October 10, 1976. That was the day that sacking the quarterback became assault and battery. It was a Monday Night Football game between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Browns’ defender Joseph Willie “Turkey” Jones picked Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw up and slammed him to the ground. Bradshaw was rendered unconscious, and Jones was feted for a “great hit.” Can you say, “times have changed?” Last weekend saw 28 roughing the passer flags thrown. That’s 20 more than last year at this time. Four of them came in Monday’s Bucs/Steelers game. Is this an effective way of keeping star quarterbacks on the field? Or, is it neutering defensive players? What about quarterbacks who go down without being hit? It’s a matter of discussion among players, fans, and talking heads. It’s a matter of discussion for Gildshire, as well.
Player safety is important. No one wants to see sports stars carted off the field, and yet football is, and always was a violent collision sport. Players are bigger and stronger than they have ever been. Soft tissue, cartilage, and ligaments have a breaking point. Injuries are an unfortunate byproduct of America’s favorite sport. They can never be effectively eliminated. Heck, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garropollo tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sunday by stepping awkwardly! He wasn’t even touched until after he blew out his knee. What can be done? What should be done?
So far, the NFL has put the onus on the defensive players. The league mandate is that the defender must not “land on the quarterback with all or most of his weight.” So, an onrushing defender must make contact with the QB and, in the same motion, spin off of him. Kind of like this:
We would call that an unreasonable expectation. (We would also call it nigh on to impossible for a player who averages about 250 pounds.)
So what is the answer? More and more, football fans are asking how defensive players are supposed to play the game. Even current and former quarterbacks are complaining that the toughness element of the game is being taken out of it. Has the National Football League gone (gulp) soft?
It hasn’t gone soft, but this may be an overreaction to what happened a year ago. During the 2017 season:
- Ryan Tannehill’s knee failed him again, and he missed Miami’s entire season with a torn ACL.
- Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford’s damaged knee ended yet another season for him.
- Carson Palmer suffered a broken arm in week seven when Arizona was still in the mix for the NFC West title. The Cards went 3-6 without him.
- Houston rookie Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice on a non-contact injury before Week 9.
- Derek Carr (back), Marcus Mariota (hamstring) and Jay Cutler (ribs) all missed at least one start due to injury
- Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6 when he absorbed a vicious hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. The injury required surgery, and Rodgers had 13 screws and two plates inserted in the collarbone to repair it.
- Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz’ tore his ACL in week 14 against the L.A. Rams.
- After dealing with shoulder injuries for two seasons, Andrew Luck finally had surgery in January 2017. After taking nine months to rehab, he started throwing again in October. He finally returned this year, though appears to still be diminished.
Football fans and football players alike would like to see a safe and sane resolution to the problem. Cries to put the quarterbacks in dresses have been made for years, but this year the cries are ever more universal than ever before. Monday’s Bucs/Steelers game was nearly unwatchable as yellow flags flew like confetti during New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and pass rushers were repeatedly called for roughing the passer.
Gildshire would like to see a summit meeting take place at Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office in New York City. Present would be offensive and defensive representatives from all 32 teams. Also at the summit would be medical staff and trainers, along with game officials. Together, this brain trust can find a way to protect quarterbacks and protect the game that America loves most of all. It can be done. It must be done, and soon.