The Faces of Totalitarianism
My problem with Goodell as the commissioner is that his negative effect on the league has impacted the league on a number of different levels. His contributions to the wussification of American Football have led to more penalties against defenders for physical play, and as a result of that, heavily inflated stats for offensive players. In 2003, there were only two QBs that threw for over 4,000 yards. Last year, 3 Quarterbacks had more than 5,000 passing yards. It has become common place for Quarterbacks in the top half of the league to throw for over 4,000 yards. This year, 4 Quarterbacks averaged more than 300 yards per game.
In the past, defenses were much tougher, because they were given a lot more freedom to be physical. This year, the best defense in the NFL allowed an average of 276 yards per game, and the worst allowed an average of 440 yards per game. 10 years ago, the best defense allowed an average of 250 yards per game, and the worst allowed an average of 390 yards per game.There is a reason why the offenses are doing so much better nowadays, and it is not because their schemes have gotten that much better.
Hall of Fame players such as Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, and Cris Carter are a few of the players that made their names by exemplifying finesse to the best of their abilities. Marino is arguably the most accurate Quarterback in the history of the NFL, Sanders has proven to be one of the most elusive running backs in the history of the game, and Carter is known to have the softest hands of all time at the wide receiver position. On the defensive side however, players traditionally make their names by being physical.
William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Lawrence Taylor, and Ronnie Lott are three of the greatest players to ever play on the defensive side of the ball. The Fridge made his name by using his deceptive athleticism to overwhelm his opponents, Lawrence Taylor's most famous for a play in which he gave Joe Theismann a compound fracture in his leg, and I know Ronnie Lott as the safety that cut off part of his finger so that he could continue playing in a game. This contrast between offensive and defensive players is what makes the game what it is today, but creating rules to prevent injuries favors the offensive side of the ball.
The world is becoming increasingly aware of the effect that head injuries have on a person's quality of life. In recent years, initiatives such as Physicians on every NFL sideline, and rules implemented to prevent and limit concussion are just a few things that the league has done to help out the players. Unfortunately, their efforts have not worked out the way they were supposed to.
Having doctors on the sidelines performing simple concussion tests only put more pressure on players to return to games after being injured. Let's take Colt McCoy for example. Last year, McCoy had 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games with the Browns. In his final game, he took a vicious hit from James Harrison and was knocked out the game, but returned later after the Browns claimed he showed no signs of a concussion. The next morning, he called his father and told him, "Dad, I don't know what happened, but I know I lost the game."
Although the doctors were available on the sideline, they were no help in determining that Colt McCoy had suffered a concussion before he re-entered the game. His father told this to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and McCoy soon disappeared from the starting line-up for good. Obviously, his father was only looking out for his safety, just as Goodell has tried to do for the entire league. Also, just like Goodell, he failed.
The NFL has changed the way football players make tackles. The reworded NFL rules prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck. This used to apply only to receivers, but now is used for all players. According to NFL Official Walt Anderson, "In years past, defensive players were allowed to hit receivers in the head once the receiver touched both feet on the ground. Now, officials will give a receiver an extra split-second to basically get into a position where he can defend himself."
Whenever this rule is brought up, I think back to a high school football practice that occurred a short two years ago. I was lead blocking out on the edge for the running back, and the linebacker sniffed out the play way too quickly. He locked on to me, deciding that in order to stop the ball carrier from running for a huge game, he would have to go through me. The defender proceeded to launch himself at me, leading with his head, and initiating helmet-to-helmet contact between the two of us. In the NFL, this would no doubt be a 15 yard penalty, but in a high school football practice setting, it was commonplace.
Big hits are a huge part of what makes football exciting, especially to the average fan. Hard-nosed defenses cannot be hard-nosed if they are not striking offensive players with full force. It prides a defender to see a receiver using "Alligator Arms" when running across the middle of the field. Now Roger Goodell says that players cannot launch themselves at offensive players, even when they are not leading with their heads? Concussions and other head injuries are indeed a problem that the NFL needs to be worried about, but at what cost? Is it fair to rig the games in favor of offenses?
Last year, the Patriots and the Packers had the two worst defenses in the NFL, but the 2 best records in the NFL. This era of Quarterbacks are being praised for "changing the game" and "taking over the league", as ESPN continues to promote every year as "The Year of the Quarterback". In actuality, new rules are the only thing that has changed since the origin of football.
A balanced league is a better league, so we must find a solution. In the meantime, watch these highlight reels of big hits. 1st one. 2nd one. 3rd one.