Is the NFL Becoming Soft or Smart?

Is the NFL Becoming Soft or Smart?

At what point does the National Football League change its name to the National “Flag” League? And with all these new “ticky-tack” flags in the NFL involving the quarterback this season, at what point does two-hand touch football get integrated into the league? As a fan it is incredibly frustrating when your team’s defense makes a great play to stop the opposing offense, only to find out that they get a free fifteen yards because someone breathed on the quarterback. One would think that fans are so sick of it all that it would drive them away from watching the games, however, these penalties are actually doing the opposite. Without even being aware of it, these penalties are keeping fans engaged and interested because their star quarterbacks are on the field leading their offense down the field to win games. The NFL is deciding its time to protect their money making quarterbacks through redefined rules such as the roughing the passer penalties, and enforcing stricter fines against accused players. As frustrating as these altered rules may feel to fans, this is actually the smartest move the NFL has made since helmets were made a requirement to wear.

NFL television ratings fell in 2017 by 9.7 percent in an injury-riddled season for quarterbacks featuring torn ACLs by likely league MVP Carson Wentz and rising star Deshaun Watson, a broken collarbone from one of the greatest all time Aaron Rodgers, and a nagging shoulder injury for established quarterback Andrew Luck. This is equivalent to an average of 1.6 million fewer viewers every game according to However, there is good news for the NFL this season: according to the NFL television ratings are up 4 percent. A big reason why these ratings have gone up is due to the high scoring resulting in exciting games. 504 touchdowns and 4,489 points are both record setting numbers through six weeks in the NFL. 332 of these touchdowns have been accounted for by quarterbacks, while 1,408 points have been accounted for by kickers. This leaves 1,089 points to be accumulated by running backs, defense, and special teams combined. What do all these numbers reveal to NFL fans other than the fact that I am a geek for statistics? They show how impactful the quarterback position is on on the game of football. In the eyes of Rodger Goodell and team owners across the league, losing 1.6 million viewers a game is losing a lot of money. Now ratings are back up due to the amount of scoring in the league thanks to the quarterbacks.

The top quarterbacks need to be on the field to have this impact, and in order to keep them where they belong the NFL has taken the unpopular approach: penalties galore. In the 2017 season through six weeks there had been 36 roughing the passer penalties called. This season there have been 51 called.  These strict rules have been the catalyst to fans screaming at the refs through their television out of pure frustration and confusion. What so many frustrated, screaming fans don’t realize is that their Sunday’s would be much more boring if their starting quarterback was on the sideline due to a season-ending injury. No matter who you cheer for, it is a near guarantee that your favorite team would be in much worse shape if your quarterback got hurt.

As a fan of the game reflect on this. On October 14th Sunday night football featured the New England Patriots out dual the Kansas City Chiefs 43-40 on a field goal as time expired. In that game Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes combined for nearly 700 yards of offense and five touchdowns. Tom Brady is considered by many as the greatest quarterback of all time, and Patrick Mahomes is perhaps the most exciting young player in the NFL currently. Now tell me, would you be more likely to watch a high scoring shootout of great football between these two quarterbacks or a makeshift game between Chad Henne and Brian Hoyer, the two backup quarterbacks? I don’t care who the running backs are or who is on defense, if Chad Henne and Brian Hoyer are facing off I’d rather catch up with the Kardashians or do work ahead on some homework.

NFL quarterbacks need to stay healthy for the sake of fans, teammates, and owners across the country. There is no worse feeling as a fan than wanting to turn off the game before its over due to a dreadful performance from a backup quarterback. So, as frustrating as these newly revised rules are over the course of a game, fans need to cope with the pain because the revisions will not be changing anytime soon. Any day of the week I would take soft and healthy NFL that is much more entertaining over a violent and injury prone NFL.