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.
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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