There is a lot of jabber among former NFL players and other pundits about possible rule changes to be imposed to reduce the number of violent, unnecessary hits like the ones we saw this past weekend. Here’s one example featuring Stuart Scott, Matt Millen*, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer. Scott, Millen and Dilfer all make the point that these hits are “part of the game.” And no one challenges them on this. But the fact is these hits — explosive shots from defenders on receivers — are not inherently part of the game.
Football is NOT all about hitting. It’s about getting a ball in the end zone. Hitting is part of the action of doing that or trying to prevent that from being done. There are four reasons to hit someone in football:
- To tackle the person with the ball.
- To avoid being tackled.
- To block someone — that is, to prevent them from tackling your teammate.
- To avoid being blocked.
That’s it. The rash of violent hits this past Sunday fell into none of those four categories. The purpose of those hits was to deliver a punishing blow that would intimidate the receiver next time he went out for a pass.
Trent Dilfer even proves my point, though he does so accidentally. He says:
When you’re taught to tackle, you’re taught to put your facemask in the chest, drive upwards, throw the hips and wrap the arms.
I played football through high school and this is, indeed, how I was taught to tackle. But to tackle this way, you need to have your feet on the ground. You can’t tackle this way if you’ve launched yourself at the opponent. If you look at replays of the plays in question, you won’t see one tackler who has tried to wrap his arms around the opponent. Not one. In fact, in most cases they keep their arms between themselves and the receiver to amplify the impact on the receiver and to protect themselves.
Football is a great game, and it will remain so even if you stop these violent headshots. Don’t let dunces like Millen and Dilfer tell you different.
*As an aside, how the hell did Matt Millen land himself a job as some sort of football expert after the hatchet job he did running the Detroit Lions for years?