NFL will reportedly try to clean up mess of its own making

The NFL has a roughing the passer problem and it only has itself to blame. 

You've seen it. I've seen it. If you watched Monday Night Football last night, you couldn't avoid it. 

The NFL has a major problem with its new emphasis on roughing the passer penalties. 

The league has become famous for lurching from controversy to controversy, some beyond its control, most through it's own ineptitude and desire to try and solve small problems with ill-advised, sweeping rule changes. 

The Tuck Rule, absurd celebration penalties, what is or is not a catch. These were all issues that had easy fixes that the league took forever to rectify, but rectify them it did. At least eventually. Of course, through the last decade, the NFL could afford to move at a deliberate pace. They were the king of the sports jungle with no real challenger to the throne in sight. Revenue growth was (and still is) exploding. So what if some beer swilling slobs in $100 football jerseys were upset about a how a catch was officiated? They'd always be back next Sunday. 

Well, needless to say, it feels very different this time around. 

We're three weeks into the 2018 season and we've already seen 34 roughing the passer calls. There were 16 at this point last year. That's obviously a huge uptick.

Clay Matthews has become a bit of a poster boy for this new emphasis, having been flagged every week for roughing the passer. Week 1's flag was completely understandable. The flags thrown on Matthews in Weeks 2 & 3 suggest a league that hates the very game it is set up to sell. Fans don't want to tune in to watch the refs throw flags after a picture perfect form tackle, but that's what's happening. 

Rich Eisen put it well recently on his show: 

On Monday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said president and CEO Mark Murphy has been more involved in conversations with the league office over the penalties.

On the heels of that statement comes a report from Judy Battista of NFL Network suggesting that the NFL's competition committee is indeed looking at the renewed emphasis on roughing the passer:

There's no small amount of irony in the fact that Packers fans spent all last year bitching about the (at the time perfectly legal) play that took out Aaron Rodgers, only to have Murphy and the league overreact, as they always do, to an injured super star quarterback. Now we've watched as perfect football plays turn a victory into a tie against the Vikings. On the plus side, all this nonsense also produced one of the best sideline shots of the last decade. 

There's little doubt the league will drag its heels while it attempts to save face on this debacle. In the meantime, we'll be treated to more nonsense like this. Yes, this is roughing the passer in 2018:

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Comments (52)

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jmac34's picture

September 25, 2018 at 10:54 am

They called the bottom gif a penalty? LOL what was even wrong with what the Tampa player did?

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 10:56 am

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:38 am

It's almost like the refs are being obtuse just to make a point. They can't possibly be that stupid, can they?

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Barazinho's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:16 pm

So you're saying that the refs don't like it either, and are making calls like they are to expose the problem? Sounds plausible.

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sardog's picture

September 25, 2018 at 02:21 pm

The refs are doing it because they have been told they will be graded on the lack of calls. There's a new sheriff, err I mean school teacher in town. Alberto Riveron SrVP of Officiating is a retired high school teacher-social sciences former ref. Nobody grades on intent like social science teachers do- they are always PC. This is his first management position outside of high school. A real Cuban dictator with a socialist background.

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Turophile's picture

September 25, 2018 at 06:20 pm

The blame needs to be put in the right place before you can begin to fix the current mess. Put the blame on the committee that tells the refs how to interpret the rules.

First the committee has to sort out this absurdity of emphasis between themselves, until they have a workable, and more important, a natural result. Then they have to re-train the refs on how to interpret all the things that feed in to roughing the passer.

Rich Eisen said it right. If most people (especially neutrals) sat at a bar watching the game, see one play and think it's a legit tackle, let's make the committee emphasise to the refs that this play IS now a legit tackle. The further away you get from what the large majority think is a good play, or a bad play, the more you will alienate the fans ..............and it will happen pretty quickly, so you cannot just ignore things and make no changes this season.

Like JeremyjBrown in the above post, I had the same questions on whether the refs disagree strongly enough with the current emphasis on roughing the passer, that they are protesting by deliberately overcalling penalties to force the committee to re-think how it tells refs to rule on sacks and hits.

As for the quote about the Matthews hit (against Cousins) being used for training purposes .........well, it wasn't, so they lied when they supported the ref in that game, and they lied again about using that clip.

Back in the day the committee used to admit mistakes - now it seems they cannot, at least not until the outrage of so many broadcasters and fans gets so loud, they cannot block it out anymore.

