According to sources, within the next week the NFL’s Competition Committee is planning to speak with decision makers on the growing problem of “Roughing the passer” penalties so far this season.
After 3 weeks of regular season action, roughing the passer has been called 34 times. That’s up from 16 in 2017, and 20 in 2016, through the same amount of games. This comes after the league made it a “point of emphasis” this past offseason, to start enforcing a 23-year old rule that prohibits a defender from landing on a quarterback with their body weight or driving a QB into the ground excessively.
I don’t believe that the rule is the problem. I don’t even really blame the officials for calling the penalty. I believe that the officials are making the best calls that they have been instructed to make. The problem is that the rule is completely left up to interpretation. The NFL needs to clarify what constitutes roughing the passer, so that these players can focus on playing football. Having these issues really screws up NFL Odds.
Let’s not forget, this isn’t the first time the NFL has made rule changes to protect offensive players. Protecting the QB has become a priority in the past 10-15 years. Helmet-to-helmet hits have come down. The NFL has tried to limit any chance of CTE that they can. Concussion protocol has become a major focus with all players. However, the enforcement of this rule has fallen short of what I believe is its intended goal.
Defenders no longer know how to sack a quarterback without getting a penalty called against them. Clay Matthews on the Green Bay Packers has been called for roughing the passer 3 times in 3 weeks. Before this season, he had only been called for roughing the passer 4 times in his career, dating back to 2009.
Matthews has been the one player that has seemed to be getting called on the most ridiculous of plays, causing the backlash. Most notably in Weeks 2 and 3, Matthews has dealt some very fundamentally sound blows to quarterbacks, but has been flagged for roughing.
Many fans have been angered by the new enforcement of the rule. Players have been angered. Even Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy had to be restrain on the sideline on Sunday, following the ridiculous flag thrown. This rule isn’t working. Players don’t know how to tackle anymore, because even the most basic of tackles, tackles that have been legal since these players have been playing Pop Warner at age 8, are now illegal according to the NFL.
Where Do They Go From Here?
There’s no question about it. The NFL must address this new policy. They can’t put it off until the offseason. Everyone involved on the field, and off, will have lost their patience by then. The penalty is ruining the flow of the games, and actually causing defenders to get injured.
William Hayes, defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, tore his ACL on Sunday while trying to sack Derek Carr. He tore his ACL while trying to make sure that he didn’t throw his body weight onto Carr, and avoid a roughing the passer penalty.
This is what the end result is. This is what happens when you tell players that have been tackling since elementary school, that the way they have always tackled is wrong. More injuries are going to happen. True, the NFL changed the rule to protect quarterbacks. However, without changing the rule, they will send a clear message to the rest of the NFL: “Unless you are a QB, you don’t matter.”
The NFL must do something about these egregious roughing the passer penalties. If not, I fear the NFL will continue to see drastic declines in viewers, fans in the stands, and the on-field quality will suffer immensely.
The ball is in NFL leadership’s court. They have to ask themselves, “Is this really what we want our league to look like?”
Protecting the quarterback is one thing.
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