The NFL has never seen anything like the ugly fight between the Browns and the Steelers, and blame is flying in all directions

  • The fight between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which Myles Garrett swung a helmet at Mason Rudolph’s head, is one of the ugliest on-field incidents in the league’s history.
  • The NFL suspended Garrett for at least the rest of the season, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey for three games, and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi for one game. It also fined each organization $250,000.
  • People across the NFL world are blaming everyone from Garrett to Rudolph to Browns coach Freddie Kitchens for the fight.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The fight between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of “Thursday Night Football” has thrown the NFL into chaos.

With seconds remaining in what had been an ugly game, Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett got into a scuffle after a hit.

Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet, Rudolph charged Garrett, and Garrett swung the helmet and hit Rudolph in the head. Rudolph was enraged and backed off, while two Steelers players tackled Garrett and began punching him. Three players were ejected.

On Friday, the NFL announced that it suspended Garrett indefinitely, ending his season. Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended one game for shoving Rudolph from behind, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended for three games for punching Garrett.

The Browns and the Steelers were each fined $250,000.

Across the NFL world, from players to analysts, there is an agreement that the unique incident was one of the ugliest in the league’s history. As a result, fingers are being pointed in every direction.

A larger punishment for Garrett

The NFL has a rule against using the helmet as a weapon and swinging it at players.

But Garrett’s helmet-swinging was ugly for other reasons.

First, Rudolph is only a few games removed from a scary incident in which he got knocked out cold on the field from a helmet-to-helmet hit. He missed two games with a concussion and returned in Week 8. He wasn’t injured by Garrett’s actions, but the situation would have been scarier if he had gotten knocked out or concussed again.

Garrett, the 2017 No. 1 pick and an admired defender, has also been fined twice this season, once for punching Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and once for two late hits to New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Some had been calling for Garrett’s season to be over.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote that “the NFL must issue the longest suspension for a single on-field act in its history.” Seifert argued that while there had been other similar or worse hits, they came in the game-flow action, whereas Garrett’s did not.

Seifert said Garrett’s penalty should exceed that of Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was suspended for the season after a helmet-to-helmet hit in Week 4.

Others have suggested that Garrett committed a crime.

ESPN’s Booger McFarland argued on “Get Up” on Friday that Rudolph and the Steelers should file charges. As of Friday morning, the police in Cleveland said no charges had been filed.

A larger issue with the Browns

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens.

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Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens.
source
David Richard)

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens has even taken some criticism for the brawl on Thursday.

The Browns lead the NFL in penalties, and though not all are from violent hits, of course, some critics said it indicated the team lacks discipline and leadership.

“What type of environment is being fostered by the head coach?” the ESPN analyst and former NFL player Damien Woody said on Friday. “I understand that Myles Garrett is his own man, and he’s going to be responsible for what he did … What is going on as far as the environment, as far as discipline, being undisciplined, by the Cleveland Browns?”

Coincidentally, Fox’s Erin Andrews reported early in the game that Kitchens had told his team, “Control your emotions.” It didn’t work.

Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster left the game with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit in which three Browns players swarmed to the ball. Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson left the game with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit that left him bleeding from his ears. Browns safety Damarious Randall was ejected for the hit, which ESPN’s Louis Riddick called a “classic earhole shot,” a now banned hit in the NFL.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported on Friday that a high-level opposing executive said the game looked like a “bounty game.”

The source told Florio that “if the league is serious,” it should fine the Browns $5 million and Kitchens $500,000, adding, “There were so many unnecessary flagrant hits, and then the cherry on top.”

Rudolph is not blameless either

Rudolph, of course, was the victim of the scariest incident in the brawl. But some have said he provoked the fight by going after Garrett first and trying to rip off his helmet.

ESPN’s Max Kellerman argued that Rudolph should be suspended for one game. The ESPN analyst and former Steelers safety Ryan Clark said Rudolph provoked the fight.

Others in the NFL world agreed.

Rudolph did not get suspended, but the NFL’s statement on the initial punishments said there could be more coming for those involved in the brawl.

As the NFL deals with the fallout, the league and its games have once again been overshadowed by other incidents – first this week by the news that a quarterback who accused the league of blackballing him would get a workout to try to get back into the league, and now by one of the ugliest on-field incidents and harshest suspensions in recent memory.