INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL won't call it the Jim Harbaugh Rule, but it might as well. The San Francisco head coach is one of those the league's competition committee has in mind when it took action to keep coaches from wandering onto the field. Harbaugh was on the field more than once during the playoffs, and the NFL wants that to stop -- making sure coaches understand that's where players, not coaches, belong. So it will make sideline discipline a point of emphasis this year, with coaches warned that they can and will be flagged if they don't comply.
"We need to be much more disciplined about where our coaches go in terms of the box," said Ray Anderson, the league's director of football operations, "and venturing out on the field beyond traditional markers is something that is just not appropriate. It can interfere and it can be viewed as intimidating, and we really are going to rein that in." Coaches already are discouraged from charging onto the field, but while they are supposed to be limited by defined parameters -- all on the sidelines -- they are rarely penalized if they don't adhere to them, as Harbaugh did during the playoffs.
That doesn't mean he was the only one, but the NFL has had enough and decided the rule needs to be re-emphasized -- only this time with a stern warning. "There are borders," said Anderson, "but, very frankly, they're loosely enforced. But they will be more aggressively enforced going forward because we need to rein it in." Meaning?
"Coaches can be flagged," he said. "It's about enforcement and point of emphasis. So coaches who, after appropriate warning, continue to venture out will pay the price with a penalty that potentially could hurt heir team."
And if they're repeat offenders? "They can be fined," said Anderson. "No question."