NFL Rules: A matter of safety or a manner of showmanship?



You always talk about a running game, but, Tony, who gives a shit as long as you're winning? People want to see passes, touchdowns, high scores. That's the game today.

Yet another famous scene from that old famous movie. Just like so many other themes from that movie, I find myself understanding and relating to it now, even better than I did when it actually came out.

Are these gaudy passing numbers by design? Are these new safety rules about entertainment value?

The NFL IS more and more a passing league. As FOX's Scott Fujita pointed out, the first week of this season, NFL teams threw for a combined 8,143 passing yards, the highest total in NFL history. Not Week 1 history. League history. He continues to point out all the rules that make this happen. "Defenseless receivers" are protected, opening up high percentage routes that were previously off limits for fear of the "enforcer" DB. Meanwhile those same rules limit DBs tools to defend those routes.

Offensive holding calls go unflagged week after week. Sure, some get called, but OCs know they don't get called nearly as often as they happen. Complaints in the blogs about Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan being held get dismissed with "everyone gets held, they need to find a way to deal with it."

Ok, so its now harder to shut down the receivers and harder to get to the quarterback. Oh yeah, the quarterbacks. AKA "The Signal Caller" AKA "The face of the franchise" AKA "The lion's share of all your team's money before everyone else gets to pick over leftovers". Oh yes, we love our Quarterbacks, so much so that allotting about 10% of your TOTAL salary cap to a solid veteran QB is considered the norm for a front office. Check these percentage allotments for every team here.

Quick name and rank the top five big name QBs? How about the highest paid? Ok now the top five best paid RBs? Its no wonder of the 16 players in the NFL making >100M$ 13 are QBs. Oh and you few teams who aren't shelling out the bucks for a QB? Well, maybe you're LUCKy and have a cheap rookie star. Don't get too comfy Washington, Seattle or Indy, because the smart analysts say you'd better be stacking up your surrounding rosters now to absorb the inevitable hit. When those rookie contracts expire those guys are going to want their money and you WILL pay it. Right now your rookie phenom is merely a credit card with a great introductory APR.

The only other cheap QBs... suck. As we said before, this is a passing league where you are either a have or a have not. (Why else is a QB worth 100M$ or worth trading away almost as many draft picks as you have fingers on your right hand?). But boy do we protect that investment. As long as Eli Manning is in the pocket, you get a fine and 15 yards if you cough on him after the ball leaves his hand. Meanwhile big brother superstar Peyton taking a questionable hit is the talk of the NFL. Mind you, two weeks earlier, when that same defender tried to rip Alfred Morris's head off by the facemask... nothing. (I would have included a link to an article or picture about it, but THERE ARE NONE.) Hey, its just a running back right?

So what have we learned? The rules in place favor protecting quarterbacks, protecting wide receivers and helping both to rack up more yards and completions. Ok. Why? "Safety?" I think not. I propose that it's about excitement. Old school fundamental smash mouth, ground and pound football is a thing of beauty if you understand what you are looking at. Its a brilliant exhibition of strategy, willpower and athleticism, if you understand what you are looking at. Unfortunately, if you DON'T know what you are looking at, its seems boring as crap.

You know what's not boring? Touchdowns. High Scores. The moment of anticipation watching the camera zoom in on a ball flying through to air to a leaping receiver. Will he catch it? I don't know. I'm riveted. Will he? Won't he? Catch! TOUCHDOWN! Elation!!!

Face it. The passing game is flashy. Its thus exciting to watch. Its also very easy for the casual fans and the brand new to understand and be entertained by. The passing game is exciting football for the masses. Its showmanship. If there is one thing Mr. Roger we-gots-to-thicken-our-F*n-revnue-stream Goodell wants, its to expand past the current die hard core fan base. Maybe he is taking a page out of Ms. Pagniacci's book. Maybe I just watch too many movies.

What do you think? Is the NFL intentionally skewing towards the offense and the passing game in order to promote a more dynamic, high flying presentation for the viewers?

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