Mike Mularkey, the first-year head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, wants to get his message across that he frowns upon touchdown celebrations of any kind.
According to an Oct. 31 report from Kevin Clark of The Wall Street Journal, Mularkey instructed his players before the preseason to refrain from celebrating after a touchdown and instead take an “act-like-you-have-been-there” approach to scoring. He said it’s not that he wants to be a sort of grinch to celebrating, he’s afraid of penalties that might follow from engaging in such behavior.
So, to calm those fears, Mularkey is incentiving his players in the name of charity. If his Jags simply hand the ball over to the ref after the touchdown, he will donate $250 to a charity. In fact, the rule applies even to the team mascot:
During the team’s first preseason game, after wide receiver Cecil Shorts caught a 3-yard touchdown pass, team mascot Jaxson de Ville joyously knocked the ball out of his hands, preventing Shorts from handing it to the referee. “So the mascot actually came down and handed me $250 in cash,” Mularkey said. “He knew he screwed up something.” De Ville, an oversized yellow-and-teal jaguar, hasn’t done it since. Mularkey says he’s “very, very” surprised at how well players have taken to it.
Shorts said that the policy makes you think twice about celebrating:
It makes you think about it. At first [Mularkey] said, ‘Hand the ball to the ref,’ and I’m thinking, ‘OK, if I just toss the ball to the ref that will be fine,’” Shorts said, implying he’d be able to do a regular celebration routine. “But he actually wants you to walk over to the ref and hand it to him, so you definitely think about it and the coaching staff talks about it all the time.”
As of Week 9, there have been 16 touchdowns that Mularkey said have qualified for his monetary donation, including those scored during the preseason. The Jags’ foundation will match any donation that he makes. In working with local companies, more than $28,000 has been donated so far to the Ronald McDonald House.
As a league, the NFL has a policy regarding touchdowns, and that is players cannot engage in “prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player…two or more players engaging in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations or demonstrations” but individual teams have historically not chimed in with their own policy.
The ironic and perhaps unfortunate twist to this policy for the Jags is that the team is currently last in the league in scoring, at 14.7 points per game.