As a rule, it’s not good when a head coach gets fined $15,000 for an incident involving another team’s player. But rules, as we know, have exceptions. DeAngelo Hall is an exception marked in yellow Hi-Liter. DeAngelo Hall is the exception to pretty much everything.
It was announced Thursday that Mike Smith must pay 15K for his tete-a-tete with D-Hall. It wasn’t as bad as it might have been — Smitty could have gotten suspended — and in the grand scheme it wasn’t bad at all. Because Mike Smith just stopped being the amiable career assistant who looks vaguely like Steve Martin and became the ultimate players’ coach. And that, in the NFL, is a great thing to be.
The guys in the Falcons’ locker room already loved Smitty. We know this because they play hard for him every blessed week. But now they have even more reason for their ardor. Not only did their coach mix it up in an altercation precipitated by a late hit on the Falcons’ franchise player, but he mixed it up with the man who has become the scourge of Flowery Branch.
D-Hall is a pill. He was a pill when he was a Falcon, and now that he’s gone there’s no call to say, “Well, he might be a jerk but he’s our jerk.”
We saw for four seasons how self-engrossed MeAngelo could be — those three penalties on one Carolina drive in 2007 were the express definition of ego excess — and he has since taken his brand of lunacy from coast (to Oakland, where he washed out in half a season, which is impossible to do) to coast (to our nation’s capital). The ESPN.com basketball writer and longtime Redskins fan John Hollinger says of D-Hall: “He’s the only man who can give up a touchdown pass and get penalized for taunting on the same play.”
The Falcons were already ticked — much more than they let on — at D-Hall for claiming that general manager Thomas Dimitroff had lied to him before shipping him out. When the same D-Hall showed up in the middle of the sideline fracas … well, what would any right-thinking man (who’d been hired by Dimitroff) do?
As a rule, it’s not good when your head coach is getting disciplined. But this wasn’t Woody Hayes clocking an unsuspecting Charlie Bauman or Tom Cable jacking his assistant’s jaw. This was some jawing and some shoving. Given that this was D-Hall, that seemed an utterly appropriate response.
And don’t think one man in Smitty’s locker room didn’t love it. The man already has hit all the grace notes that separate a leader from just a boss. Note how he never criticizes a player — not Matt Ryan for throwing an interception, not Michael Turner for fumbling, not Roddy White for dropping a touchdown — without turning it into, “We’ve got to do better.” Note also how he calls players by their first names (and not by an awful Bobby Cox-like nickname). He treats his men like men, and no man can ask for more.
And that $15,000? Well, it sounds like a hefty chunk of money. (More than Redskins LaRon Landry and Albert Haynesworth were docked combined.) But I’m thinking it might not affect the Smith family finances overmuch. I’m thinking there are 53 guys based in Hall County who’d be glad to take up a collection.