One of the biggest moments of the 2014/15 AFC Divisional round win by the Patriots came thanks to their decision to exploit the NFL rule surrounding the use of formations involving eligible and ineligible receivers.
In that game, the Patriots lined up then-running back Shane Vereen wide but declared him ineligible, which the referees in that game conveyed to the Ravens and told them not to cover him.
But at the time, Harbaugh didn’t understand what was going on and even went so far as to come out on the field and draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that helped turn the momentum back over to the Patriots, who came back and won the game 35-31 to advance to the AFC Championship and ultimately won the Super Bowl.
After that game, Harbaugh complained about the move by the Patriots and said the league needed to review it.
“Yeah, it’s a substitution type of a trick type of a thing,” said Harbaugh when asked about it by the Baltimore media after the loss. “So they don’t give you the opportunity, they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I’m sure that they’ll make some adjustments and things like that.”
When asked if he considered it “cheap or dirty”, Harbaugh replied, “I’m not going to comment on that.”
Brady and the Patriots outsmarted Baltimore in their playoff win in 2015. (USA TODAY Images)
When asked about Harbaugh’s reaction after the game, Brady replied, “Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out. We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays.”
That apparently didn’t sit well with Harbaugh, who, as pointed out by Mike Reiss in his Sunday notes, told ESPN’s Ian O’Connor in a feature piece on ESPN.com that he didn’t appreciate Brady’s comments.
“I was pissed off,” said Harbaugh in the piece. “It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn’t have been allowed. … So yeah, that should never have been said.”
Harbaugh ultimately prevented himself from being fooled again as thanks to his efforts, the league ended up changing the rule to prevent it moving forward that offseason.
But for someone who claims to know the rules so well, that didn’t stop him from breaking them this past offseason. Harbaugh put rookies in full pads in minicamp thanks to another misinterpretation, this time with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that brilliant move cost Harbaugh $137,223, and the Ravens $343,057 in fines, totaling nearly $500,000. It also cost them three forfeited organized team activities.
“There are things that you look at and you say, ‘I think we have an opportunity to gain some ground with our rookies,’” Harbaugh said when asked about it after it happened. “It wasn’t the case. It was wrong. I read it the wrong way. The bottom line: It’s on me.”
And so was what happened in January of 2015.
He seems to have a tough time understanding and interpreting rules. Fortunately that isn’t a problem for Belichick or Brady, and given the trouble the Patriots have given him over the years, that’s probably what upsets Harbaugh the most.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 AFC Divisional Playoff 2015 Patriots Playoffs Bill Belichick John Harbaugh Tom Brady