NFL Week 17: Assault On the Record Book With an Asterisk

Now that Christmas break is over it’s time to get down to the end of the NFL season and the all out assault on the record books. Last Monday night,  Drew Brees became the all time single season passing yardage leader, breaking the mark of Dan Marino with 5,087 yards. A tremendous feat until one reminds you that Tom Brady can actually surpass him with 191 yards against Buffalo, if the Saints rest Brees. A deeper look and if Matthew Stafford throws for 482 (a longshot), Eli Manning throws for 413, and Aaron Rodgers throws for 357 in the final week, we will have FIVE passers with over 5,000 yards in one season. Seriously?? When there have only been two 5,000 yard passers in the 92 year history of the NFL?? Something is definitely wrong.

In fact, for the 2011 NFL season, we have a legitimate chance of having TEN 4,000 yard passers in one season. The problem is the league is legislating defense out of football. Head to head shots on defenseless receivers is an important step to player safety which we are all for, but hitting still has to be a part of the game, right?? In fact, the next time you watch an NFL game, notice how many wide receivers wear NO leg pads as they sprint upfield. Of course this is a byproduct of receivers trying to get downfield faster but they truly don’t expect to get hit. Not even bumped within the first 5 yards off of the scrimmage line. This is the Mel Blount rule… yes the famous former Pittsburgh Steeler. Before 1978, defenders were able to beat receivers up all the way down the field. A defender could pop a receiver running a route as long as the pass hadn’t left the quarterback’s hand. So being “checked” by a linebacker and sometimes a safety wasn’t uncommon. Yet there was a point where re-emphasis to receivers running without interruption took place.

It came in the aftermath of the 2003 AFC Championship Game when the Colts lost 20-7 to New England. NFL and media darling Peyton Manning and the Colts, accused the Patriots of abusing the 5 yard chuck rule. This led to talks throughout Super Bowl week as the Patriots prepared to play the Carolina Panthers that the league would crack down on defensive holding / illegal chucks. Don’t know if it had an affect but Super Bowl XXXVIII was the first league championship game in history with both teams scoring 3 times in the 4th quarter. Fireworks galore. As the 2004 season approached the league was still talking about re-emphasizing the 5 yard chuck rule and yardage and points rang up in the ensuing years.

In 2003, only Peyton Manning and Trent Green crossed the 4,000 yard threshold. Then 5 quarterbacks crossed the mark in 2004. Now we’re up to possibly 10?? Couple this with the league cracking down with new penalties upon hitting a defenseless receivers downfield and monstrously large pass interference penalties, defensive players are scared to touch receivers now. Now as we watch the game, a defender that is rushing the passer, in an attempt to knock down the pass will get a 15 yard penalty if his hand grazes the quarterbacks head. This is all complete nonsense and the NFL is turning itself into basketball on grass with the intimidation factor taken away from defenses. The only rule adjusted to help defenses in the last 15 years is when they removed the “force out” rule in 2010. There need to be a few more.

So what has happened is teams are realizing opponents can’t play defense and are lining up in 4 and 5 receivers like never before. The advent of the bubble screen is an effective ploy that has led to inflated passing numbers but not like the rules downfield.

So why an asterisk?? It’s as though the league pushed for this to happen instead of it taking place naturally. When Dan Marino broke the all time mark with 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns. He was head and shoulders above everyone else, he didn’t have 4 other quarterbacks poised to break it with him. He obliterated the old touchdown mark of 36 that had stood from 1963 until 1984. It was the mark of a great quarterback at the zenith of his game and it made the moment he broke those records special. What happened last Monday night was just Drew Brees got to Marino’s record against watered down defenses first before Brady did. Forgive us but the sense of accomplishment just wasn’t there. With the rules in place now, a young Marino would hit 6,000 and 60 TDs easily.

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6 thoughts on “NFL Week 17: Assault On the Record Book With an Asterisk

  1. I have gone from playing 10 years in the NFL to almost not watching the game because of the frequency of penalties. I do agree that the 5 yard bump and no contact has taken away the need to find real skilled receivers who know how to beat the coverages without the help of the officials. It is almost a joke…the receiver is running forward knowing where he is going and what the pattern is suppose to be. The defensive back is running backwards and does not know the intended route or pattern. Yet, the official says the defender cannot touch a receiver after 5 yards…this is merely a game “play catch” between the QB and the receiver. I still remember the time when playing Detroit when I was running a “wheel ” pattern and was around 10 yards downfield and ready to receive a pass from Billy Wade when Night Train Lane put my lights out with a shoulder to my chest at full speed. Today that would be automatic 15, possible ejection and a monetary fine from the league.
    The NFL has evolved into a game of “catch” and the receivers are drafter because of their 40 yard speed and not their aggressive patterns…and most, definitely not the dexterity of their hands. I would still love to see some of these speedsters get contact on crossing patterns, like in the past, and I guarantee you there would not be this massive yardage of now-a-day. Tell the refs to keep the darn flags in their pockets and define the interference call less liberally…play football not catch between the modern day QB and the Receiver track star.

    Jon Arnett

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    • Ha!! Love you Jon… Man, I’m right there with you. One of the other items that bothers me is when the instant a receiver realizes he can’t catch the football starts lobbying for interference. What the hell is that?? Beat the man and concentrate on catching the football. Thanks for your commentary Captain Cutback. Look forward to hearing more from you. Give Jane my regards …

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  2. That’s what I like about your articles…you always make people think. This was another good observation because the defenses today are no where near what they were back in the day. Not to minimize what Marino did but let’s not anoint him the best quarterback ever..

    Wishing you and your family a happy & healthy New Year!

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    • FantasyFurnace and Football Guru…you’re both right. I need to congratulate Drew Brees on the record but I thought it needed to be said how watered down the contact on receivers has changed the nature of how pass patterns are actually run.

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