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sardog's picture

September 25, 2018 at 10:18 pm

Turophile, regarding the officiating video, the weekly officiating video is developed, narrated, and published by Alberto Riveron, SrVP Officiating. Anyone can see it if you know where to go...the media keeps it quiet...
To your point it was Alberto Riveron who claimed it was a teaching video and never followed through with details. Why he was getting pushback from his own people. Yes, He was quoted by several news sources when questioned, that you can find on the major outlets. BTW, He is the "NY Review" and defends his union brother refs without fail. (I'm not anti-union nor pro-union...just know where to get info...)
The site also has weekly info on games, announcers, recaps stats, etc.
https://nflcommunications.com/Pages/Officiating-Video---Week-2-.aspx
If you care to register as a media type w/creds you can and get further info.
https://nflcommsusermanagement.nfl.net/Register.aspx

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Turophile's picture

September 26, 2018 at 04:49 am

Thanks for the info and link, sardog

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db1966's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:04 am

Watching Mike chase the ref along the sidelines makes me smile every time.

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Idiot Fan's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:37 am

Me too. Very cathartic.

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LoftKing's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:05 am

I have already purchased tickets for the Packers at Lions and the 49's at Green Bay. If this nonsense is still going on, I don't know. I might just be done. I really have no idea what a defensive player is supposed to do.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:07 am

I hope the NFL gets this right, because this is sooo wrong!
Mathews is 100% right.

One of these bad calls Packers a victory. Packers should be 2-1, instead are 1-1-1. Another play cost a player his season trying to not get a penalty.

This is just wrong!

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Skip greenBayless's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:15 pm

RC, does the NFL under Goodell get anything "right"? He always make the wrong decisions time and time again. The leadership under Goodell is an absolute disaster. The only way the NFL survives long term is to fire Goodell immediately and replace him with someone who doesn't think like he does. It's as simple as that. Leadership matters. Goodell is weak. I don't know how else to describe the guy. We need a leader like Lombardi that kicks the shit out of PC correctness and returns football to the game we all want to see played.

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Since'61's picture

September 26, 2018 at 08:37 am

Dash - the NFL commissioner (Goodell in this case) is no longer there to improve the game or maintain the integrity of the game. He is there to make money for the owners and that is all he is concerned about. As long as he makes money for the owners he is not going anywhere.
Thanks, Since '61

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Bearmeat's picture

September 26, 2018 at 08:10 pm

And the expected/BS thing: Vikings fans are saying that "we both got screwed." SMH.

Green Bay SHOULD be 2-1. I have no love lost towards CM3 - IMO he's been done since 2014. But he has gotten absolutely jobbed this year TWICE! UGH!

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TJ Coon's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:08 am

The ironic thing is the injuries that this penalty is causing. I forget the dude's name from the Dolphins but he blew his knee out Simply to avoid a roughing-the-passer penalty. This is absolutely ridiculous.

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:19 am

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SpudRapids's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:42 am

How about the false pretense that this is about player safety? Bull... if this was about player safety than why does this rule only protect a single position? This is about the money that QB's make for the NFL and having them not available hurts the bottom line.

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sardog's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:03 pm

You're on the right track...also if it was about player's safety they wouldn't have Thursday night games, the refs would be full time and in shape, and they would have more players on the roster for rotation.

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Minniman's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:17 pm

At about 5 min 45sec on the Rich Eisen link he talks about this event.

It's funny, I was writing a comment yesterday and I removed a line before posting it that I thought that bio-mechanically this is all wrong and a risk to injury for the defender.

Anyone who'e ever been taught how to lift will know that lifting and twisting is one of the biggest no-no's that puts undue strain on lower backs and knees.

I just don't understand how a defender who sees a window of opportunity and accelerates at full pace to execute a play can suddenly decelerate enough to stop a violent collision but still make that play - if the defender slows down in the last 1-2 yards to reduce the force of the contact, then the QB likely gets the time to throw the ball and make a play!

Add to this, one of the technicalities of the rule is around a defender wrapping their arms around the defender (and driving)....... So is executing a full blown shoulder charge legal in place of this? The defender isn't lifting and driving, and because of their speed not addling "punishment" to the play - but I guarantee that the QB will fare no better - and is the defender not entitled to brace himself for impact?

In the Steelers-Bucs game Fitzpatrick gets sacked front on. The defender is rushing at speed with an open lane to the QB (due to a blown o-line assignment) and the only difference between the CM3 hits and this is that Fitzpatrick crouches and protects the ball at the last second (making the defender hit but slide over and off him). Cousins\Smith stand tall and try and make the throw (and take the full hit). There is no difference to the 3 plays other than the fact that one QB protected the ball and 2 QB's tried to make the play and got (duly) punished for the effort.

