NFL has pushed offensive bias too far
For now, at least, it’s time to do away with the bold NFL proclamations.
There is too much residual lockout upheaval, and the league, thanks to rule changes cracking down on helmet collisions, is transforming too quickly. It’s impossible to make sense of what we’re witnessing.
So let’s pump the brakes on the hyperbole. And let us begin that process with the Vikings-Packers “Monday Night Football” clash.
I’m asking respectfully. Could Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski, the color analysts for Monday night's game, resist the urge to paint Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers as Joe Montana, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre and Tom Brady rolled into one TV-ratings-friendly package?
More than likely, Monday night's game is going to stink. Christian Ponder, a rookie quarterback, has little chance of succeeding on his first trip to Lambeau Field. The Packers could be up three scores by halftime, leaving Gruden with no choice but to lean on his broadcasting vice, glowing hyperbole.
“Aaron Rodgers is the greatest quarterback in the history of mankind and he’s having the greatest season in the history of the league.”
No, he’s not. And, no, he isn’t.
And, yes, I’m well-versed on Rodgers’ spectacular statistics — 72 percent completion rate, 24:3 TD-INT ratio, 129 QB rating, 2,600 passing yards and spotless 8-0 record.
Sorry. I’m not ready to crown his ass. And I’m tired of the TV-driven marketing ploy of selling inferior talents as better than Michael Jordan, better than Joe Montana. It’s even trickled down to college football. Andrew Luck isn’t on the same planet as John Elway. Period. Before we hail Luck as the greatest draft prospect of all time, how about he surpass Elway as the greatest Stanford QB first?
I digress. Let me return to the NFL.
In light of what has and is transpiring within the league, it’s important we take the time to fully digest what we’re witnessing. Maybe Rodgers is having a season that rivals Marino’s 1984 campaign, Manning’s 2004 or Brady’s 2007.
Or maybe Rodgers is surrounded by the right supporting cast at a time when the rules and the offseason lockout have turned the actual game into the Madden video game.
Seriously, if ever a season was worthy of deep reflection, it is this one. We don’t know what to think from week to week. Hell, I don’t know what to think from hour to hour, minute to minute.
When Tony Romo gutted out a victory over the Redskins despite playing with broken ribs, I was convinced he’d arrived as a championship quarterback. The next week, when he handed the Lions a victory with back-to-back pick-six interceptions, I was convinced Romo would never win another game. Romo is never who I thought he was.
What do we make of the Baltimore Ravens and Joe Flacco? How do you beat the Steelers at Heinz Field one week and lose to the Seahawks the next?
Jay Cutler is a leader? He neutered Mike Martz and fixed the Chicago offense?
Did the Broncos win a game without the benefit of a quarterback or their two best running backs? Seriously. Denver beat the Chiefs with two completed passes and its third-string tailback carrying the ball 30 times.
Just when we think Rex Ryan has restored the Jets’ swagger, Belichick and Brady outfit Rex and Co. for another clown suit.
Sunday, I absolutely wanted to verbally beat down Atlanta coach Mike Smith for going for it on fourth-and-inches at his own 29 in overtime. It was the worst coaching decision in the history of the league. It had to be a byproduct of Smith spending the week of preparation playing Madden ’11 with his kids.
Three hours later I watched Tom Coughlin — successfully — make the same decision late in the fourth quarter of the Giants’ loss to the 49ers.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the game has changed so much that coaches have no choice but to be super aggressive offensively. Watching Smith and Coughlin make the same “stupid” decision —- a move we’ve seen Belichick make in recent years — caused me to reflect.
The decisions are a natural byproduct of commissioner Roger Goodell, the competition committee and TV network executives illegalizing defense. They want the NFL to look like the Madden video game. Unless Devin Hester is catching the ball, punts are boring, frowned upon and flagged by referees.
Hard tackles — the kind of hits a defender spends his life dreaming about — are forbidden. You can’t play defense on the back end. Belichick, Coughlin and Smith realize this, and they’ve adjusted their strategy accordingly.
The Jets have Darrelle Reevis and Antonio Cromartie, a great corner and a very good one. Brady still carved up New York’s secondary throwing to his tight end.
The only way to stop a good passing game is by attacking, brutalizing, intimidating and/or injuring the quarterback. OK, maybe you can occasionally fool some talented quarterbacks (Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Tony Romo) with a well-disguised coverage or zone blitz.
But, to my eyes, the rules of the game are tilted way too heavily in favor of the quarterback. There’s going to be a moment in the next year or two in a very big game where the league jumps the shark, loses credibility with “real” football fans.
Some of us don’t play Madden anymore and don’t want to see it on Sundays. Whether it’s letting defenders touch receivers for 10 yards rather than 5, there’s going to have to be some kind of rules adjustment that legalizes pass defense.
Until then, I’ll hold my enthusiastic applause for Aaron Rodgers. He’s having a remarkable season. I’ll let things play out a little longer before I join the chorus equating him to Montana, Elway and Marino.