The Houston Texans were victims of several questionable penalties in their loss to the Colts Thursday night.
But none were more ridiculous than the roughing the passer call on Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt in the second quarter.
With the Texans leading 10-3 early in the second quarter, Watt sacked Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky for a big loss on a 3rd and 5 at the Colts 23 which, under normal circumstances, would have forced a Colts punt and given the ball to the Texans with good field position.
Referee Jerome Boger’s crew threw a flag, one of many that night that made you go, huh? Yes there was incidental contact between the top of Watt’s helmet and the bottom left side Orlovsky’s helmet below the chinstrap buckle but Watt was clearly aiming at Orlovsky’s mid-body area. The two photos I’ve included at the left (it’s not really a ‘slide show’) illustrate it pretty clearly and there are multiple videos out there like this one that show it even better.
Even the announcers called it ticky tack. The result? Fifteen yards and an automatic first down. A field flipper in other words.
There’s a simple explanation for this, one that seems to be lost on the NFL competition committee whose hell bent rules on player safety are making the game unplayable for defenses.
Watt’s problem, like every other human being on this planet, is that his head is attached to the top of his shoulders. That becomes a problem when you put on a helmet and try to tackle another player that’s also wearing one. It’s especially difficult when a player you’re trying to tackle ducks his head at the last second because other rules (like those used in physics) prevent a defender from changing course on a tackle trajectory in the final moments before impact.
NFL officials, apparently, aren’t allowed to use common sense to assess a situation for intent or incidental contact. The rules that players (and frustrated fans) are subject to are well intended and geared toward player safety but the officials need the latitude to separate head-hunting and flagrant fouls from incidental contact. Maybe they already have that latitude – I admit that I don’t know the exact parameters of the rule. Someone enlighten me on that part please.
In the meantime, Greg Lucas of foxsportshouston.com has a great idea. Let’s just bring back leather helmets.
“the NFL is so concerned about helmet-to-helmet contact, it is time to go back to helmets that are used to protect the head only. Hmm, that sounds like leather to me — instead of hard plastic. In the leather helmet days players didn’t even think of using their heads as weapons. They didn’t even wear face masks. They still had injuries, but I’d like to compare the number of concussions from the 1940s and 50s to now. Maybe let quarterbacks wear plastic and everyone else leather. I’m grasping for answers here. The officials just have too much to do with too many games.”
Lucas is being tongue-in-cheek with that suggestion of course, and while comparing football from days past to today is probably an exercise in futility, the larger point remains. The current ‘helmet to helmet’ rule is flawed and needs re-work, and the officials need the latitude to separate flagrant from non-flagrant.
It’s either that or have the quarterbacks start wearing flags instead of having the referees constantly throwing them on plays that were not intentional or flagrant shots to the head.
There’s an old saying we have on the wall at work that applies here.
“Man must exist in a state of balance
between risk and safety.
Pure risk leads to self-destruction.
Pure safety leads to stagnation.
In between lies survival and progress.“
– Author Unknown
Dear Roger Goodell: You will never get to a state of ‘pure safety’ in the NFL. If that’s your goal, then only stagnation can follow.