The NFL has to make a ball dislodged during the process of a QB sack live to equalize this - if I'm the Bucs OC I'm saying to Fitzpatrick stand tall and try and make the throw.... you'll either make a splash play or likely draw a 15 yard penalty as the defender can't make the play and NOT rough the passer.

..... apologies for the rant. this rule is wrong and not supported by physics, bio-mechanics or ethics.

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Lare's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:26 am

Oh boy, the NFL is so concerned that they might have a committee conference call next week to see if they can fix the problem next year.

Keep attending games everyone, and make sure you give the owners lots of money for parking, food & beverages. And for those watching on TV, keep buying Packers apparel and give advertisers lots of money for their products.

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:27 am

And don't forget to continue visiting fan sites!

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Barazinho's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:29 am

After watching what happened on Sunday, it seems like the refs for MNF said "hold my beer". ESPN put together a mashup of the penalties for the TB/Pitt game. 3 were approximately equal to Matthews - hitting the quarterback and falling on him, and the 4th (the one shown) was even more ridiculous, where the TB lineman didn't even fall on the QB. It seems like the league gave really poor guidance, and simply said it must be called. The refs aren't exercising any judgement - it's just, if defender is on top of quarterback, call a penalty. I think the problems start with Riveron - he created problems last year, and that pattern is continuing - he seems reactionary, petty, and vindictive, and gives no actual guidance to the referees, just absolute rules, and we see the results on the field.

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Barazinho's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:35 am

From ESPN: (Matthews play in MN game)
"That play was put on the league's weekly teaching tape as an example of how not to sack the quarterback, but one of the sources said the competition committee was confused about whether that penalty should have been called.

"I don't recall ever hearing the terms 'scoop and lift' before," the source said."

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sardog's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:16 pm

You're absolutely correct about Alberto Riveron. He is instructing the refs to call everything that even looks close. Alberto Riveron was instrumental in pushing Blandino out just to have control. Blandino wanted full time refs, grades on the refs published, and refs during most training camp scrimmages. It's about Alberto Riveron and his stance of how important the refs are to the game. He's just another Cuban dictator.

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Since'61's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:36 am

The problem with the NFL looking into this is that every time the NFL tries to correct one of their many issues they only make it worse.

They have screwed up what a catch is or isn't, still have an unresolved mess over the anthem, illegal contact has been confusing for a decade and now no longer know how to tackle a QB who still has the ball in his hands never mind while he is in the process of making a throw and/or releasing the ball.

If the NFL is smart (and I fully realize that the words NFL and smart should never be used in the same sentence) they will for rest of this season make all QB hits reviewable like turnovers and scoring plays. Then readjust the rule at the end of the season before this continues into 2019. I realize this will make games longer but to me, for now, it is the only way to create an environment of fairness for this particular issue. The league needs to get these calls correct or this season will be ruined for the teams and the fans. I think that reviewing the plays is the quickest fix they can up with by this week's schedule of games, if they actually want to resolve this quickly with an acceptable solution for all the stakeholders.

If they try to change the rule, again, they will just add to the already existing confusion. My guess is on the league making it worse again, but I am hoping for the best. Thanks, Since '61

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daveinTX's picture

September 25, 2018 at 06:22 pm

I made a similar suggestion last week. I like your idea better because, it is specific to the current issue, QB contact. I think your suggestion of allowing the review vs changing the rules again, and during midseason, is the best route.

After this season I would allow challenges on non-calls as well. The Payne sack that was not called, IMO, is exactly what the NFL was trying to prevent. That is, a hit intended to injure a QB. And I am not using the term “intended” loosely. We certainly do not know the intent of the defender, but the perception of intent was there. And it was even more obvious that the Atlanta defender last nigh had not intent to injure the QB. Allowing reviews of both of those plays would have reversed both the mistaken and missed calls on the field.

I am not planning to watch another NFL game between now and Christmas unless something is done to correct this problem. I started watching Packers games back in 61 with my father. And, I have been very active on Packers fan boards since 1995. I am a huge Packers football fan, but not of this nonsense. I do not want to spend my valuable time complaining about how I think officiating was used to favor one team over another. That perception ruins the game for everyone, IMO.

