Here’s how the NFL can solve its quarterback protection mess – NFL Nation

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New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was on to one thing earlier this week. Chatting with reporters on Wednesday, he previewed the likeliest resolution to the NFL’s quarterback safety fiasco.

The rule itself doesn’t must be modified, mentioned Payton, who’s a member of the NFL’s competitors committee. What the NFL needs and wishes, he mentioned, was for defenders to keep away from “deliberately” falling on quarterbacks with all or most of their physique weight.

“Hear,” Payton added. “I feel it is extra in regards to the consistency from crew to crew, and the message from crew to crew to get that on the identical web page. And that is with any new rule, however that is the most important problem.”

In reality, a small group of referees are liable for a big share of roughing the passer flags this season, a discrepancy that the NFL hopes to clean out after issuing a rule clarification Thursday afternoon. It is clear what the league needs — flags when gamers deliberately fall on quarterbacks — however it’s apparent that it didn’t successfully talk that goal this offseason to all 17 of its officiating crews.

A overview of officiating information, by way of ESPN Stats & Data’s database, reveals that 4 referees have known as 53 p.c of this season’s roughing the passer penalties. Because the chart beneath exhibits, greater than half of the remaining referees have known as one or none of those penalties.

Roughing The Passer Penalties By Crew

Referee Rouging QB
flags
Week four
project
Morelli, Peter 6 Saints at Giants
Cheffers, Carl 5 Texans at Colts
Anderson, Walt four Browns at Raiders
Parry, John three BYE
Corrente, Tony 2 Ravens at Steelers
Hussey, John 2 Seahawks at Cardinals
Martin, Clay 2 Jets at Jaguars
Vinovich, Invoice 2 Payments at Packers
Wrolstad, Craig 2 Chiefs at Broncos
Allen, Brad 1 Vikings at Rams
Blakeman, Clete 1 BYE
Hochuli, Shawn 1 Eagles at Titans
Kemp, Alex 1 Dolphins at Patriots
Smith, Shawn 1 Bengals at Falcons
Torbert, Ronald 1 49ers at Chargers
Coleman, Walt zero Lions at Cowboys
Boger, Jerome zero Buccaneers at Bears
Supply: ESPN
Stats & Data

And it in all probability wasn’t a coincidence that Payton talked about the problem of crew-to-crew consistency this week. The Saints’ sport Sunday on the New York Giants might be dealt with by referee Pete Morelli’s crew, which occurs to steer the NFL with six roughing the passer penalties this season.

The crews of Morelli, Carl Cheffers (5), Walt Anderson (4) and John Parry (three) known as 18 of the 34 roughing the passer fouls by Week three. Not all have been for touchdown on a quarterback with all or many of the physique weight, however the level of emphasis has spurred a a lot wider sensitivity towards quarterback safety.

However, three weeks needs to be a large enough pattern measurement to theorize that the NFL hasn’t skilled a widespread and elementary breakdown in the way it needs roughing the passer officiated. If solely a small slice of referees have gone overboard, as the information would recommend, then it should not be an enormous challenge to rein them in by higher weekly communication.

Thursday’s clarification might give referees the leeway they may not have beforehand felt to keep away from penalizing defenders who fell on quarterbacks as a result of that they had no different affordable choice. Inexperienced Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been penalized twice for such cases, instructed reporters that officiating intent is tough however “what you’d prefer to see.”

Clay Matthews has been penalized for roughing the passer thrice in three video games in 2018. AP Picture/Alex Brandon

He added: “As a result of that is the most important factor is what you see from — not less than my two hits on the quarterback — it is intent. There is a large distinction between falling on a man and driving a man on the bottom, and I feel that may permit the officiating to get a lot cleaner.”

Discrepancies amongst referees have been apparent, Matthews mentioned.

“I feel there’s been numerous inconsistency with the way it’s been known as with totally different crews on the market,” he mentioned. “I feel that was possibly to clear it up, for officiating.”

Certainly, the duty of reaching what Payton known as “consistency from crew to crew” is not as daunting as it would seem. Primarily based on area positioning, the referee is liable for watching the quarterback within the pocket and is nearly all the time the one who truly throws the flag for fouls that happen there. In different phrases, the road of communication on this subject would go straight from the NFL workplace to the referee, reasonably than from the workplace to the referee to different officers on the crew who’re liable for different penalties.

To be clear, one of these penalty discrepancy isn’t as uncommon as you would possibly suppose. It is one thing NFL groups monitor repeatedly, some extra overtly than others, and is generally the results of variations in human judgment. Evaluate it to baseball, wherein plate umpires typically have their very own model of the strike zone.

This season, for instance, three NFL crews — these headed by Morelli, Ronald Torbert and Craig Wrolstad — have thrown 15 flags for offensive holding in three video games. In the meantime, referee Invoice Vinovich’s crew has known as three. Cheffers’ crew has known as seven. Meaning some crews have been calling holding 5 instances as typically as one other. A portion of that distinction is as a result of groups concerned within the video games, however a lot of these discrepancies typically persist by the course of the season.

It is doable the NFL will not, or will not be capable of, clean out requires roughing the passer. On this case, it should steadiness what it considers a non-negotiable dedication to participant security with the optics of flags for what purists name “soccer performs.”

However there’s a means out of this mess, if the NFL chooses to comply with by. Payton and Matthews instructed us every little thing we wanted to know this week.

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