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    HomeSportIn video to teams, NFL defends roughing the passer rule

    In video to teams, NFL defends roughing the passer rule

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    No, the rule regarding roughing the passer likely isn’t changing. At least not if the league office has a say in the matter. And it most definitely does.

    Kalyn Kahler of TheAthletic.com reports that the league office sent a video on Wednesday to all 32 teams regarding the situation. In the video, NFL senior V.P. of officiating administration Perry Fewell “defended” Monday night’s controversial roughing call on defensive end Chris Jones in the Raiders-Chiefs game.

    “The Kansas City defender executes his rush plan in his effort to sack the quarterback,” Fewell said in the video, per the report. “He lands with his full body weight on the drive to the ground. A quarterback in the pocket, in a passing posture, gets full protection until he can defend himself. This was a properly called foul for roughing the passer.”

    As Kahler notes, Fewell doesn’t address in the video the fact that Jones actually takes the ball from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr with one hand or that Jones braces himself with his left hand. Which necessarily means Jones did not land with his full body weight on Carr.

    Frankly, that’s emblematic of the type of two plus two equals five explanations that have become all too typical when the league tries to explain how the rules apply to a given situation. Alas, long gone are the days when the likes of Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, former officiating czars within the league office, provided transparent and accurate explanations that meshed with the clear and obvious visual evidence.

    The video also included examples of proper techniques when striking or tackling quarterbacks. The video inexplicably omitted the controversial (and potentially game altering) roughing call made Sunday on Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett against Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.

    The better explanation as to any of these supposedly close calls is that they flow from this rulebook-based directive to officials: “When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the referee should always call roughing the passer.”

    When in doubt. So if there’s doubt as to whether a hit was legal, throw the flag. That’s probably why referee Carl Cheffers threw a flag on Jones, and it’s probably why referee Jerome Boger threw a flag on Jarrett.

    These are human beings who are trying to understand with the naked eye a series of blurs and flashes playing out in front of them. How often will it be clear that a defensive player did or didn’t commit roughing the passer? Doubt will abound, but the officials are expressly expected to resolve doubt in favor of throwing the flag.

    That would have been the more accurate explanation from Fewell. Cheffers had doubt, so he threw the flag. Boger had doubt, so he threw the flag.

    Games shouldn’t turn on whether the referee had reasonable doubt about whether roughing occurred. Too much rides on the outcome of those calls. There has to be a better way to ensure accuracy in these situations.

    The simplest solution would be to remove “when in doubt” from the rulebook, and to expect the referee to call roughing only when the referee actually sees roughing. If there’s concern that the referee hasn’t clearly seen it, then the league should assist the referee with replay review.

    But the league doesn’t want to embrace replay for roughing, primarily because the league so badly screwed up replay review three years ago for pass interference. And that’s perhaps the saddest statement of all. The NFL won’t try to make things better when it come to replay review of roughing the passer because the NFL fears a repeat of its own proven incompetence when trying to make things better with replay review in the past.

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