Over the course of the last five NFL seasons, the league has seen its teams set numerous offensive records for points and yards, and the league has seen its first few 5,000 yard passing seasons. The players keep getting better and better, right? Wrong.
While that may be true to an extent, the main reason for this offensive outburst is the deliberate handcuffing of the league’s defensive players – in particular that of defensive backs. In the first week of the new emphasis on cutting down on “illegal-contact penalties”, during the 2014 preseason, officials called 27 illegal-contact infractions (CBS Sports). Twenty. Freakin’. Seven. Sure, this number has lowered a bit in its two years of existence, mostly because the players have adapted, but wow it’s getting hard to watch. I get it, the NFL is under a lot of pressure with the concussion epidemic, but the NFL brass has gone too far. It’s in my deepest of opinions that football can keep its players safe (relative to the safety now) while holding on to its physical roots. Nothing quite breaks one’s football spirit seeing a defensive back lay up on a receiver at the expense of his team because he’s scared he’ll get fined or suspended if he makes a play on the ball, and rightfully so. It truly has never been harder for a defensive back, and I now believe this to be the toughest position to play in all of football. Even when the rules weren’t heavily stacked against them, DBs have always had to fight the odds. Corners are on average two inches shorter and nine pounds lighter than their receiving counterparts, whereas safeties give up four inches and forty-nine pounds to tight ends (Elias Sports Bureau via Greg Garber). And now, defensive backs cannot so much as breathe on opposing receivers without a flag being thrown, despite giving up so much size and not possessing a clue as to where the ball or the receiver are going. Also, I don’t know about you, but I fell in love with football because of the physical play. I don’t need to see shootouts to be entertained – in fact, I usually prefer watching lower scoring games – it’s just better football to me. If I wanted to watch games that featured no contact, flags for every big hit, and video-game like passing numbers, I’d watch Arena Football.
Could this be a further indictment of our “now” society that needs to be constantly stimulated – the society that has seen the downfall of Major League Baseball? Is it true that fans would rather see high scoring outputs rather than well-played football games? I don’t know – I don’t have the answer. What I will tell you is that football is a few years and a few more rule changes away from turning into the NFFL.