Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Bad Mix: Player Safety Rules And Reality
Before we get too far down the road this week of Saints vs. Colts, let’s just put an uncomfortable fact right out on the table.
The Saints really shouldn’t be here.
The NFL, in a totally chicken-bleep move, decided to wait until Friday of last week to publicly admit that the refs had “missed one” in the NFC title game. A big one.
After fining Bobby McCray $20,000 for two hits to Brett Favre in that game, there was no way around the fact that the so-called “Brady Rule” apparently only applies to Tom himself.
Like many fans who watched the game, we instantly said to ourselves: “Hey what about the Brady rule?” when McCray viciously low-bridged Favre well after the ball had been released.
Referee Pete Morelli – certainly not blind, and with an unobstructed view of the hit – for some reason decided not to call it.
Which, in a vacuum of circumstances, is fine. Refs miss calls.
But I have a problem with the Pandora’s box of officiating contradictions the league has opened. And I certainly have a problem with the league being so scared to admit this on a Monday or Tuesday when emotions and discussion on the radio are more raw and fresh.
You don’t think it took a full week to figure out they missed that one, did you? Of course not. The league just wanted to let the outcome gain a semblance of legitimacy before they quietly slipped out the ugly truth.
You see, the “Brady Rule” is a PLAYER SAFETY rule. On its own, it seems reasonable. I understand that the league suffers when star players (read: QBs) go down with severe injuries.
When a rule like this is cooked up in April at league meetings, it seems reasonable. When this rule is implemented in the first pre-season games in August, it seems reasonable. When it gets applied through the course of a long 17 week season, it seems reasonable.
But when a trip to the Super Bowl hangs in the balance, a PLAYER SAFETY rule seems absurd to enforce to the letter of the law. Yet, it is a rule. And you know the saying: “Rules are rules…”
Pete Morelli had already called two 15 yarders on the Saints that day. It was more than most teams get called for in a championship game. To call a third, with an agitated cauldron of fans ready to direct their ire at you, on a play that totally changed the game’s momentum (interception), was simply too much for a flesh and blood human being to call.
These men, are not robots. (Possible exception: Hochuli.)
When an owner’s meeting rule at protecting the bottom line ($$$), ends up thrust into the key moment of a title tilt, you are going to get gaffes like this.
You could argue that Cardinals win over the Packers falls into the same category. Technically, Rodgers got face-raked on that game ending INT. Many weeks (if not most) that gets called.
Just not to end a playoff game.
The problem the NFL has unwittingly allowed to flourish like weeds in the rule book, is the notion that you can codify every play, every circumstance, every proscribed behavior on a football field.
This is why the “in the grasp rule” starts to conflict with the “tuck rule” which further muddies the “allowable intentional grounding rule outside the tackle box rule” and then makes it really hard to also keep a keen eye out for the “Tom Brady rule”.
Which is why it would be smart to go the other direction with the NFL rule book, and make things less specific. The reason you have referees on the field, is so they can use their judgement.
New rule: “Un-necessary roughness against the quarterback is a 15 yard penalty. The referee shall determine what constitutes un-necessary roughness.”
Period. That’s it.
Instead, I fully expect the NFL to go the other, wrong, direction. I now see a "Bobby McCray Amendment" to the Tom Brady Rule.
Go ahead, laugh. When you see it, you'll remember I said it first.