Opinions of a Traditionalist: Tackle Football

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When I think back about my childhood, there were three kinds of football to be played. One was flag football that usually happened in gym class. This was because no one in our neighborhood had actual flags, unless you counted a work rag you tucked into the waistband of the shorts or pants you were wearing. The other was two hand touch football. This would transpire after church when you wanted to play football but didn’t want to go home and change out of your Sunday-Go-to Meeting duds. And god forbid you came home with torn slacks or grass stains on your knees. Finally there was “tackle football”and everything that implied. This was the preferred form of football.

Now since this was an unpadded sport, it was rare that anyone got blew up on a tackle. Most were just the form style tackle where you wrapped the player up and drove him to the ground. If you were to land on top the player you were tackling, it was a given. The one thing you find out early on is gravity is undefeated. If two over 200 pound players are engaged and and fall to the ground, it is almost inevitable that someone will be on the bottom of that pile. It is covered in the #1 official rule of “tackle football.” And I quote: “It’s Football!” This rule covers most tackles, claims of holding, interference or anything else. See rule#1.

So what brings up this trip down childhood memory lane? My beloved NFL has been busy again this offseason trying to protect their golden children, the NFL QB. In doing so, they have made the sport I love become a maddening experience. What once were the poster child for form tackles are getting called for personal fouls. Are they kidding me? Most were called because the offending player had the unmitigated gall of actually falling on the player they tackled. They really should see rule#1. This is FOOTBALL. By making a defensive player have to think so much about what is allowed and what is not when tackling the QB, they run the risk of letting the player slip away and make a play. This is good for the QB but not for the defensive player or his team. Side-note: In Sunday Night’s KC/NE game, the KC defensive player had Tom Brady in his grasp but let him go because he was afraid he was going to be penalized and Brady scored on the play. That is what happens when you make it so difficult for a defensive player to know what he can and can’t do. That is unacceptable.

I understand that the NFL doesn’t want their headlining QB’s getting hurt, especially when they are paid so much money. What they have to understand is that pass-rushers are also among the higher paid positions and they have a job to do too. (For matters of full disclosure, I am NOT a Packer fan, I am a Cowboys fan and I have my own issues). But Clay Matthews of the Packers became a flag magnet for tackles that were  about as perfect form wise as you could have. He didn’t aim for the head, or the legs (two of the no-hit zones outlawed in previous rules), he wrapped up the QB around his waist, his head to the outside and drove him down. His one mistake was he landed on the QB. As I mentioned previously, gravity is still in play here and it is almost impossible to NOT land on the player when you tackle him head on. But he was still flagged for the first three games for the same kind of tackle. What’s a defensive player to do here? They have been taught since pee-wee football how to tackle and I’m pretty sure at no time were they told to never fall on the player you are tackling. Of course they weren’t because that is ridiculous.

If the NFL wants a reminder of what a REAL roughing the passer looks like, I present a play that even in the rough and tumble NFL of the 70’s was called a penalty.

Compare that to this play by Clay Matthews of the Packers this season that the NFL claims is a perfect example of a foul on the poor, poor QB on this Twitter post:

If this is the kind of protection they are wanting to supply to QB’s, perhaps they should be treated like they still have their Sunday clothes on and make it two hand touch for them. This is obviously necessary since they apparently can’t be landed on, tackled or touched…oops, I guess that would eliminate the two-hand touch thingy. Better yet, let’s just go by our #1 rule: IT’S FOOTBALL!

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