CLEVELAND (AP) — The wicked helmet-to-helmet hit on Baker Mayfield is still reverberating.
Browns coach Hue Jackson said Friday he was “disappointed” with comments made by Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, who felt Mayfield was taunting after the rookie quarterback was struck last week by Tampa Bay safety Jordan Whitehead.
Mayfield was sliding at the end of a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter when he was blasted from the side by Whitehead, who was initially penalized. Mayfield also drew a flag when he popped to his feet and walked toward Whitehead while jawing at him.
But after conferring with his officiating crew, first-year referee Shawn Hochuli said there were no fouls on the play and then incorrectly announced that the hit on Mayfield was permissible because “he was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head.”
On Friday, the NFL acknowledged Whitehead should have penalized and that Hochuli “incorrectly picked up the flag,” Al Riveron, senior vice president of officiating, said in a video.
Riveron said Whitehead could have been flagged for lowering his head or making contact to the head or neck of “a quarterback who had given himself up.”
On Thursday, Koetter was asked for his take on the play and intimated Mayfield was equally guilty.
“What they said on the field was it’s a helmet-to-helmet hit and then (Mayfield) got up and taunted our guy, so then they threw the second flag,” Koetter told reporters in Tampa. “Somehow, they worked it out that they were picking up both flags. Where I was on the field, I didn’t see it as a helmet-to-helmet (hit). But when you look at it on tape, it clearly was, and I guess the fallout from that is what it is.”
Jackson was bothered by Koetter’s remarks, and defended Mayfield’s actions after the hit.
“That disappointed me,” he said. “The guy shouldn’t have hit our player in the head, first of all, and, obviously, our guy got up and he tossed the ball to the official. Obviously, the guy was close by, but the bottom line is our guy shouldn’t be getting hit in the head. I don’t care about some taunting foul. We’re talking about our quarterback taking a shot in the head and sliding. I think that’s wrong. Totally wrong.”
Jackson further explained his disappointment with Koetter, arguing that Whitehead’s hit triggered everything.
“The biggest thing that happened was the quarterback got hit in the head,” Jackson said. “Taunting? Does that really matter? I mean, really? That, to me, made no sense.”