A “detrimental dunk”. Close your eyes and imagine if you will just for a moment, the wonderful thought of the Saints at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the San Francisco 49′ers in the NFC Championship Game. With only 39 seconds remaining and trailing 23-17, Saints QB Drew Brees finds Jimmy Graham over the middle of the 49′ers secondary for a MAGNIFICENT leaping 40-yard TD catch — giving the Saints a 24-23 lead.
In exuberation, Graham dunks the ball over the crossbar. But it becomes a detrimental dunk — detrimental because the official has just thrown a 15 -yard flag for excessive celebration, which means the Saints will have to kickoff from their OWN 15 – yard line. Now I won’t waste yout time telling you the rest, becuase you already know where I’m going with this. The 49′ers get the ball back , they go down and kick the game-winning Phil Dawson 48-yard FG to win it, and the 49′ers — and NOT the Saints — go to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona. Far-fetched?????? Hardly……
Graham’s familiar touchdown celebration was outlawed by the NFL this offseason, lumped in with other taunting penalties in which the ball is used as a “prop.” It has often been referred to as “The Jimmy Graham rule” since it was inspired in part by the star tight end knocking goalposts ajar on two different occasions in the past.
In last night’s 31-24 win over the Tennessee Titans, Graham scored his first two touchdowns of the preseason; which then promptly drew his first two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from the refs for dunking over the goalposts. After the second one, television cameras caught Saints head coach Sean Payton literally chasing Graham down on the sideline to chew him out – leading to a brief but emotional exchange between the two.
Payton, who was already pretty hot un der the collar about the Saints’ ridiculous tally of 22 penalties (they better get that cleaned up) on Friday night, was asked by reporters after the game if he was “particularly upset” by Graham’s. “Well, would that make sense? Would you be upset?” Payton asked. “Yeah, I was. PARTICULARLY.”
Payton would go on to decline comment when asked if he had previously talked to Graham about whether or not that the dunks (obviously there has been some conversation, based on the sideline exchange) would be acceptable in the preseason. Graham himself declined to even be interviewed, leaving the postgame locker room as reporters entered. Does that suggest some sort of “trouble in paradise”?
I think that it’s highly unlikely that this becomes an issue during the regular season (or so we hope). Jimmy Graham is a very passionate player. We get that. However, he has to play SMART. Because if he can’t remember to reign in his emotions in the most crucial of moments, it potentially could hurt the Saints going forward. Hurt them as in NOT going to the Super Bowl. Sure, the odds are probably not in favor of that actually happening, but don’t simply dismiss the notion.
Graham himself has said said earlier this offseason that he’ll be smart and will find another way to celebrate. But the former college basketball player for the Hurricanes of the University of Miami hasn’t been ready to give up on his “go-to” celebration of choice just yet. Certainly, we all can appreciate that the dunk has become a part of JG’s image, or his “brand” so to speak.
Simply stated, Jimmy’s gotta keep his head in the right place. The NFL for years has tried to make the letters stand for the “No Fun League”. The prejudiced rule against Graham is no exception. But nevertheless, Jimmy’s got to keep his wits about him. His celebration could ultimately cost the Who Dat Nation its very own celebration —- the very sweet celebration of winning another World Championship in Februaury….