Has the NFL gone soft?

by Henry Miller | Staff Writer

The NFL instituted a new rule this season to protect quarterbacks from season-ending injuries. The rule states that defensive players when hitting the quarterback cannot press their body weight down on the quarterback. This is to prevent injuries similar to the one Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered last year during a game against the Minnesota Vikings. Rogers was running out of the pocket and after throwing the ball away was hit hard by a Minnesota linebacker. Minnesota Linebacker Anthony Barr landed on top of Rogers breaking his collarbone and sidelining him for most of the remaining  2017 season.

With elite quarterbacks sidelined with injuries, NFL ratings take a dip. No one wants to watch two defenses battle out low scoring games. Fans are attracted to high scoring, high offense games.

The problem arises with defense pressure to the quarterback. On two separate occasions Green Bay Linebacker Clay Matthews has sacked the quarterback, a huge change in momentum during the games. The problems arise after the sack when NFL officials flagged Matthews for roughing the passer. This penalty gives the offense 15 yards and an automatic first down.

“There’s a big difference between falling on a guy and driving a guy on the ground, and I think that would allow the officiating to be much cleaner,” Matthews said.

Mathews’s hits both appeared to be clean from the view of onlookers, but were deemed illegal by officials.

“I think the league is getting soft,” Matthews said after his second penalty for roughing the passer.

The rule has created a loophole for quarterbacks as they can now pretend that they have been illegally hit and gain major yardage advantage from penalties. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben RothlIsburger was hit in the head by the hand of a defensive end and doubled over in pain. Rothlisburger was not sacked on the play, but his team received an automatic first down and 15 yards. Defenders are no also giving up plays so as to not record penalties. A Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman would have recorded an easy sack and pushed the offense back, but when he wrapped up the opposing quarterback he did not take him to the ground. As he eased off the quarterback escaped the defensive end and completed a pass which resulted in a first down.  

With increased CTE concerns the NFL wants to make the game safer, but if new rules start to dictate the way the entire defense has to play then it is time to consider if the rules have taken things a step to far. The NFL needs to consider that Football has always attracted viewers because of its violence and hard hits. If you start to limit that aspect of the game you are changing a dynamic that has existed in this sport forever. If this changes even further the NFL could see its television dominance fall and another sport rise. With so few instances of quarterbacks being injured in this way it is not worth the toll to defenses and the way they operate to protect one player on the other team.