The NFL is going through an awkward transition from laissez-faire bloodsport to something…less bloodsport-y. Players-turned analysts often rush to the side of the “victimized” defensive players who are now faced with…rules. It’s pretty dumb, on both sides:
- It’s not like these players learned different rules in high-school and college. Tackling is the same from age 12 onwards: you put your arms around a guy and pull him to the ground. Knocking a guy off his feet is just an impressive but dangerous form of bad tackling.
- Defensive players already learn complicated blitzing and coverage schemes. To suppose they can’t figure out how to hit a guy only between the knees and shoulders is a bit cynical.
- All that defensive players do is react. React to a block, react to a ball-carrier cutting, react to a pass. Adding circumstances under which you can’t clock another play is only a marginal increase to their rule-bound duties.
- Football is always changing. New offenses, new defenses, new rules, new schemes, etc. Slightly changing how tackling works isn’t going to turn football into badminton.
- Players know what they’re getting into in the short term: possible injuries. Not as many know what they’re getting into on the long term: the possibility of being a zombie.
- Some former-players have gone on to lead productive lives. Others have not, and a few have taken their own life rather than go on with the one football left them. Survivor bias is not a reason for inaction.
I think football can turn into something less about violence and more about strategy and skill, but only if those on the outside help those on the inside instead of helping those seeking the untenable status quo.