Before the season started we were doing a bit on the podcast about things we’d like to see changed in the league. Following the ‘head first tackle’ debacle which I argued would potentially see an increase in penalties I argued for an end of ‘stupid’ rules designed in the name of player safety. The NFL is a violent game, it always has been. Over the years certain rules have rightfully been put in place to make it safer and reduce the level of injuries. I’m not against these rules but what I against are rules which fundamentally ruin the game for the viewing audience and don’t really protect the players anyway.
I like big hits. I personally think that watching a big hit is as entertaining as watching a 50 yards touchdown pass. I don’t restrict this to the NFL. I like the big hits in rugby and the big tackles in soccer. For me, soccer has been ruined by a combination of feeble actors taking up the trade diving left right and center whenever a defender breaths on them and various organisations trying to take any form of physical contact out of the sport. I don’t want to see the NFL go that way.
So all of these roughing the passer calls because of the so called “body weight” issue are doing my head in, like they are many a fan, commentator and player! Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(b) calls for a “roughing the passer” penalty when a defensive player lands on a passer “with all or most of the defender’s weight”. So if a would be tackler is tackling a quarterback with all their might (and let’s face it, NFL players don’t tend to play at half speed) then they have to contort their body and avoid landing on the quarterback. This has actually been in the rule book since 1995 but when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr landed on superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the league thought it time to start enforcing the rule.
Now in two weeks, Clay Matthews have been done for it twice. In the Monday night game between the Steelers and the Buccaneers, there were four such calls for tackles that last season, would have been acceptable. There are other examples as well which no doubt have frustrated players and fans alike. It’s been released by the Dolphins that defensive end, William Hayes, tore his ACL and is out for the season when he was trying to avoid landing on the passer. And more players and former players, including quarterbacks who the rule is meant to protect, have come out in public and complained about it.
What will be done about it? Probably nothing. The fans and players will complain via social media. The media and us amateur bloggers will complain about it via out various outlets and the NFL will release statements along the lines of “we’re uncomfortable with changing the rule”. All we need really is President Trump to wade in with a tweet calling them a bunch of…….. No I won’t stoop to that level but you get the picture.
What might happen if the rule, or the enforcing of it, doesn’t change? More annoyance really. Penalties slow down the game for one and TV broadcasters are already putting pressure on the NFL to speed the game up so matches fit within a tight schedule (I mean, advertising but ok…). Slow games mean audiences dissipating which means more tweets from the President and when those big TV contracts come up for renewal there’ll be more power in the networks hands.
But the worst thing? The hits will disappear form the game. Defenders won’t want to take the risk. If they get penalised over and over again it’ll cost them their job. Their livelihoods. And who would want that?
Possibly worst still, they aim lower to avoid landing full force on the quarterback and they start doing more damage to legs and knees.