More penalties have been called in National Football League games this year and the trend is bringing out critics. During last night’s telecast of the Thursday Night Football game from Jacksonville, it was announced early in the contest by Joe Buck that the show had just lost a viewer. He then read a tweet from New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady:
“I’m turning off this game I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore.”
That tweet from Brady was preceded seven minutes earlier by one that said, “Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!!”
His comments seem to blame the officials for throwing too many flags, but he missed the point of why the flags were being thrown. Just as Buck announced Brady had gone elsewhere for Thursday night entertainment, another flag was thrown on the field. This time, for illegal procedure for a receiver lining up improperly and covering an eligible tight end.
He didn’t like that flag either?
Hey, this is like criticizing the chef in a college dining hall for a food fight. The chef provided food to eat, what the students did with it was not his responsibility. The rules are established in the National Football League to govern the play on the field, and Brady is criticizing the officials for enforcing the rules.
Where is the responsibility of the players for reducing the number of flags by playing the game without holding, offsides, pass interference and illegal procedures. Yes, it would be great if seemingly every kickoff and punt didn’t include a flag, but are the officials supposed to overlook illegal blocks to appease Brady with less flags?
The officials have a tough challenge to enforce rules that are decided in April meetings by league representatives, often making interpretations in the comfort of a resort setting that don’t work in the reality of game competition. One such rule, decided on twenty years ago, was to penalize a home team if their fans are too loud to offer opposing quarterbacks the opportunity to have their barked out signals heard.
Seemed like a good idea in April, but come August, when the New Orleans Saints were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason game and visiting quarterback Boomer Esiason was confronted with loud roars from the Saints fans deep in the red zone, he put up his hands to call on officials to enforce the new rule. They followed the new guidelines and penalized the home team five yards, or in this case, half the distance to the goal line.
When Esiason next got behind center, the noise from the New Orleans fans was noticeably louder, and the refs threw another penalty on the crowd and inched the ball closer to the goal line. When for a third time the Bengals quarterback lined up behind center the cheering from the crowd had grown to decibels that made it difficult to hear the announcers on the telecast. Again Esiason threw up his hands, but this time, the officials yelled back at him, “Just snap the damn ball.”
On the fly, the officials realized that the new rule was ridiculous and not going to achieve the objective of the home crowd quieting down to best allow an opponent to work in the red zone. Following that game, a real test drive of the new rule, it was abandoned long before it was ever used in a regular season game.
Now, penalties are part of the game. When I was on the Oakland Raiders staff in the 1970’s, Al Davis and John Madden had a policy that on an opponents first drive their quarterback would have to be hit hard. If it came legally, fine, but if the protection didn’t break down he still needed to be hit. Leveled even in the face of accepting a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
In the Raiders way, the 15-yard mark off was for necessary roughness.
If the league wants to reduce the number of penalties, pass the blame off on the players who are the ones committing the fouls. Seldom do replays show the refs were wrong, and the old adage that they could call holding on every down if they were looking for it, still can be traced back to the players on the field.