This has been a wildly entertaining season for the NFL thus far, but fans and players alike have problems with the area of focus that the league brought about this off-season. This is area of focus is on the way that QBs are tackled in the backfield, which many are calling the “Aaron Rodgers Rule”.
The rule reads as such, “A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball … When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer.”
Let’s break that down a little bit before we dive into what is wrong with the change. It starts by prohibiting “stuffing”, or “unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball”. This is completely reasonable in my eyes, and I have no problem with this particular protection of the QB, as it has caused injury to many quarterbacks in the past. The rule then goes on to say that if a QB is in a “defenseless posture” then the defender must not “unnecessarily” land on top of him with all their weight. The next sentence is where this rule becomes a BIG problem for the league as a whole. It says that the defender must strive to not land on the passer.
That word, strive, is why I have a problem with this rule. That leaves the entirety of the penalty up to the referee to decide intent of the defender. This has caused multiple calls that have not only been HIGHLY questionable, but even one that decided a game. The player who has had the biggest problem with the new rule is Packers LB Clay Matthews. Matthews has led the charge for reform of the controversial rule, even going as far as calling the league “soft”.
Unfortunately, the biggest case to change this rule comes at the expense of Dolphins DE William Hayes. Hayes tore his ACL while trying to avoid landing on Derek Carr this past Sunday. The fact of the matter is that it is essentially impossible to consistently follow the guidelines of the rule without injury. This is a player whose season, maybe even his career will be ended for a rule with costs that outweigh the benefits.
NFL, please change this rule. I’m not even disagreeing with the idea behind the rule, but the execution is ruining the game, and has even been proven dangerous to the players. Leaving the referees to determine intent is a bad path to take, and frankly it is making the game of football much less enjoyable to the viewers as well as the players who must change everything they know about the game of football.