By now we all know that Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct late in Sunday’s game against the Colts for something he said to Matt Ryan, but today’s news has everyone in Chiefs Kingdom wondering: what did he say?
Look, I’m not here to condone the use of abusive language towards any individual or group. There’s obviously a massive issue in this country with bullying—both in person and cyber—and it affects people in a very real way. Words can cut deep in a lot of ways and can be damaging to someone’s self-confidence, body image, or even sense of self-worth. I’ve always been an advocate of the old theory that if you don’t have something nice to say, it’s better to just say nothing at all.
I also played and watched football my entire life, and I know firsthand that those rules essentially go out the window when you’re in the heat of the battle with an opponent at any level. Trash talking is almost as much a part of sports in 2022 as the balls those sports are played with. Look at the NBA. Every time you see a monster dunk, you see a grown man glaring at or screaming in another grown man’s face. Bat flip’s and dugout chirping happen all the time in baseball. In the NFL? Absolutely no different, which makes this flag all the more perplexing.
There have been tons of controversial rule changes in the NFL over the past several years. Roughing the passer penalties at times is an absolute joke. Some of the taunting calls that have been made across the league are laughable. Even some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties—like the one we’re about to dive into—are something no one is immune to, and have been questionable at best.
Don’t get me wrong. Some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are certainly warranted. You know, the kind that endangers the physical well-being of a player who only has a limited amount of time to play the game of football—a career lifespan so short in comparison to other occupations that the average player retires before their 28th birthday. The rest of us would be lucky to have been promoted to middle management by that time. At 27, most of us (maybe) have just started actually matching our company’s 401K contributions.
But to throw a game-changing unsportsmanlike conduct flag for something a grown man in a physical, hostile environment says to another grown man? Again, questionable at best. So when the news broke Wednesday morning that Shawn Smith, the referee during the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, had reported Chris Jones used “disturbing language” after sacking Colts quarterback Matt Ryan and that there was “no place in professional football” for said language. It got me thinking: what in the world did he say to evoke this type of reaction from a guy who listens to grown men cuss at each other every week?
Smith has been an official in the league since 2015. That means, if he has never officiated a playoff game, he’s likely officiated about 140 games total. Since 2015, I’ve probably heard hot TV mics pick up 140 f-bombs on broadcasts across the league. What could Chris Jones have said to Matt Ryan that repulsed him enough to throw a flag that would ultimately change the course of the game?
Well, I’ve spent several minutes thinking about this, so here are my best guesses.
“Eric Berry sends his regards.”
Chris Jones doesn’t strike me as much of a Game of Thrones fan, but he could have conjured up the spirit of Roose Bolton before he offs Rob Stark in reminding the now Colts QB about Eric Berry’s famous pick-2 that buried Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons back in Week 13 of the 2016 season.
“If Reggie Bush had to give his Heisman back, are they going to make you return that MVP trophy?”
Alright, so Reggie Bush had to relinquish his 2005 Heisman Trophy because of NCAA infractions committed by USC during his time there that directly benefitted him. But he was one of the most electrifying college football players of all time. Matt Ryan won the MVP in 2017 but has been one of the most vanilla quarterbacks in the league his entire career. Shouldn’t justice be served here? Eye for an eye, anyone? Either way, this is cruel and unusual and could have been flagged.
“I’d literally rather watch the Broncos offense than one more snap of this.”
While the Colts were putting on a Bronconian effort offensively up to this point in the game, these words were both incredibly spiteful and unimaginably damning. After this flag for the worst insult you can give a professional football offense, Ryan would lead the Colts on their only real drive of the day to win the game. Colts country, let’s ride.
“They’ve probably still got some of Phil’s gloves laying around somewhere. Why don’t you throw them on to protect that rock?”
Former Chargers and Colts quarterback Philip Rivers was a notorious glove wearer. While his only season in Indy, his last as a pro, was 2020, I’m sure the equipment guys have some of his gloves laying around the equipment room. Matt Ryan has fumbled the ball 7 times—seven times—in 3 games as a member of the Colts. Might be time to get some tackiness in his life.
“We just stole this game like Leo stole your girl.”
No, not Leo Chenal. If you don’t know this story, you can read it here. TL;DR is Leo DiCaprio licked the ear of Matt’s wife while the couple was on vacation with Matthew and Kelly Stafford. Spoiler alert: Sara Ryan described it as the “Most incredible moment of my life, childbirth included!” That’s a tough L to take, Matty.
“I know everyone loved it, but I really think The Departed was overrated.”
I’d throw the flag on this too. Nearly the perfect film, if Jones slandered the Scorcese/DiCaprio/Damon/Nicholson masterpiece, that’s truly disturbing. But, based on the previous guess, Matt Ryan might agree but if the officials had half a brain they certainly would’ve thrown the flag on this hot take.
“So next year do you think they bring in Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill?”
Since Andrew Luck’s surprising retirement, the Colts have been in a weird semi-purgatory quarterback carousel. First, it was Jacoby Brissett. Then an over-the-hill Philip Rivers. The Carson Wentz experiment failed miserably down the stretch for the Colts in 2021, and the Matt Ryan era got off to a rocky start before the fateful flag was thrown on Jones on Sunday. Which mediocre recycled QB will they try next? Ryan’s fragile feelings couldn’t handle this question, nor could the officials handle the thought of another year of inept Colts football.
“Who’s on your Boston College Mount Rushmore? I got Flutie, Hasselbeck, Kuechly, and AJ Dillon.”
Matt Ryan is of course a Boston College alumnus. He probably belongs on that list, but maybe CJ disagrees. Massive, disgusting disrespect for an absolute pillar of a football powerhouse like Boston College.
“Dang son, you make Derek Carr look clutch.”
Both extremely mean-spirited and despicable, for obvious reasons. At least Matt Ryan’s tears didn’t result in runny mascara like Carr’s often do against the Chiefs.
“Hey, we’ve got to take on Tom next week. You got any poin….nevermind.”
Asking Matt Ryan for pointers on how to beat Tom Brady is about as effective as asking Eli Manning for advice on how to keep your mouth shut. It just doesn’t work. This is a double whammy; it likely hurt Matt Ryan’s feelings, and the officials heard a defensive player say Tom Brady’s name. The Chiefs are lucky this wasn’t double-flagged.
This leads us to, in my estimation, the most likely thing that Jones said to Matt Ryan to warrant that disgusted, appalled reaction and flag from Shawn Smith and his crew.
That’s got to be it, right?