National Football League
Refs playing favorites? Check the facts
National Football League

Refs playing favorites? Check the facts

Published Sep. 29, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Perception is reality, right?

I’m sure you’ve heard these a few times:

• The NFL protects its big-name quarterbacks more than the others . . .

• Michael Vick doesn’t get the calls other guys get . . .


• The rules for protection of the quarterback are the same inside or outside the pocket . . .

• Michael Vick accomplished what he set out to do. The refs will watch him closer.

How about we start out with the facts in addressing these perceptions.

The NFL protects its big-name quarterbacks?

Well, I guess you are right — if you feel that the top three QBs in the league are Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler and Colt McCoy. Statistics from the 2010 season, combined with the first three weeks of the 2011 season, show that the Raiders’ Campbell ranked No. 1 in drawing roughing the passer penalties, getting 1.46 for every 100 passes. The Bears’ Cutler drew 1.28 and Cleveland's McCoy 1.20. Oh, and by the way, next in line was the Panthers’ Jimmy Clausen at 1.0.

What about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? Let me look down the list, although it might take me a while since they both are way down there. Brady does get more protection than Manning, that’s for sure. Brady has drawn 0.16 roughing the passer calls per 100 attempts compared to 0.15 for Manning. That, for Brady, is one call in every 625 pass attempts, while for Manning it is one call for every 679 attempts.

Michael Vick says he doesn’t get the calls that other quarterbacks get?

I guess you could say that is true. Along with Campbell, Cutler, McCoy and Clausen, throw in the names of Bradford, Orton, Stafford and Fitzpatrick. Michael ranks 9th on the list of QBs getting roughing the passer calls, averaging 0.88 calls per 100 passes. I don’t think that’s what he meant when he said that he is not protected like the other QBs in the League.

The rules are not the same when a quarterback leaves the pocket and throws on the run?

Two specific rules no longer apply. In the pocket, there is the one-step rule. After the QB releases the pass, a rushing defender is allowed one step before making contact. If the contact comes simultaneous or after the second step hits the ground, it is deemed to be late and is a foul. Of course, the rules pertaining to helmet contact still apply even within the two steps. In the pocket, a rushing defender cannot initiate contact in the knee area or below. Neither of these rules apply outside the pocket when the QB is throwing while on the run, which is only fair being that defenders don’t know at that point whether he is going to run or pass.

Michael Vick accomplished what he set out to do. The refs will watch him closer?

That is what ESPN’s Adam Schefter said. That might be more ridiculous than what Michael Vick said. I doubt that Adam has ever worn a striped shirt, and if he has, it sure wasn’t in the NFL. Did Jon Gruden get a bunch more calls in his favor because he constantly berated officials on the sideline? No! Will Michael Vick get more calls from the referees because he threw them under the bus and now they are going to watch him closer? Ridiculous! Will the referees, who Mike Vick threw under the bus, look the other way and not protect him since he took that shot at them and then tried to recant by saying he was a bit “too candid?” That would seem more likely, but it is far from the truth. The referees will keep trying to do the best job they can regardless of what Vick, the Eagles, or Schefter says. The group of 17 referees is made up of true professionals and while they do make mistakes, as we all do, they have always remained unaffected by what is said to them or about them. They learned that skill early when they started out working Pop Warner games and getting berated by parents.

The bottom line is this: Look at the facts, then form your own reality.

My own reality is that there is no bias when it comes to protecting quarterbacks. I base that on facts and rules, not perceptions. The rules are different when a passer is mobile and leaves the pocket. I don’t know who the referee will be Sunday when the Eagles play the 49ers, but I assure you he will go about his business and do the job to the best of his ability. And yes, he may even reach down and help Michael up when he gets knocked down.


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