NFL Officiating is Ruining the Game

Mike Florio and Chris Simms absolutely tee off on NFL refs in this video:

The whole video is worth a watch because they’re right on the money with everything, but they bring up a great point in the beginning: the rules make it so that QBs can get cheap extra yards by running up the sidelines and pretending they’re going to duck out of bounds, but not actually going out of bounds, as the defenders cannot hit them or else it’s flagged as a late hit.

All the QB needs to do when the hit is coming is begin to go out of bounds and it’s flagged for a 15-yard late hit on the defense. But if the defender wouldn’t have hit the QB, then the QB wouldn’t have gone out of bounds at all. He would’ve just kept running up the sideline.

I see Lamar Jackson get away with it a lot. Aaron Rodgers, too. And Patrick Mahomes does it maybe 2-3 times every drive.

This play is a pretty good example:

You can see how #32 on the Chargers lays off at the end and it allows Mahomes to pick up a few more yards. And if 42, the defender chasing him, would’ve just dove at him to try and shove him out of bounds, he probably would’ve gotten flagged for it because the refs would say Mahomes was “already going out of bounds.”

It’s a no-win situation.

A QB that scrambles out of the pocket, turns the corner and runs up the sideline is basically untouchable until a defender actually gets in front of him to force him out of bounds.

But, this is a minor gripe when compared to all the other stuff that’s going on with NFL officiating.

You know it’s getting bad when even quarterbacks are saying the game has gone soft. In the video above, there’s audio of Aaron Rodgers talk at length about how ridiculous some of these roughing the passer calls are nowadays. This is Aaron Rodgers we’re talking about–one of the most protected QBs in the league when it comes to roughing the passer calls.

Tom Brady spoke about the NFL’s current rules early in the season, and he basically said the refs are bailing offenses out for bad play like never before:

He talks about how 10-15 years ago, he would never throw across the middle against Ray Lewis, because Ray would knock his receiver out of the game. But now, those kinds of hits are flagged. And essentially QBs no longer have to worry about endangering their receivers, because the defenders will just be flagged if they level a guy going across the middle. For so many years, that was a part of the game, and it’s how defenses were able to play against over-the-middle routes. But now that part of the game is completely gone. The middle of the defense is basically open on crossing routes because wide receivers can’t get leveled anymore.

You see other examples of poor play being rewarded with, like Rodgers was saying, roughing the passer: you have a pass protection breakdown, the defense destroys your QB, it’s a massively detrimental play to the offense’s ability to put together a drive–but oh, wait, a roughing the passer flag comes in to save the offense’s ass.

You can’t hit the QB high, you can’t hit him low–and you can’t hit him after he’s let go of the ball. Some of these roughing the passer calls are just awful, pure and simple. They’re total bailouts.

This video (you’ll have to go to the link to view it because the NFL for some reason does not allow its YouTube content to be embedded on blog sites; yet another dumb rule) is a nearly 6 minute compilation of the softest roughing the passer calls in the NFL, and it’s from the 2018 season, too. You could probably add in an additional 10+ minutes of plays that have happened over the ensuing 2.5 seasons.

The fact is, we’re at the point where–and I’m guilty of this myself–when our team’s QB gets sacked, we’re automatically looking for the bailout roughing the passer flag. It feels dirty, it feels wrong, but hey, it’s part of the game now. “Oh, damn, they sacked our QB. Wait, maybe the refs will throw a flag and give us a first down….”

You can’t even get excited when your team gets a sack anymore because so often a late flag will come in. Hell, I don’t get excited about most big defensive plays anymore, honestly. A pass goes incomplete on third down and I just kind of hold my breath, expecting a late pass interference flag to come in.

In that Tom Brady video, he even went as far as to say the sport of football is not being played at as high a level today than it was in the past due to the rules favoring offenses so much.

And that is just unacceptable. The game should always be being played at a higher level with every passing year. But if even Tom Brady, the GOAT and, as an offensive player, a guy who benefits from all these rule changes, says the game is regressing and getting softer, that is a major problem that the NFL needs to address.

I get the push for player safety, but it’s gone too far. The game is suffering because of the officiating. It is no longer as good a product as it once was. And that should never happen. The game should never regress.

The NFL just has to have the courage to ease up on these rules somewhat. It can be done. They can reverse course. The NBA, for example, just instituted a major rule change that cracks down on offensive players drawing cheap fouls. The NBA is actively moving in a direction where they’re trying to get rid of flopping and “unnatural motions.”

The game does not always have to be favoring offenses more and more with each passing year. It is possible to reverse course.

The NFL is going to have to do that at some point in the near future. They’re putting a less entertaining product on the field. I know we all love high-scoring games and great offenses, but at this point it’s almost impossible to play defense. Defense is part of the game, too. And as much as we love great offense, we also love big hits.

The NFL is going to have to find the sweet spot between player safety and maintaining the integrity of the game. I don’t have all the answers on how to do that, but that’s not my job. Commissioner Goodell is making $64 million per year, so it’s his job to figure this stuff out. The owners are paying him that much money to take the game in the right direction, but right now, it’s going in the wrong direction.

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