Nobody has yet named this “lowering the helmet” penalty. But soon, most likely on Sunday September 9th, it is going to cost an NFL team a game.
The Edison Park Pirates are going to be driving the football, down 6, late in the fourth quarter. On 4th-and-8 they’re going to complete a seven-yard pass and the tackler, the best safety on the Naperville Nincompoops, is going be flagged for lowering his helmet while tackling with his shoulder. The drive will be extended. The outcome changed. Pirates win. And this flag will be the lead story on every sports radio station in the country Monday morning.
Many have argued the uproar over this penalty is overblown, with only 1.5 flags being thrown for it per game over the first two weeks of the preseason. But the quantity of the calls is not the issue. It’s the egregious nature of the fouls themselves. The NFL has clearly heard the complaints because last Sunday they sent several of their media mouthpieces out to the public with new information.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano:
…NFL is looking at a “probable three-year” adjustment period for the new helmet rule, will continue updating its teaching video for officials, coaches and players. League is going with this, period. Everyone needs to deal.
Graziano went on and on about how it’s perfectly fine to have a rule the league doesn’t know how to legislate in the short-term as long as they figure out how to legislate it down the road. Make sense? Of course it doesn’t make sense. Football player Richard Sherman responded:
There is no “make adjustment” to the way you tackle. Even in a perfect form tackle the body is led by the head. The rule is idiotic And should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players tackle they are still lead by their head.
The NFL invented this rule for one reason: they are desperate to show the world their sport is NOT gladiators in the arena, with spectators marveling at the spectacle and not particularly caring about the health and safety of the combatants. They must give the appearance of caring about “player safety”.
It is yet another example of Roger Goodell, the worst commissioner in professional sports, leading this sport down a dirt road to nowhere. Great commissioners are defined by how forward-thinking they are, how they can see what’s coming for their sports 2-3 years before it happens. They are also judged by how they handle controversies, on and off the playing surface. In both regards, Goodell is a remarkable failure.
Just look at the breadth of his incompetence.
Off the field & in the locker room.
Would anyone argue Ray Rice was handled well? Greg Hardy? The deflated footballs scandal? When Goodell is faced with any issue of significance, he sweats harder than an 18-handicap on the first tee at Bethpage Black. (I’m deliberately using a golf example here because I want Goodell to understand the criticism should he stumble upon this piece.) Being terrible at adjudication is one thing. Being inconsistently terrible is quite another.
On the sideline.
Is it possible to bungle the national anthem situation worse than the NFL has to this point? Our own Emily wrote a wonderful piece detailing how badly the issue has been managed, pointedly stating:
The NFL is capitulating to the craven culture war politics that have been emblematic of the Trump administration, and yet so many out there seem more upset at players who quietly demonstrate out of a real conviction to highlight inequality in our country. Why? For those of you sick of the politics on either side make no mistake, this ruling does nothing to quell such conversations.
She wrote that on June 1st. As our current POTUS drifts into the legal abyss, you don’t think he’ll latch onto this issue again in September to distract his minions? If “lowering the helmet” doesn’t dominate the airwaves in the aftermath of Week One, this surely must be the second favorite. (More on gambling to come!)
The game itself.
Before Goodell took over, nobody ever asked what was and what was not a catch. Go watch broadcasts from as recently as the early 2000s. Guys caught the ball or they didn’t. And nobody was confused.
Under Goodell’s leadership, we know long know what it means to catch something. How is that even possible?
Oh, and gambling too!
Goodell was the most prominent major sports league commissioner opposed to the legalization of sports gambling. The NBA’s Adam Silver openly embraced what he understood was a foregone conclusion. The NHL’s Gary Bettman put a team IN Las Vegas. Hell, even Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour’s former commissioner, began planning for how the law change would positively impact his sport.
Goodell and the NFL paid expensive lobbyists to fight the legislation on The Hill. They lost, of course. The Commish vocally supported fantasy football and daily fantasy by somehow arguing it was about fathers and sons (or some shit) until he was called out on this belief by people with brains and then simply refused to discuss it any longer.
The NFL should be positioned today to reap a financial windfall from legalized gambling. And instead, because their commissioner is constantly on the wrong side of history, the league is left out in the cold in a pair of Bermuda shorts.
Goodell ain’t going anywhere. Why?
- FOX just paid over $3 billion for the rights to air Thursday Night Football over the next five seasons. This league’s ownership is motivated exclusively by money and for some reason they’re unable to process the notion that Goodell is irrelevant to their financial well-being. If Richard Dreyfuss were named commissioner tomorrow (and really, he couldn’t be any worse than what’s currently there) the ratings would still be terrific and the next TV contract would still be outrageous. The business is booming. The product is suffering.
- Ownership does not care about the product they’re making fans pay to consume. If they did, there would be no preseason. But there is a preseason. And it’s forced onto season ticket holders across the league. The sooner fans understand that the league’s owners, and not the players, are the league’s primary issue, the better off everyone will be.
- In the last few seasons alone, Goodell has pissed out two of the league’s most formidable owners: Bob Kraft and Jerry Jones. Both have enough notoriety and clout to lead a movement to remove their commissioner from his perch. Kraft sat on his hands while Tom Brady sat on the bench. Jones’ attempt to sabotage the commissioner’s contract extension was a total dud. The truth is the power base of NFL ownership (Rooney, Mara, Hunt…etc.) loves that Goodell takes the boos at the draft. These men are responsible for everything Goodell does wrong. He works for them. But he takes all the criticism. That’s worth whatever they must pay.
So the flags will fly. Suspensions will be handed out arbitrarily. The anthem will get more attention than the fight songs. And the game we all love will continue to be led by an absolute buffoon.