Our Proposed NFL Changes To Aid NFL Defenses

Green Bay Packers sacking Carson Palmer. An event we are not seeing enough of in today’s NFL.

What a completely goofy NFL season we just watched.  We knew that teams were going to be thrown off after the lockout but the fallout was greater than we thought.  We knew folks were going to have record offensive seasons, but what we saw was beyond our original thoughts. Dan Marino’s all time passing record of 5,084 yards being bested by nearly 400?? Where only twice in history we saw individual 5,000 yard passers give way to a season where we had three?? The NFL saw it’s first ever season in 2011 where multiple quarterbacks threw for more than 40 touchdowns in the same season. Seriously??

After an NFL season where the league cracked down on helmet to helmet hits on the field, we saw records for passing yards from multiple teams. When you look up and see a Matthew Stafford become the third quarterback in the same season to throw for over 5,000 yards, yo u know something is definitely wrong. Not only was it Stafford’s first complete season as a starting quarterback, he was outgunned in the season finale by Packers 2nd string quarterback, Matt Flynn. In that game, all Flynn did was shatter Packers passing records for yardage (480) and touchdowns (6) in his only start this year while the Packers rested Aaron Rodgers. This in microcosm was the NFL this season, high flying offense playing against pensive defenses scared to attack quarterbacks and receivers. It’s at this point, we claim the rules have been altered too much to aid the offense and something must be done. Yet where do we begin.

Sports Illustrated cover featuring the Amazing Orange Crush’s Rubin Carter once the Broncos went to 6-0 in 1977.

Well we have to take you back to 1978 to understand how we got here. The NFL adopted several rules to open up offenses that had been shut down during the mid 1970s. Most of these were in effect to legislate the Pittsburgh Steelers out of dominance. In 1976 the Steelers had a string where they gave up only 28 points over their last 9 games and shut out 5 of their last 8 opponents. This was followed up in 1977 when the Denver Broncos, on their way to Super Bowl XII, only gave up 148 points and 18 touchdowns. So something had to be done.

Well in 1974 the NFL widened the hashmarks and thought that would bring about more open space for the offense to move. Also wide receivers were not allowed to be chopped “hit below the waist” at the line of scrimmage. These changes weren’t enough. So in 1978 the rules were amended to where defenses were only allowed to “chuck” receivers within the first five yards of the scrimmage line. This is known as the Mel Blount rule. Offensive linemen were allowed to extend their arms while pass blocking to stop hard charging linemen.  Then about a decade later the league deemed that not enough and employed the cheat step. You’ll see tackles with their outside leg pivoted 2 to 3 yards back in the backfield to get a head start on blocking an opponents speed rusher. Couple this with “in the grasp” and any touching of the helmet of a quarterback culminating in a fifteen yard penalty and defensive players are playing on egg shells…

So what gets repealed?? Wide receivers getting hit all over the field if the ball isn’t in the air?? Well there are those that like to see a good bomb thrown in a football game so we won’t go there. Yet what we will do is return play at or near the line of scrimmage to it’s roots.

Article I Roughing the Passer – This will be called when the defensive player takes more than one step to hit the quarterback or if a hand extended to knock down a pass is swung to make contact with the quarterbacks helmet only. No more bogus 15 yard penalties to keep drives alive when a defender’s hand grazes a quarterbacks head. While reaching up to knock down a pass, it’s inevitable a defenders hand will hit a quarterbacks helmet. Only call it if the defender blatantly slams forward hitting the helmet. That’s why a quarterback wears one…for head protection.

Article II Repealing the offensive tackles cheat step to aid against speed rushers. Defensive players should be able to rush the quarterback better which should cause a few more errant throws and quarterback sacks. Enough with watching a Drew Brees throwing a football 62 times as he did in yesterday’s playoff loss to the 49ers with few hands in his face. Furthermore this would force offenses to employ smaller and quicker tackles. In light of the health issues and the mortality rate of 300 lbs. linemen after their playing days, this could be a move in the right direction.

Article II a. Repealing the rule that if a defensive linemen moves, which forces the offensive lineman to flinch, then penalizing the defender. This was another dumb rule that came along within the last 15 years. Nope…sorry. Return offensive linemen to having to play football and allow defenders the chance to rattle a young lineman or an injured one. Defensive players should be able to manipulate line play as much as the offense.

Article III Allow receivers to be hit within the first ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Enough of watching basketball players in shoulder pads, a helmet and nothing else, running unencumbered down the green fields of the NFL. Defenders should be allowed to have a cornerback “chuck” him and then a linebacker be able  to do so afterward to throw off the offensive play. Make receivers play football again.

The last change is a subtle referendum on pass interference. Re-emphasize the incidental contact rule made famous after the Benny Barnes /Lynn Swann Super Bowl XIII tripping moment. If there isn’t blatant pass interference where the defender disrupts the receivers attempt to catch the football, don’t throw the flag!! Far too many cheap 50 yard penalties because some primadona receiver flails his arms calling for one. Half the time, you’ll see receivers throwing their hands up instead of just trying to catch the football and this cheapens the game. It makes defenders gun shy in playing their position when the ball is in the air, and this is football, some contact will be made.

