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Flag or Not a Flag? We May Never Know

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Flag or Not a Flag? We May Never Know

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

Tyler Mozingo, Sports Editor

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Might as well flip a coin.

The NFL is trying to protect the quarterbacks as best as possible, but they  might’ve gone a little too far this time.

In the offseason leading up to the 2018-2019 NFL season, the committee for the NFL sat down and made a significant rule changes to what is considered a flag what is not for ‘roughing the passer’. This change is causing blowups in the locker rooms of different teams, coaches not happy and even other injuries. It has, in some cases, cost a team a win because of these bogus flags.

The rule before the roughing the passer call was changed stated: “as the quarterback is being pressured and possibly sacked in the pocket, he throws the ball and tries the avoid contact. If the defender is more than one step away from the quarterback and makes forcible contact with the quarterback, that will result in a flag.” There were absolutely no problems with that ruling. The change that the NFL made in the offseason made it to where a defender can hardly touch a quarterback without getting flagged.

The reason that the rule was changed was because the NFL said that any time a quarterback drops into the pocket and attempts a throw, they are already more vulnerable to an injury. The new roughing the passer call would trigger a flag if any of the following are committed: hitting the quarterback after he has thrown the ball, wrestling the quarterback to the ground, or making contact with the quarterbacks head. Those were all similar to the rule in the previous seasons, but the new additions that would cause a flag are kind of ridiculous. You can sack the quarterback, without him releasing the ball, but if you put ‘too much’ body weight on him than it will be called for roughing the passer. If you make contact with the quarterback and don’t tackle him down, but hit him as he’s throwing, it is the referee’s judgement if you hit the quarterback too hard. If he thinks you hit too hard, than he’ll call you for roughing the passer.

The NFL is wanting these defenders to let up so easily on the quarterback, especially if he is about to be sacked. If an NFL player can come through the offensive line full speed and head straight for the quarterback and then slow down and redirect himself on a dime without hitting the quarterback too hard, then they deserve a pay raise because it is almost physically impossible.

In week two, the Minnesota Vikings were playing the Green Bay Packers. It was in the fourth quarter and the Vikings were trailing by eight points. On fourth down from their own 20 yard line, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins dropped back and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews flew through the line and had a completely legal hit on Cousins just after he released the pass. The pass was incomplete, but the referee threw the flag because he thought he hit him too hard. The game would end up ending in a tie in overtime, but that play could’ve sealed the deal for a Packers win, but it cost them because of a bad rule.

In week three, a matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended with a total of four roughing the passer calls. That was the most roughing the passer calls in a game since 2001. Even after the game, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick both said that they didn’t feel that any of them should have been called. Roethlisberger said,  “They were just making football plays. You can’t fault them for that.” When the efforts of the rule change are to protect quarterbacks, but you also have many quarterbacks coming out and basically saying the rule is soft, then you might have an issue.

The rule is an issue that needs to be addressed. Defenders are trying their best to avoid getting flagged for making regular football plays, but trying to avoid it has cost one player their season. Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL on a play where he made a sack, but didn’t want to put his full body weight on the quarterback to avoid a sack, so he rolled his legs off to the side and when that happened, his knee buckled when it hit the turf and now his 2018 season is over. When a rule change is causing players to have an entire season gone, that is ridiculous.

Many experts are calling the NFL ‘soft’, and the committee stated on Tuesday, Sep. 26 that they would address some things in a meeting about the rule, and it came out later that day that the rule might be enforced differently in the coming weeks. It appears that the rule itself won’t change, but what is enforced because of the flag could see a slight change. Either way, the NFL needs to fix this problem. You don’t want players getting hurt and some games being decided by a yellow thing that referees throw in the air.

 

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