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Since'61's picture

September 25, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Nice post Dave. I'm hoping but not expecting the NFL to do the right thing.
We'll see. Thanks, Since '61

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Idiot Fan's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:40 am

I love the Packers and can't not watch them. But I feel like Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network: "NFL, you have the bare minimum of my attention." I will watch the Packers and not a second more of this garbage.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 25, 2018 at 11:48 am

So let me get this straight. Clay Matthews is flagged for a "roughing" the passer foul that in no way, shape and form a foul. It costs the Pack a game. The NFL in its infinite wisdom "doubles down" that what we saw is not what we think we saw and even want to make this a "training" tutorial. Then they flag him again in the next game and issue a statement during the game defending the offending official call.
Sunshine is then put on the NFL in the form of a nationally televised game that has a few more egregious calls and now finally everyone realizes this must be a joke !??
By the way, everyone else see Tony Dungy flip flop on SNF? The week before he had "no problem" with the call and now all of a sudden he has a problem? What's up with that? He finally watched the play?

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sardog's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:38 pm

Thank you...I commented on Dungys flip Sunday night and got thumbs down. Dungy is the biggest League apologist and defender of all the NFL analysts. BTW, Just watch the last "fluffing" the passer call last night. Rothelsberger (sic) folds like a cheap suit on a brush of his helmet. He gets the call when they were pinned down near their own goal. So now we're going to have more QB actors...I'm sure the NBA can send some acting instructional videos to the QBs on how to flop. BTW...theMNF replay from the left side shot is the best angle when I was watching the game.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:13 pm

They were bad calls, as was the PI on Alexander for getting in the way.

I'm beginning to believe that the way you have to play defense is to contain the QB and get your hands up when he throws. You'll get a couple of batted balls, you won't get any roughing calls, and you'll stop the scrambles.

Defensively, I think you have to let the guy catch it and then drill him and see if it stops the completion.

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Since'61's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:17 pm

If they do what you posted in your last sentence the defense will be flagged for hitting a defenseless player. I'm not disagreeing with you Old School, just pointing out that in this era of the NFL playing defense at any level draws a penalty flag. Thanks, Since '61

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dobber's picture

September 25, 2018 at 02:11 pm

Yep. It seems pretty clear that the old "separating the receiver from the football" hits are not kosher anymore.

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dobber's picture

September 25, 2018 at 02:11 pm

Someone else posted that perhaps what the NFL is looking for is playing the ball in the QBs hands: essentially, going for the strip or trying to prevent the completion of the throwing motion (and create INTs). Playing for TOs instead of sacks. Now, that creates a whole different set of issues with slapping (more blows to the head), but what happens when the next QB tears a labrum (and is lost for the season) when a defensive player grabs his arm in the process of throwing? There's only so much protection you can reasonably give and still have a game.

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Barazinho's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:33 pm

Not to mention broken fingers/hands/wrists...

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Since'61's picture

September 25, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Dobber - you are correct and the fact is that the current roughing the passer rules and bad calls will not prevent injuries anyway. If Barr was flagged for his hit on Rodgers last season Rodgers would have been injured anyway.

Are there legitimate roughing plays which should be flagged? YES! But now tackling the QB while he is holding the ball and not leading with the helmet or hitting high or low is still roughing!??!! This is ridiculous. Having defenders pull up for fear of being flagged! Why rush the QB at all.

Just make QB hits reviewable and go from there. It's the best short term solution we have. Thanks, Since '61

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scullyitsme's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I’m unsure of the reference in the article to Anthony Barr’s hit on Rodgers. I don’t think many fans saw that shot as illegal, I saw it as unnecessary and kind of a cheap shot but under the old rules it was probably legal. Most defensive players already wouldn’t have taken that cheap shot. It just made Barr into an ass, not necessarily a illegal ass.

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:06 pm

My mentions were filled for weeks with Packers complaining that it was a dirty, illegal hit.

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Lare's picture

September 25, 2018 at 02:56 pm

This from ESPN today- "Part of the issue is that the league this year made a "point of emphasis" of a 23-year-old rule that prohibits defenders from landing on the quarterback with their full body weight or driving him into the ground with excessive force. The NFL says that rule has been on the books since 1995 (Rule 12 , Section 2, Article 9) and that it made it a point of emphasis this season after hearing complaints from coaching staffs that it wasn't being enforced."

So yes, Barr's hit on Rodgers was an illegal hit.

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:22 pm

Except Barr didn't drive Rodgers into the ground.

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Lare's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:27 pm

Barr left his feet to put as much force as possible into the hit. In my opinion he both drove Rodgers into the ground and landed on him with his full body weight.