This is where the competition committee has given way to the corporate nature of the NFL’s non football playing brass. Everything isn’t about offense, offense, offense. Football fanatics remember reverently the ’85 Chicago Bears whom many feel were the best in history because of the 46 Defense. Steeler nation is right behind them having gained fans from the ‘Steel Curtain’ days and the current ‘Blitzburgh’ edition. Same thing with the Doomsday Defense in Dallas, and the 2000 Ravens. Teams where great defense was as beautiful to watch as tons of offense. This isn’t roller derby or basketball on grass. Lets return football to it’s fundamental roots that we all recognize.

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17 thoughts on “Our Proposed NFL Changes To Aid NFL Defenses

  1. The 1985 Bears were good, They were built Monsters of the Midway Tough, anyone is able to agree or disagree, But the ones that had to play against that defense would probably agree that they were as good as advertised.

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  2. Chancellor of Football –

    1 – Yes, offenses passed by defenses. The rule changes simply were not close to enough to account for how far ahead offenses now are. You’re basically refusing to give credit to offense for stepping up and evolving more. Drew Brees throwing 62 times is not solely or even primarily about the rule changes – it’s simply he and the offense are better. Rule changes simply are not strong enough to elevate offense as much as you think they do. The games where the refs put the flags away show this – offenses are consistently better than defenses in playoff games as evidenced in this most recent Superbowl as well as Packers vs. Steelers, Saints vs. Colts, etc.

    2 – You’re also making assumptions about false-start changes – the fact is offensive false starts are anything but rare – it’s offense, not defense, that gets bagged at the line of scrimmage far more often.

    3 – Citing Lawrence Taylor et al repeats this same mistake – you’re blaming the league when in fact teams got better at the line of scrimmage to negate pass rushers. Again, it’s the result of offense stepping up their game, NOT the league meddling.

    4 – Don’t claim that how you described pass interference isn’t how it’s called now because the fact is how you described it is EXACTLY how it’s called now.

    5 – Widening the field and running starts for receivers is good football – don’t say, “It shouldn’t be part of the NFL” because you’re wrong; it SHOULD be part of the NFL. If it favors offense it’s because defense simply isn’t good enough; football is not supposed to be about clogging the middle, it’s supposed to be about making plays.

    6 – The 1985 Bears beat exactly SEVEN quality opponents and three of them had huge weaknesses – in contrast, the 2003 Patriots beat TEN quality opponents. They lost to the Dolphins and had NO shot of beating them in a Superbowl; that is a matchup that changed to their advantage when a New England team that didn’t believe in its starting quarterback (Champaign Tony Eason) knocked out the Dolphins. The Bears beat a Rams team that lost three of its last seven games, a Cowboys team already beginning the Landry Era’s irreversible decline, and a Giants team that lost four of its last eight games. And that Bears squad won just six of its twelve career playoff games (going one and out three times).

    They caught lighting in a bottle much like the 2002 Buccaneers did – and in the end they were not that good.

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    • The 1985 Bears were not that good?? I definitely want to try whatever it is you’re drinking. Complete distortion of reality… You’re definitely playing dodge ball when it comes to how much rule changes and the evolution of the game stemming from those changes are why you’re watching records fall.

      Had this happened naturally without all the changes that were made, you’d be right. The rules of ’74 & ’78 were the catalyst with the other rules in between. Receivers running forward before the play starts?? Nah…that is amateurish. That’s for the Arena League or Canada… They have that game.. The NFL nor AFL never had that as part of the game. You may like basketball on grass but there are purists out there who do like defense.

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  3. Disagree.

    1 – the premise is wrong – scoring escalated not because of the 1978 rule changes (though there was certainly some effect from them); it has escalated because offense finally caught up with defense and passed it by. Defenses are not scared to attack offense; offense is simply flat better than defense. You inadvertently prove this by citing the Drew Brees 62-yard score with no one in his face – because the O-line won the battle.

    2 – defensive football really isn’t that appealing. The 1985 Chicago Bears are beloved and I’m baffled why. The teams to love are teams like the 2003 Patriots which won with offense all the way to the greatest Superbowl of all – Patriots vs. Panthers, when two defenses advertised as the best in the league were utterly crushed by superior offenses. That 1985 Bears squad would have been ripped to shreds had it not gotten the favorable matchups it would up constantly getting.

    3 – You can’t change Roughing The Passer because what you describe is pretty much what the rule now is.

    4 – rule changes the league should adopt –

    a – widen the field by 20-30 yards (already being studied)

    b – allow receivers a running start behind the line of scrimmage at the snap (the rule used in the Canadian and Arena leagues)

    c – no chuck rule – this is the one defensive change that should be made – allow defensive backs to hit receivers.

