For the past several seasons, football junkies on every level and of every aspect have been debating the issue of player safety to it’s death. For mothers and grandmothers the debate rages on with resounding support for more and more rules to help make the game “safer” while fathers and sons the debate usually takes a stance somewhere along the lines of “we’re becoming soccer” and “you can’t take the hits out of football and call it football”.
Ok, maybe the whole women vs men thing was a highly generalized exaggeration, but you get the gist of my point, right? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting the players their education on their own safety and helping them to understand that taking a cheap shot to the head of another dude must be penalized harshly. But all of the rules are getting to such a point that defense is generally at a zero on the slider scale of difficulty, while the offense sits at 99. If you didn’t get the NCAA Football (soon to be “College Football”) series reference, that’s ok, but basically the defense has been put at the maximum disadvantage by the rules in place in the college game as it stands today.
Even so few as five years ago the defense still had some say in the outcome of a football game. But it’s gotten to the point where if a defense holds even a bad offense under 30 they’ve done quite a job in today’s world. A hard hit doesn’t do anything for you in the form of intimidation anymore, in fact, the offense welcomes it and immediately reacts with the old “pull the flag out and gimme 15″ routine anytime they even so much as get bumped off balance.
It happens at such a clip that it seems at times that the offense would rather get a penalty than make a play. Of course the drastic change in attitude has prompted the terms “finesse” and “soft” from old football heads all over the world about today’s game. That’s why we should get a real sense of relief and even manly pride when we see an offensive guru such as Mike Leach stick up for lack of fair play for the defense. There are some that would call Leach “finesse”, as his offensive genius and philosophy takes most of the “smash” out of “smash-mouth”.
There can be little doubt though that yesterday’s comments by Leach on ESPN’s “First Take” were simply hardcore:
I’m getting tired of everyone apologizing for playing football. Football makes a ton of money and that’s not even the issue. Football’s fun to play… now all of the sudden we’re nuancing this thing and cluttering this up.
(Jadeveon) Clowney’s hit… with all due respect to the officials, you’ve got old guys out there with bifocals on trying to identify in a split second who lowered their head first.
A huge simultaneous “thank you” from the ever-entertaining (if not at times retarded and annoyingly controversial) duo of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless followed the prompt from Leach that the new tackling rules are “hurting the game and hopefully it’ll get corrected shortly”. They weren’t the only ones I’m sure.
By the way if you’ve been living under a rock or in a football deprived cave those new rules include a 15 yard personal foul penalty and possible immediate player ejections for helmet to helmet contact (including a ball-carrier lowering his head outside the tackle box), along with more 15 yard personal foul penalties for interpreted “excessive contact” to an even more interpreted “defenseless player”, among other rules (particularly those regarding the now basically untouchable quarterback).
While I’ve been somewhat a proponent of most of the new player safety rules and continue to highly support safer gear and the like, I see exactly where Leach is coming from and I can’t help but to agree with him. There’s too much going on in a football game to really decipher a reaction vs an intentional act and penalize to the point of throwing out a guy on what is a 99% judgement call by an official.
Excessive contact is a joke in a football game, or at least it used to be. Leach is right on the nail with this one and as usual puts it in the perfect context for digestion, even if it’s not all politically correct when he puts his quirky spin on it. He even points out that the Clowney hit (deemed the hardest memorable hit in football last season by most everybody and drawing a renewed energy to this controversial stance from the NCAA rules committee) didn’t have an injury attached to it.
You can draw your own conclusions on the issue, but the game in many-a-personal opinion has been watered down past the original concern for player safety, apparently including Mike Leach.
To get more Leach quotes about the famed Jadeveon Clowney hit against Michigan and more penalty thoughts from First Take and more analysis on the whole issue you can go to this link at Cougfan.