Not too long ago, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that penalties against both the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons for separate investigations into violations against National Football League (NFL) rules were expected to be steep for both teams.
Schefter reported that Atlanta piped fake crowd noise through speakers when opposing teams had the ball, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank later admitted that the team was indeed guilty of such actions. As for the Browns, in what was to be called the “textgate scandal,” it was reported that General Manager Ray Farmer had on multiple occasions throughout the season used his cell phone to text the Browns coaches on the sideline. This is a direct violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games. Both teams were found guilty of these violations, and the NFL promised to crack down on them.
On March 30, Schefter reported the news that the penalties were determined.
As it would turn out, the penalties for the Browns aren’t nearly as bad as they are for the Atlanta Falcons.
Lucky for Cleveland.
According to Schefter’s report, Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay will be suspended from the NFL’s competition committee, which will not actually affect the team’s roster or how they play on the field. However the team will also be stripped of a pick in the 2016 NFL draft (believed to be a fifth round pick), and they were also reportedly fined $350,000.
The Browns, on the other hand, have been reportedly fined $250,000 and will not lose any future draft picks as a consequence for the textgate scandal. In addition Farmer is subject to individual punishment for his actions and will serve a four-game suspension starting at midnight before the first regular season game, according to The Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot.
When it’s all said and done, those penalties for the Browns aren’t all that bad.
They were fined $100,000 less than the Falcons, and they also weren’t forced to forfeit any future draft picks—which could prove to be crucial for developing the team moving forward.
Also Ray Farmer’s suspension comes at a time when most of his significant contributions to the team will have already been finished. Since his suspension is reported to start the night before the first regular season game, Farmer will have already been present for the draft process and finalizing the roster—two very important aspects of a General Manager’s job. Essentially the first four games of the regular season are one of the quietest and least busy times for NFL General Managers.
According to Cabot, his suspension will reach its conclusion immediately following the fourth regular season game, and then Farmer can resume his normal busy activities for the franchise.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport shed some light as to why the Browns as a franchise didn’t get heavier penalties and why most of the punishment was bestowed on Farmer alone. Rapoport tweeted out on March 30 that, “There was no evidence in the NFL’s review that Browns ownership or any other team executives had any knowledge of the prohibited conduct.”
Although the penalties could have been worse for the Browns, the fact that the NFL did not mess around with the investigations and subsequent consequences handed down upon Atlanta and Cleveland shows that the NFL is prepared to take steps to eliminate future violations by other franchises.
For now the Browns simply must take their punishment and move forward, thankful that the penalties they received weren’t even worse.