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    • We’ll agree to disagree but what you imply is you want basketball on grass. The rule changes were made specifically for offenses. You think that all of a sudden offenses passed up defense?? Stop. You must not be familiar with the rule changes or why they decided to do them. Drew Brees passing 62 times in his face have to do with the 1978 rule that allowed offensive linemen to extend their hands when blocking. The second was the cheat step by tackles off the line of scrimmage to get the edge on speed rushers. That rule came in the 1980s.

      Also they changed the rule where a defender could fake a charge and draw an illegal procedure penalty. Now it counts against the defense. All these rules were put in to negate offenses because defense was a step ahead.

      Once the league started to incorporate better athletes on defense. The Lawrence Taylors, Richard Dents, the Dexter Manleys, and Howie Longs, the league had to stop these speed rushers who were dominating the game. They changed everything to how offensive line-play was to help slow tackles.

      How I described roughing the passer isn’t how it’s called now. Any contact with the helmet whether inadvertent or not results in a 15 yard penalty on the defense.

      Widening the field, and running starts for the receivers?? What kind of NFL fan are you?? These were never a part of the NFL nor should they be. If you want arena league football or Canadian football, they’re available.

      You’re right about Super Bowl XXXVIII with the Patriots and Panthers playing the best Super Bowl, but you’re so far off the mark on the 1985 Chicago Bears it isn’t funny. You sound like a bitter Patriot fan…that might fuel the animosity. The 85 Bears beat EVERY NFC playoff team: NFC East Champion Cowboys 44-0, wildcard Giants 21-0, and 10-6 Redskins 45-10, NFC West Champion Rams 24-0 in the title game, and the wildcard 49ers 26-10. No other team in history slaughtered every playoff team from their conference in one season. They lost to the Miami Dolphins 38-24 that made the AFC Championship for 1985. They beat the wild card Patriots 20-7 & 46-10 in the Super Bowl. They even bested the last wildcard in the New York Jets 19-6. What favorable math-ups are you talking about??

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  4. Reblogged this on Taylor Blitz Times and commented:

    With the recent trend having teams go with the pistol offenses to force 11 on 11 football, the game needs to be brought back into balance. Right now it’s nearly impossible for most teams to play defense. Think of being an NFL cornerback… You’re reading your receiver as he comes off the line of scrimmage. Is he coming to block me or is he running a route?? You come up to get a jam on him within the first five yards. As you turn to run with your man, in the corner of your eye you saw the beginning of the read option fake coming your way. It’s at this point do you peak your head around to check on the quarterback possibly coming your way or just pay attention to the receiver?? Remember if you look back you’re beyond five yards and can draw an illegal chuck or defensive holding call with a hand check. As the rules are now you’re in “no-man’s land”.

    Stay with the receiver, a Colin Kaepernick, a Robert Griffin III, or a Russell Wilson runs for 20 yards to your side of the field. So we have to even the playing field some for the defense. The pendulum has swung way too great to the offensive side of the field. This was written after the 2011 year and are needed now more than ever.

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  5. I agree-I miss the days of the Oakland Raiders where defenses were feared………My favorite game of the year is the Steelers/Ravens because they do not care about fines and you know the day after the Practice Squads get brought forward due to injuries and the Texans are exciting. Come on Man-want to see real grid iron football again-hit the QB-all the new rules give the QB so much time to throw or get rid of the ball. I also feel like football was never a safe game-it’s meant to be physical and thats why only 2% of football players make it in the league.Now I was joking that Kenny Phillips had set aside $20k for a fine in the Superbowl this year-sadly he behaved!!!

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  6. Great appraisal! I played 10 years in the NFL and barely recognize how they play the game today…it’s “let’s play catch” between the receivers and the QB. They draft receivers on their 40 yard stop watch speed and the vertical jump, not on their agility and hands or their ability to get open…not open, look at the ref and flail your hands and arms. Your assessment is 100% correct and so much so that I rarely watch Pro Football anymore. Not being able to be hit by a LB or DB before the ball is in the air, at any yardage, is the biggest problem…you let them hit downfield before the ball is released and you will see a different animal running crossing patterns as they do today! Add that to not allowing the offensive linemen to extend their arms and use their hands to block and you will see the QB’s release the ball a little quicker than now.
    If it wasn’t for College Football with less aggressive protection for receivers and QBs I doubt I would watch much football…you get more action watching Golf. At least the golfers don’t have referees making decisions about shots and swings that are not working because of various reasons…and that is usually because of ability at that particular time.
    Jon Arnett

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  7. I agree that these rules will not change. It’s a different game now, but I think the teams in the league have realized that if you want to get to the post season, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to shore up your team’s ‘D’. Teams like the 49ers,Texans,Ravens, Steelers, & the Giants have all made it to the post season and their defense was instrumental in getting them there. Now if the players would just be allowed to play football the way it was designed to be played…Too much protection of the quarterback. Period! I really hope that some of the ‘Articles’ you listed above could and will be modified at some point.

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