Tim Benz: NFL confuses, irritates by refusing to amend roughing-the-passer calls |
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: NFL confuses, irritates by refusing to amend roughing-the-passer calls

Tim Benz
Alex Brandon/AP
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews hits Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 in Landover, Md.

When the NFL realized that it had screwed up with its catch rule, they eventually modified it.

That move took way too long. A few years too long, in fact.

Eventually, the league took action. I just wish they had done so, say, somewhere before Dec. 17 of last year.

When the NFL realized they had made their lowering-the-helmet rule too complicated and difficult to avoid, they corrected it much more quickly.

As Kevin Seifert of ESPN pointed out Thursday, 51 flags were dropped for it in the first 33 preseason games. After a conference call to discuss the epidemic, only four infractions have been tallied in the regular season.

Another conference call was held this week to discuss the rash of roughing-the-passer calls. As you read here earlier this week, we’re on pace to see the total number of roughing-the-passer calls from last year (110) to be obliterated before the season is over. There have been 34 such calls already this season, more than double the rate through three weeks of 2017.

But this time, the NFL is standing by its policy much more doggedly. Here is a statement posted by the league Thursday.

Let’s be honest. Just like the catch rule and the helmet rule, the NFL knows it is wrong. But this time, it’s just being more stubborn about it.

Let’s be honest about something else. They weren’t talking about modifying or minimizing the rule on the conference call. Here is what they were really discussing.

We still need to protect ourselves from getting sued.

Quarterbacks equal tickets, ratings, and merchandise.

That’s it. That was the extent of the conference call.

To further muddy the waters, Pittsburgh’s favorite NFL officiating sock puppet Al Riveron published a video attempting to — and I’m having trouble typing this with a straight face — “clarify” the rules and the interpretation.

It’s equal parts baffling, hilarious, and maddening.

Here’s the link . Watch it. But do it at home. Alone. Don’t watch it in public. You’ll start screaming at your phone and people will think you have gone insane.

Watch it a second time, and that may actually happen.

What else can these pass rushers do?

Take note of how the pass rushers hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ben Roethlisberger are literally taking their hands away from the quarterbacks as they hit them. It’s right there in front of your face as he’s saying it!

The pictures are so counter to what Riveron is saying it almost looks like someone edited the wrong highlights over his narration.

Riveron’s script and the accompanying clips of what the league deems to be a “clean hit” obsess over the mandate that defensive players roll-and-angle themselves away from the quarterback as they are hitting the passer.

Sometimes that’s impossible based on the angle at which the quarterback is hit and eventually falls. I know, Al, let’s not let physics get in the way of a good video.

In fact, in that “tutorial,” one hit Riveron calls clean — the one on Jimmy Garoppolo — looks less legal than the others because it appears the passer launches himself upward toward Garoppolo’s helmet.

I’ll give Riveron a break there, though. Let’s stay on task and debate one overly complicated, impossible-to-adjudicate rule at time.

Based on social media reaction I saw, I’m not the only person confused by what I witnessed.

Here’s what will happen. Pass rushers are going to keep doing what they are doing because there is honestly nothing else they can do. Officials will keep dropping flags they shouldn’t because they are too scared to get disciplined and too robotic to think on their own.

And, as fans, we’ll keep getting more and more frustrated and keep watching less and less.

Thanks, Al.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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