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daveinTX's picture

September 25, 2018 at 06:36 pm

Maybe he did not literally drive him into the ground like a tent stake but, I think he appeared intent on doing that or breaking his collarbone. I have not closely looked at the play since the few days after it happen. I suggest you go back and take another look. My memory is not as sharp as yours. That said, if I recall correctly, you will notice Barr locked up AR’s arms to a point that Aaron could do nothing to speed out the force of impact. Much like what Payne did to AR on Sunday.

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ThirdStringSafety's picture

September 25, 2018 at 12:37 pm

Clarifying question: Aaron says that last year's hit by Barr (who picked Rodgers up and drove him into the ground with his full body weight) was "at the time perfectly legal." The NFL said the same in not flagging or fining Barr. However, Eisen, in the clip above, says that the body weight rule has been in place since 1995. Wouldn't that mean that - even last year - Barr's hit on Rodgers was an illegal hit? I'm probably missing something, and it doesn't really matter at this point, but that's how I would understand it. Thanks!

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PackerAaron's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:07 pm

Technically correct. But as Rich also says, it hadn't been called that way in years. Also, Barr didn't pick Rodgers up. Barr certainly drives through him, but Rodgers hop/jumps on his own. It's a clean hit.

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ThirdStringSafety's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:23 pm

Thanks Aaron - I appreciate you taking the time to respond / clarify!

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Demon's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:26 pm

Just what demographic is the NFL going after these days anyway? The product they are putting on the field is just plain bad!

The officiating is terrible and at the very least biased. Its ironic that the player that the player that the league enacted the rule change for (AR) is the only one it seems its legal to hit.

Even the way rule changes that do nothing but favor offenses are ridiculuous. The high flying circus's that the NFL has become makes me sick.

When the run and shoot offenses became popular many of us purists laughed at them. Now those are the norm with the exception of adding a Tight end thats more of a receiver.

I still favor "Power Ball" big O lines, big backs, road grader tight ends and blocking fullbacks.

Like Bill Parcells Giant team with phill Simms and Oj Anderson. Or Marty Schottenheimers Browns tean with Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack or Joe Gibbs Redskins with John Riggins. Thats the NFL !!

Whats being played now isnt even as physical as Arena league or Gilbert Browns LFL team.

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4thand1's picture

September 25, 2018 at 01:41 pm

The only solution I see is to review the play on a sack. The refs are throwing flags in real time and I'm sure they'd be all for getting the call right. They would go to commercial during the review, more $$$$$ for the NFL and the game would take a few minutes longer.............so what. IT'S TACKLE FOOTBALL DAMMIT! Let them play. QB's will be playing until they're 50. How the hell did George Blanda last so long back in the day?

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canadapacker's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:21 pm

Everybody wants to call this the Aaron Rodgers rule - which I guess that you can - but this is total overreach. What Barr did was border line legal - you dont write a rule to eliminate borderline legal with total idiocy in mind. The same as with the Carson Palmer rule - aka the low tackle - if a lineman takes a defensive player down to the ground - that player should be allowed to try and tackle the quarterback with his arms. When Palmer got hurt it was because the defensive guys were rolling and diving into the Qbacks legs below the knee. In Palmers case the guy actually dove on his knee with his shoulder.

It is time for the old 7 drunks in the bar mentality to take over for the roughing the passer issue that they applied to the catch rule - FINALLY - only do it quicker before they totally screw up this season for some teams. They are making good referees - who throw most of the flags - look like morons and have to answer questions that make them look even worse.

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marpag1's picture

September 25, 2018 at 03:24 pm

In summary, the NFL is too thick-headed, too tone deaf and too arrogant to realize that the entire football universe is laughing at them.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

September 25, 2018 at 05:55 pm

I was watching all the roughing the passer penalties called in the Bucs and Steelers game, got totally disgusted, and turned the channel to watch reruns of Home Improvement. These lame rules are starting to have an adverse effect on watching games, to me anyhow. And I supposed I am not alone in my disgust of the NFL and how they are ruining the integrity of the game. It's way beyond the point of being laughable any more. Oh, I'll keep watching games but I have never turned a game off because of bad officiating or idiotic rules before, until last night. I hope this trend doesn't continue. I do love watching football but my interest is dwindling quickly with every idiotic roughing the passer call.

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sonomaca's picture

September 26, 2018 at 08:50 am

I think there’s a reason why pass rushers weren’t valued quite as highly in last year’s draft. Had only Chubb and Davenport in 1st. Landry fell.

The way this is going, teams are going to need more and more corners and safeties, and far fewer pass rushers. Is this the end of the OLB?

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