 9 of the very same rule is the one that describes Johnson. It reads that a player who is considered to be defenseless is “a player who receives a blindside block when the path of the offensive blocker is toward or parallel to his own end line.” The referee should have flagged Landry, and there is a good chance that he should have been ejected. As the rule states, officials have the power to eject a player for making contact with a player in a defenseless position “if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant.”
Landry had no need to destroy Johnson like he did, especially in a preseason game. He could just have easily been in his way and screened the rookie from making a tackle that he had almost no chance at making. Instead, as has been his M.O. throughout his career, Landry went for the jugular.
As expected, Johnson’s teammates were not pleased with Landry’s decision to engage in an illegal crackback block yet again. In separate discussions after practice on Sunday, both of which were tweeted by WGR’s Sal Capaccio, both Micah Hyde and Lorenzo Alexander expressed their displeasure with Landry’s actions.
“It was dirty,” Alexander said. “That’s a penalty. It’s already a rule. You can’t come back into the box like that and crack back on somebody...it’s a penalty and it’s a dirty play. He obviously did it to Aaron Williams and he did it to Taron the other day. So that’s something he needs to be fined for because it’s uncalled for in this game.”
Hyde was just as strong in rebuking Landry. “It was a dirty hit. Everybody is cheering and saying ‘what a block,’ but if the league is trying to make this sport safe, they’d take that out of the game. You cannot run full speed and come down and just crack a guy on the hash. That’s ridiculous. All he had to do to was step in front of [Johnson] and screen him a little bit. If that’s a defensive player doing that to an offensive player on an interception, he’s getting thrown out of the game.”
Hyde’s final point captures the very essence of the issue: the NFL does not legislate offenses like this consistently. Just this week, there were personal fouls called on enough routine plays to make anyone wonder what, exactly, in the wide wide world of sports was a’ goin’ on here. This was called roughing the passer. This was called unnecessary roughness for leading with the helmet. This was cheered as a perfect block.
Taron Johnson, to his credit, did not have anything negative to say about Landry when asked about the play.
“I have to be quicker in my read...my receiver, the guy I was guarding, blocked down, and I just had a feel. I just feel like it’s football sometimes. It’s a bang-bang play and if I would have did my job better that play wouldn’t have happened at all.”
I applaud his capacity for forgiveness. Please forgive me for being less willing to do so, given the player-in-question’s past actions.
Landry’s history with this kind of dirty block cannot be ignored. The last time he did this against Buffalo, when he essentially ended Aaron Williams’s career, he apologized to Williams in the immediate aftermath of the event. He seemed to feel little remorse, though, and only would say “that’s football” when asked to characterize his illegal block. Later that season, Nickell Robey-Coleman was pretty direct in saying that the Bills would take vengeance on Landry, and the wideout responded with an Instagram post that said, “I’m not hiding. If you want some, come get some.”
So much for contrition.
After he came out of Friday night’s game, Landry was interviewed by Jon Doss of WEWS, Cleveland’s ABC affiliate. While smirking, Landry answered a question about the block, noting that it was an example of the “championship football” he felt the Browns need to play this season. Judging by Landry’s antics, past and present, he may still have a thing or two to learn in that department.
Landry seems to be the kind of player who loves to dish out the physicality, but he can’t handle it himself. He has no problem lighting a guy up who can’t see him coming, but if someone is right there doing things legally, he takes exception. Like he did here. And here, against his own teammate in practice.
Johnson walked off the field under his own power was able to return to the game, unlike Aaron Williams, who retired a year and a half after Landry’s first illegal crack block against the Bills. The fact that we’re here discussing another block of the same kind merely 22 months after the first one occurred shows that the league is failing in its efforts to eliminate these kind of plays. It also shows that a measly $24,000 fine did not help Jarvis Landry to learn his lesson.
If the NFL wants to legislate hits like that out of the game, they need to start penalizing them more consistently. On Friday night in Cleveland, they missed an easy opportunity to eject a player with a history of dirty on-field actions who was clearly in violation of player safety rules.