Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry’s ejection risks more than just 2018 suspension

Jarvis Landry’s fight with Jordan Poyer led to him being ejected. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS—This was everything the Dolphins love about Jarvis Landry, and everything they wonder if they’ll ever be able to change.

The season finale ended prematurely for him as he walked defiantly into the tunnel with the football in his hand after being ejected. It was his ninth catch of the game, establishing a new franchise record for receptions in a season, and he thrust it over the goal line for a touchdown with six minutes left in Miami’s 22-16 loss to the Bills.

It was a great play by Landry, who was unfazed by having to chase the record—and the NFL’s receiving title—with third stringer David Fales at quarterback. No matter who’s back there, Landry has a way of turning something into nothing and he took a shovel pass from Fales 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage and ran 4 yards through traffic for the touchdown.

What he did afterward, though, will be the image that circulates. Unable to restrain himself, Landry headbutted Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer and hit him in the facemask to ignite an all-out melee on the field.

Landry blamed Poyer for grabbing him by the neck and putting his hand inside Landry’s facemask, justifying his actions as self-defense.

“I regret putting my teammates in a bad spot,” Landry said. “I regret putting myself in a bad spot. But again, I do have a career to protect and if somebody tries to jeopardize that, I have the right to defend myself, too.”

Whatever Poyer did was probably pretty bad and it’s definitely the kind of thing that will get you punched in the teeth if you do it in a bar. But Landry wasn’t exactly defending himself when he had already been fully pulled away from Poyer by Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, then ran back at him to fight.

“I guess the second-person-always-gets-caught-type thing came into play there,” Landry said.

True, but there didn’t have to be a second person.

There was a full serving of choking and fist swinging and wrestling before Kenyan Drake punctuated it by chucking a Bills helmet 20-plus yards for one of the best throws any Dolphin made this season. He and Landry were both ejected.

Drake’s offense was egregious, but Landry’s actions were malicious. The way referee Jeff Triplette explained it, he was ejected for the unnecessary roughness flag. Triplette then added that Landry was being penalized for being “disrespect to the official” in the aftermath.

Triplette did not comment on the incident after the game despite a formal request being made for a pool reporter to get clarification on what exactly warranted Landry being thrown out.

The combination of Landry’s two offenses could prompt the NFL to suspend him for the start of the 2018 season. He denied saying anything to any of the officials, but Adam Gase indicated that’s not true.

“I know what he did, but it’s not something that I want to say right now,” he said.

That’s a bad look for Landry.

Gase, who was the target of a sideline blow-up from Landry the week before, clearly would love to clean up some of the nonsense. If he’s the emotional pulse of this team, that can be energizing or disastrous. He’s the one who led the charge saying Miami could beat the Patriots. He’s also the one who sets a tone of it being OK to lose your mind during a game.

Suppose Miami was the team with a playoff game up next, not Buffalo, and Landry had to compose himself enough in that moment before he ran at Poyer to weigh the consequences of missing it. Would he have had the sense to walk away?

It ripples, too. Drake didn’t stick around to answer questions about his ejection—credit Landry for setting the right example in that area—but it has to be asked if he felt free to unleash whatever he wanted once he saw Landry do so.

That’s what the Dolphins don’t want from Landry. He’s got to be disciplined enough to use his fire for good and not let it consume him. He’ll keep getting in his own way if he doesn’t change. As much as it already feels like he’s been around forever, he’s only 25, so maybe that level of maturity is coming.

Miami has no choice but to bet on that. Landry’s too good. Go ahead and dismiss it as garbage time, but he had nine catches for 92 yards and a touchdown with Fales taking the first semi-significant snaps of his career.

The totals on Landry’s 2017 season reaffirmed how good Gase thinks he is. He caught 112 balls to lead the NFL in receiving and break his own single-season franchise record, he got to 987 yards and scored a career-high nine touchdowns. All of that came from one of the worst quarterback units in the league with Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales taking the snaps in place of Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins’ collective 78.4 passer rating was fifth-worst this year, even with the boost from Landry.

They can’t live without him, outbursts or not. He’s the guy every one of their quarterbacks turns to in a panic, and Dolphins quarterbacks are often in a panic. Miami’s going to have to pay Landry with no assurance that he’s ready to move beyond the sort of thing that got him kicked out of the season finale. Fortunately for him, he’s so good that it’s worth the risk.

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