The NFL has heard the protests of those who are up in arms about changes to the roughing-the-passer rule this year in the wake of the latest flag on Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
This was called roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. The NFL might as well become a professional pillow fighting league. pic.twitter.com/BUSBqP47ph
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) September 23, 2018
Mark Maske of The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL’s competition committee, on a scheduled conference call next week, plans to address the issue and consider changes to the implementation of the rule.
But multiple sources said the league is very unlikely to change the wording of the new rule, which appears to require defenders to defy the laws of physics whenever they hit the quarterback from the front since they are prohibited from landing on the passer.
It’s hard to take the NFL seriously on this when the league office has twice doubled down on the very sorts of hits that fans are complaining about having correctly (by rule) been called penalties.
Meanwhile, Maske reported, there is “strong sentiment among those on the committee that the rule should be applied differently by the on-field officials over the remainder of the season,” mindful of the fact that the last thing the NFL needs is another issue for fans to rally around as the reason they quit watching football for good.
Another source said that “no formal instructions to the on-field officials are likely to be made but it is expected that the roughing-the-passer rule will be called differently, with the shift in emphasis becoming clear through officiating videos distributed by the league.”
But, most critically, Maske quoted a source as saying, “I’m not sure we can do anything this year.”
Only in football could “you made a dumb rule that doesn’t work” get a solution other than the bleeding obvious: Change the rule.
When the league instituted a new rule this offseason making it a penalty for a player to lower his head and initiate contact with his helmet, it led to a bunch of dubious penalties in the preseason and a backlash from coaches, players and fans.
The NFL responded by instructing officials to make incidental or inadvertent helmet hits into non-calls. The penalties called sharply declined, the ones that did get called were of the egregious kind, and fans started to believe a little more in the notion that it was a fairly applied rule.
Negative reaction to the roughing-the-passer calls has been just as strong, with even some current and former NFL quarterbacks saying the league has gone too far.
“Listen, this is football, man. We all sign up to get hit,” Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco said. “We all sign up (knowing) you might get hurt. It’s a violent sport. It’s meant to be that way.”
“The rule’s absurd,” Washington Redskins great Joe Theismann said. “It’s made up by people who never played the position. … Basically you’re asking defensive guys not to hit the quarterback. That’s what you’re saying. You can’t hit him. You start your body in motion, a guy releases the football, what are you supposed to do in an instant like that?”
Defensive players, of course, agree.
Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger, even though the call that went against Matthews benefited his team, still said that the penalty was “a bad call” involving “a horrible rule” that “should be taken out.”
“The game happens too fast,” he said. “It’s a grown man’s game. It’s not a referee’s game. You’ve got to know the game. You’ve got to be able to play the game to be able to put rules out. The game happens too fast. … I don’t know what you’d ask Clay to do. It’s not football.”
Meanwhile, fans continue to rage, and the sentiment grows that the NFL doesn’t care about putting a quality product on the field.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.