Can the NFL fix the roughing the passer rule? Potential solutions

One concussed NFL quarterback and two questionable flags for roughing the passer. That’s all it took for the first officiating feeding frenzy of the 2022 season.

There isn’t any proof that Tua Tagovailoa‘s concussion, and its next fallout, is attached to the pair of penalty flags that brought on leaguewide dialogue Sunday and Monday. It makes for a very easy narrative — referees Jerome Boger and Carl Cheffers threw unwarranted flags at the behest of a league that is attempting to control its popularity for participant protection — however it is not supported by way of the rest concrete.

Multiple league and officiating resources stated Tuesday there was no edict to additional give protection to quarterbacks following the Tagovailoa incident. ESPN officiating analyst John Parry, a retired referee who maintains shut ties with the league’s officiating division, stated: “There has been no directive to change anything.”

So what’s going on right here? Why did we see Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett penalized 15 yards Sunday for “unnecessarily” throwing Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady to the flooring, as Boger described it? And why did Cheffers throw a flag on Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones for touchdown on Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr together with his complete frame weight, as Cheffers stated in a next pool record?

NFL homeowners will speak about roughing the passer once they meet subsequent week in New York, and the NFL’s pageant committee already has plans to talk about the penalty after the season amid outrage over the two disputed calls.

Let’s take a deeper take a look at the scenario, together with the revelation that roughing the passer consequences have in truth plummeted this season, ahead of taking into account conceivable solutions — together with replay assessment.

Did you assert roughing the passer flags are down?

Yes. There had been 29 roughing consequences this season, in step with the ESPN Stats & Information database. That’s down from 54 via Week 5 closing season, 41 in 2020 and 59 in 2010.

The NFL’s pageant committee was once involved that officers threw too many flags for roughing the passer in 2021. The overall was once 153, a 12% upward thrust from 2020. In reviewing video of the 2021 season, the committee — with improve from the NFL’s soccer operations division — discovered too many cases of flags for gentle or inadvertent touch. So the committee issued some degree of rationalization to remind officers that the rulebook calls for “forcible” touch to advantage a flag.

So why are we nonetheless seeing a majority of these calls?

The flags from Boger and Cheffers fall into a class the NFL added to the rulebook in 2018, and is solely tangentially associated with the factor of “forcible” touch the pageant committee clarified this spring. The amended roughing the passer rule prohibits defenders “from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as ‘stuffing’ a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball.”

The rule is going on to mention a defender “must strive to fall to the side of the quarterback’s body, or to brace his fall with his arms to avoid landing on the quarterback with all or most of his body weight.”

After issuing its rationalization this spring, the pageant committee informed officers it was once happy with the approach they had been calling the frame weight/unnecessarily throwing element of the rule and really useful they proceed on the present trail.

Did Jarrett truly throw Brady to the flooring unnecessarily?

It’s a judgment name, and that is the reason partially why the lead referee is nearly only chargeable for calling roughing the passer consequences.

Sometimes referees make errors, and this would not be the first time this season now we have observed Boger throw a flag for roughing the passer that did not move the eye take a look at. You solely have to return to Week 4, when he penalized Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens for what he later stated was once “forcible contact to the head/neck” of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Replays confirmed Stephens hit Allen in the chest.

In Kansas City, what may Jones have finished in a different way?

Jones was once in an atypical scenario as a result of the ball got here free as he and Carr had been falling. Jones naturally and instinctively used one arm to seize the ball, proscribing his skill to brace the fall or roll to the aspect. Cheffers stated in the pool record that he judged Jones to have landed on Carr “with his full body weight.” Again, that may be a judgment name, however the fumble definitely difficult the scenario for Jones.

Is there any strategy to fix this?

The NFL will assessment roughing the passer in the offseason. The league, if truth be told, evaluations each play of each season as soon as it’s over. There isn’t any indication that the league will exchange the rest in the non permanent, alternatively, because it normally tries to steer clear of overreacting to a handful of high-profile calls. While they have got made in-season changes to administrative laws, together with the concussion protocol, there is not any precedent for converting the written phrases of a subjective judgment name all the way through the process a season.

What about in the longer term?

The NFL may imagine 3 choices.

First, it might do not anything.

Second, it might carry the same old for throwing a flag for the frame weight/unnecessarily throwing element of roughing the passer, requiring extra drive and violence to advantage a penalty. The league, alternatively, hardly adjustments laws to offer much less coverage for quarterbacks. If it selected this path, it may well be finished via a directive to officers all the way through the season or in a rule exchange all the way through the offseason. Again, there is not any indication the NFL is taking a look to make any in-season changes.

Third, it might make roughing the passer matter to replay assessment.

Replay assessment? Oh no…

Oh sure.

The Chiefs’ Jones is amongst the ones advocating for such calls to be reviewed, noting how considerably they are able to have an effect on the end result of a recreation. NFL homeowners usually had been adversarial to creating subjective judgment calls a part of replay assessment, with the one-year exception of move interference in 2019, who prefer as a substitute to restrict it to purpose measurements corresponding to whether or not a participant was once in bounds or if he was once down by way of touch.

Adding roughing the passer to replay assessment will require a rule exchange that wishes approval from 24 of 32 homeowners.

Would it paintings?

It would rely on the same old the NFL used to study such calls. Overturning a decision on the box these days calls for “clear and obvious” proof of a mistake, in step with the league rulebook. When implemented to move interference in 2019, that normal proved too excessive to handle maximum demanding situations. The league overturned solely 24 of 101 move interference performs it reviewed.

One supply with deep wisdom of officiating stated, underneath the present same old, the Week 5 Boger name would most likely be overturned however the Cheffers name could be upheld.

In order to extra aggressively deal with disputes in replay, the same old must permit the play to be “re-officiated” quite than seen for a transparent and glaring mistake. That will require a vital philosophical exchange from homeowners who’re already leery about recreation interruptions and technological intrusions on the recreation.

Where can we cross from right here?

The likeliest end result is the establishment. Officials are human. Sometimes they make errors, and from time to time their calls exchange the end result of video games. This set of calls got here with coincidental timing of a far higher and critical tale. The NFL addressed the fallout of Tagovailoa’s concussion by way of updating its concussion protocols however now not, by way of all accounts, asking officers to lift quarterback coverage.

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