While this is somewhat factual, I did not grow up an avid Philadelphia sports fan like Smith. With my dad being from Old Tappan, NJ (a small town just outside of New York City), I am a die-hard New York Giants fan. Along with that, I was given the opportunity to watch one of the most physically punishing running backs in the history of the NFL – Brandon Jacobs.
Sadly, the NFL has infused a new rule stating that running backs are no longer allowed to lower the crown of the helmet in order to knock the defender away and continue running. While it is not pictured in the GIF above, Jacobs found most of his success in the NFL (two Super Bowl rings) from running in the violent style depicted in the video. Personally, I have been upset by the rule change because it has changed the style of football that is going to be successful on a professional level. The impact is twofold – first, the NFL is endorsing the use of more agile running backs such as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles, and second, it is indicating teams that they would find more success as a primarily passing-based offense.
In “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?” Marc Tracy argues that football does not lose its integrity by becoming a safer sport. I can only find myself on the side of disagreement here – knowing that my favorite team and its style of football is falling prey to the NFL trying to make the league safer first and foremost makes me a disgruntled fan. And especially coming from Philadelphia, home of the craziest fans in sports, I have had to spend most of my life defending the capabilities of my Giants against a much more consistent (except in the playoffs) Eagles football team. Now, the Giants are still trying to play smash-mouth football with the backfield tandem of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, but they are struggling to fund success, especially in comparison to the spread offense being run by forger Oregon head coach Charles “Chip” Kelly.
Secondly, this rule change would have negated one of the greatest runs in the history of football. In the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs in 2011, the Seattle Seahawks were leading by 4 against the New Orleans Saints. On 2nd & 10 from the 33 yard line, Matt Hasselbeck handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, and ‘beast mode’ was born:
Alas, if the rule about the crown of the helmet were to have been in place, Lynch would have been flagged at the very beginning of the play for lowering his helmet into the defensive lineman. Not only did I have him in my playoff fantasy lineup that night, but that is a football moment I am never going to forget. Had the play been penalized, it would not have had nearly the same impact that it holds today.
The other rule change that is discussed is in relation to tackling during training camp over the summer. Currently during the pre-season, there are strict rules that have been put in place and essentially have gotten rid of all tackling. This practice is going to punish teams who find most of their success from defense (the Giants included) because the players are not going to be prepared to play for the rest of the year.
My personal feeling about football is that the game should be played with brute force and test the players ability to withstand both mentally and physically grueling challenges. If defenders are not prepared to tackle opposing players, one of two things are going to happen – either defenders are going to be unable to tackle players and offenses will explode for more yards and points than ever seen before, or defenders will resort to grabbing facemasks (seen left) and using helmet-to-helmet contact to make the tackle. Ultimately, both of these practices will not be able to sustain the integrity of the game, and the league will begin to fall apart, or as Tracy would put it, the NFL would look more like a flag football league.
The other viewpoint behind this rule change is that it will be a good thing because less people will get injured during the pre-season which will be able to further sustain the longevity of careers. This past season, the Cowboys lost Pro-Bowl middle linebacker Sean Lee to a knee injury because of a tackling mishap at training camp and it has definitely affected their defense as he was their captain. This viewpoint would also make the argument that there should be minimal contact before the season so that players are fresh for the beginning of the season and will not already worn down. My answer to that would be players will not be prepared to play at a professional level and the quality of football would be sloppy for a while.
Overall, I am not a fan of these rule changes in the NFL and they have negatively effected my viewership. I have had less of an urge to watch football because it has a substantially less amount of contact than what used to exist and it has punished my favorite team. As a fan, the changes have left me very disgruntled because I have had to watch my team suffer, while watching divisional rivals find great success.