Another week, another complaint about the ‘roughing the passer’ rule in the NFL. Once again, the “victim” was Clay Matthews. With the Packers down 11 in the third quarter, Matthews was virtually untouched and hit Alex Smith with what looked like a clean hit.
But, in today’s NFL, that wasn’t the case. Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer, giving Washington the first down. It’s debatable whether the Packers would’ve came back and won anyway but what isn’t debatable is the consternation the enforcement of the rule is causing.
Fans are quick to call the NFL “soft” and start with every “back in my day” story they can conjure up. But what fans, and others, are missing is the current owners don’t view quarterbacks as football players. They are viewed as investments.
The NFL has turned the quarterback position into the ‘face of the franchise’ no matter the quality of the quality. Unless the starting quarterback is on their initial contract, for the most part they dominate the cap space on an NFL roster. Run of the mill quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins are getting paid handsomely which means they’re indispensable.
You can point to all team sports and say superstars are treated different. In baseball, the Nats had the (in)famous “Strasburg Shutdown” to protect his arm. The organization put Strasburg on an innings limit and instead of changing their minds or distributing the innings differently, they shut him down. The Nats went out in the first round of the playoffs and haven’t won a playoff series in their history.
In the NBA, San Antonio Spurs head coach, Greg Popovich, started the practice of sitting down his starters throughout the season based on scheduling. This would gain steam among most championship contending teams including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The NBA saw this and a possible negative with their network partners and built more off-days into the schedule.
Unlike Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, the NFL put in special rules for one position on the field to protect their most prized possessions. To make it worse, the rules are worded in such a way that it’s up for interpretation which opens it up to being enforced inconsistently.
But, the NFL doesn’t have to rush on changing or adjusting the rule. No owners are more concerned about money over integrity more than the NFL owners. This newest controversy, if you want to call it that, will have no impact on viewership so why would the owners rush? They can prop this up as player safety. That seems to be the disingenuous card the owners love to play.
So let the cries come out each week about the rule. Heck, there might even be an adjustment or two to how it’s called. But, at the end of the day, the NFL owners are concerned with their investment and lets be honest, it isn’t like you’re going to quit watching.