On Tuesday the NFL announced that it had approved a rule change to expand the scope of the helmet-hit rule. Under the new rule, any player who lowers their helmet to initiate contact with an opponent could be subject to a 15-yard penalty. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the player could also be ejected. In addition to this change, the NFL is currently working on a “targeting” rule similar to the one in place today in college football.
Player safety has been a hot topic over the last few years, fueled by recent studies into the long-term effects of brain injuries and by the numerous highly publicized struggles of former players who suffered from CTE. I’m certainly in favor of making the game safer. I also agree that rules changes are going to be necessary to protect the lives of NFL players, not just while they’re playing, but long after they’ve retired. That being said, a poorly implemented “player safety” rule can have a negative impact on games, so the NFL will have to be careful with how these rules are implemented. The college targeting rule, for example, has led to many unnecessary penalties and unwarranted ejections, even with the aid of replay. Let’s take a look at some hits that, under the NFL’s newly updated helmet-hit rule, could have led to a penalty and even a possible ejection.
Quite a few hits in this game could have drawn penalties under the newly updated rule. While none of them were flagged at the time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that some of them would have resulted in an ejection in the 2018 NFL World. Now I know what you’re thinking. “But Whitty, wouldn’t these penalties benefit the good guys in this movie?” In the short term, sure. But what about the life lesson that they’d miss out on if they won the game thanks in part to some questionable penalties? They’d never learn the consequences of staying out drinking at a strip club until sunrise with Miss Davis’s ass shaking in their faces. It’s like the NFL wants these underage kids to be playing football hungover. Plus, that loss ruined Bud Kilmer’s perfect season. If his record is still unblemished at the end of the year, he may not have his meltdown and walk out at the end of the season once all the players turn on him. That means the guys would still be stuck playing under that prick instead of them boys havin’ the time is their lives.
Here we have one of the most exciting plays in football, the Fat Guy Touchdown. Shane Falco fires a laser off the top of the defender’s helmet and it lands perfectly in the hands of his offensive lineman (side note: if that isn’t the perfect combination of arm strength and accuracy, then I don’t know what is). The lineman then scrambles to the end zone for a touchdown carrying defenders on his back the whole way. But if that happens today in the NFL? Sorry man, I know you’ll be out of breath for the next two weeks after rumbling down field with your 340-pound frame, but you’re going to have nothing to show for it because that block that kept the defender from getting to the deflected ball violates the NFL’s helmet hit rule. That’s like the very definition of weight discrimination.
Another play where, at first glance, it seems like the good guys would benefit from the penalty being called. Clearly the tackler led with his helmet on this play, and instead of a measly one-yard gain, the Little Giants would have a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. But the kids were so excited to have earned that one yard themselves. The NFL wants to take away that sense of accomplishment from them. Sad. Plus with this new rule, there’s no way Spike doesn’t get tossed after the first series, which means he doesn’t knock poor Devon Sawa out of the game with a cheap shot, and we probably never see Icebox throw down her pompoms and take the field in a fit of rage. So now Roger Goodell’s rules are promoting gender discrimination in addition to weight discrimination. I thought we were supposed to be more progressive in 2018…
Here’s where we see our first bit of true controversy with the rule. Any time you have a judgement call, you have a chance at somebody making a mistake. Most football fans would look at this replay and tell you that there’s no infraction here. But refs these days tend to go flag-happy in this situation, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if ol’ Air Bud got himself a 15-yarder for leading with the helmet. Even if they implement a replay aspect like with the college football “targeting” rule, chances are the replay officials are going to get it wrong from time to time (like they do a lot in college football). Without a clear angle that definitively shows him leading with his shoulder, it’s going to be a tough one to overturn. So while Air Bud was just being a good boy and knocking the ball loose from the defender, it wouldn’t shock me if the NFL tried to toss him from the game for that play.
This might as well be called the Bobby Boucher rule. No way the Waterboy makes it through a single game if he’s playing in the NFL in 2018. He’d have more more suspensions and fines than Vontaze Burfict. And if you take away Boucher? No way the Mud Dogs even make it to the Bourbon Bowl that year. I remember a time when this type of play was called “football”. Now I don’t know what to call it. All I know is that, to steal a phrase from Bobby’s mom, Roger Goodell is the devil and he’s tryin’ to ruin the foosball.
So there you have it. 5 instances where these harsher NFL rules would have drastically impacted the outcome of games, and in some instances, players’ lives. While I certainly understand the need for player safety, these rules often take it a step too far. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I’d like to think that common sense can prevail and we can get a rule that truly does promote player safety without taking away from the game. But in reality, I know the NFL will screw this up and it’s going to drive even more fans away. The XFL can’t get here fast enough.