People who whine about referees and officiating are usually pretty annoying. When a team isn't performing well, it's easy to blame the refs: They're not calling penalties. They're calling too many penalties. They're biased! The excuses are silly.
Now, it's like the league said "Silly? You want to see silly? Hold our overpriced beer." And then they unleashed new rules regarding quarterbacks.
I totally understand wanting to protect quarterbacks. Of course, they're really protecting their investments as well. No position is more important, as Green Bay fans know all too well. One injury to one player can derail the season for an organization that's worth billions. Think about that.
And the impact is felt on the whole team. Losing a quarterback affects the running backs, the receivers and the defense. It's the difference between playing for a championship and playing golf in January. They have every reason to protect the key cog in their money wheel.
But let's be honest: The roughing penalties are getting out of control. Putting any kind of body weight on the quarterback is now drawing a flag. The most incidental tap on the quarterback's helmet means 15 yards for the offense. They're disrupting the flow of the game, extending drives and affecting outcomes.
And the worst part is, they're not really protecting the quarterback. They're calling flags because guys are playing hard, and quarterbacks are still taking the hits. Just like always. The flag doesn't eliminate the sack or pressure. It still hurts. Maybe the defense will eventually try to tackle differently, but they're still bound by the laws of physics. Ironically, tackling in an unusual way might lead to additional injuries, since they're re-learning skills they've known for years. Isn't that what we're trying to avoid?
We've all seen the bizarre plays that have led to flags. There was one on Monday night that didn't get as much attention, but was just as bad. Jason Pierre-Paul touched Ben Roethlisberger's helmet after he threw the ball. It was inadvertent, not malicious and not dangerous to anyone's health.
Flag, 15 yards, automatic first down. Big Ben helped sell it with a soccer-worthy flop, but protecting against plays like that isn't what the league had in mind. Roethlisberger had a greater chance of hurting himself when he flopped than by that "hit" to the helmet.
That play didn't really affect the game's outcome. The Buccaneers made enough mistakes to lose that game all by themselves, thank you very much. But it's a good example of how a perfectly-logical goal (protecting quarterbacks and avoiding head injuries) has led to illogical outcomes. There's been so much confusion and outrage, it's hurting the game.
Well, let me clarify. It's hurting their game. It's not really hurting ours. In fact, it might be the best thing we've seen in years. Drives are being extended, meaning more opportunities for carries, receptions and touchdowns. Defenses are getting frustrated, which leads to mistakes. Or they're becoming hesitant, which leads to more mistakes. Whatever keeps the offenses churning is good for fantasy football.
The downside is that it makes it that game itself nearly unwatchable, which makes it harder to see your players without engaging in eye-rolling, cursing or remote-tossing. The new rules don't hurt fantasy football, but they hurt football. How should we feel about that?
As The Rock would say, it doesn't matter! The NFL will do what it's going to do. And we're either going to accept it and watch, or do something else with our time. These rules are silly, but they're not deal-killers. We'll complain, but we'll still set our lineups on Sunday morning.
Please note that I'm not saying that the game is soft or the players need to accept that football is a tough game. They already accept that. And the overwhelming evidence shows that the damage to a football player's body stays with them decades after their last catch or carry. Concussions aren't just a financial liability for the league. They threaten the health and safety of the players, and the NFL has a moral obligation to reduce them whenever possible. And if that means protecting the quarterback more carefully than in the past, go for it. These guys suffer in their senior years (if they make it that far), and no game is worth the torture some of them endure.
I believe all of that, and I still say that the rules (or the criteria they use to enforce them) have become ridiculous and alter the game itself. There has to be a better way to cut down on the danger while still letting them play. The flags are coming out for good, clean plays. They come out for inadvertent taps on a helmet that aren't physically capable of hurting anyone. They have to protect their investm...I mean, their quarterbacks. But they they also have to figure out how to enforce the rules properly.
There is reason for optimism: The league seems to have finally figured out what's a catch and what isn't. So maybe they'll figure this out in a few years. Until then, we can shake our heads at the flags, but nod our heads at the stats.
How do you feel about the rules protecting quarterbacks? What can be done to improve the experience for players and fans? Share your thoughts below.