beast mode

“In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground was where I spent the most of my days.” – Will Smith

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.

Jimmy Smith, Devin Hester, facemaskMy 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.

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6 comments

  1. hsharf · November 18, 2014

    Ultimately, I agree that the NFL’s rule changes over the past few years have created a much less violent and entertaining game. This has led to increased offense and the downfall of hard hitting defenses. The NFL has done everything in their power to reduce injuries to the high valued assets: offensive players. There is nothing glamorous about defense. All the money, fame, and glamor rests in the offensive positions. People know, want to be, and idolize QB’s, RB’s, WR’s. Offense is what people pay to see, and therefore the NFL wants to protect their high priced players that people pay to see. Therefore, they have made rules that make the QB a position that hardly ever gets hit. Furthermore, they look to protect RB’s and WR’s by penalizing defense players for hitting with the crown of their head. These type of rules protect the offensive player and thus keeps them on the field. Consequently, people are getting to see the offense players they know and love. Another consequence of these changes has been the lack of defense being played. Defense has overwhelmingly diminished as a whole in the NFL. Teams are focused on the passing game. Nonetheless, last years Super Bowl champion Seahawks showed that defense still wins in the NFL.

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  2. aricerq · November 18, 2014

    After reading your post, it is clear that you find that football is losing its integrity by maker rules for safer, less dangerous and damaging play. While I understand that you may be disappointed in these changes because you think it changes the game too drastically, almost making unrecognizable to the football you grew up watching. I can’t help but disagree with you in saying that these changes are negative. There is no doubt that football is a dangerous sport, if not one of the most dangerous sports, and this puts players at risk of devastating injuries that can range from a concussion to being paraplegic. Are you aware that most NFL players who were involved in intense physical contact don’t live past their late fifties due to various health related issues causes by the rough contact, included severe brain damage. So I can’t see exactly what is so wrong in creating rules that will make the game safer, which will then increase the life span for these players. Is their life less valuable to you then your enjoyment of the game? Interesting.

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  3. benlangt · November 18, 2014

    I have to agree with the rules changes the NFL has made, even though some may say it infringes upon the original nature of the game. However, I feel there comes a point when the safety of your players is a significant issue. When I watch any football, I always see a number of injuries. I would say 33% of games have at least one player who suffers a season-ending injury. I whole-heartedly agree with Mark Tracy in regards to football still keeping its integrity even though safety rules are being added. I believe because of these rules changes players will have to rely more on a mental sense than a physical sense now which will make the game that much more interesting to watch. Last year, numerous players were injured in the pre-season leading to them playing in very few games during the regular season.
    In contrast, if the lowering the helmet rule would have been in effect during Marshawn Lynch’s incredible run against the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFC Wild Card game the play would have been negated; and I would not have thought of it to be the best run ever.

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  4. ethanmartin95 · November 18, 2014

    To me, violence doesn’t make a football game. I could care less about the hard hits. I still want there to be aggressiveness in the game, but the sport doesn’t need violence and injury. We should be minimizing this as much as we can. If the NFL organization wants to change the rules to make it safer, then please do. There are so many athletes that get concussed or physically damaged in some way that ruin lives and careers. If we can prevent this, then we should take any measure to do so. As long as fans are still cheering and there is still a defense trying to stop and offense, then football still exists. Sports should be about persevering through pain and hardship, not about hurting the other opponent. Sports like running, swimming, and rowing have the right idea. No one is out there to hurt someone and inflict pain. They are out there to be the best and push the body to its extremes. We need to keep sports safe. Changing the rules slightly is a good thing. It didn’t change the game, and it didn’t change the aggressiveness. It’s still football.

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  5. ksinetar · November 19, 2014

    First off, I am a Jets fan so your love for the giants sickens me. Although our teams compete in the same market I have to say I agree with the general thesis of your post. The more we change the game of football the less it reflects the history of the game so many have come to know and love. If we eliminate the physicality of football it really is not football. Many argue that it is unfair to put the players at both physical and mental risk. However this argument does not ring true to me. Players enter the National Football League knowing full well what the risks are. They are also heavily compensated for the risks they take. If a player is scared to get hurt they should not be in the National Football League. The NFL is a brutal sport and it requires the mental and physical aptitude that you mentioned in your post.

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  6. shenwick · November 23, 2014

    I also agree that these rules make football not as fun to watch. But shouldn’t we care about the players bodies? Would you rather players living a normal life after football or destroying their bodies for your entertainment?

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