Ever since Tom Brady went down in the first game of the 2009 NFL season, his injury has been fodder for talking heads and fans alike. With news this week that the league is seriously considering implementing a rule targeting defensive players who lunge at quarterbacks knees from the ground, we'll be moving on to the next part of the discussion or what to do about this so-called "Brady Rule".
Football is a violent sport and there's not a lot outside of penalizing obvious cheap shots and use of the helmet as a weapon that the league can do about it. Nor should they.
The stakes are high in football and ever since Lawrence Taylor came around, defensive coordinators figured out that if they can knock the other guys quarterback out, they greatly enhance their chance for victory. A perverse incentive to kill quarterbacks if there ever was one.
However, truth be told football sucks to watch when it's quarterbacked by guys who can't play very well. Just look at the XFL and WFL. Those leagues collapsed for a number of reasons, but not the least of which was the games were hard to watch due to the lack of professional quality quarterbacks.
The problem in football is that there are too few good quarterbacks, not too many. The league is correct in that there should be some kind of protection afforded to them.
However the better way to protect quarterbacks cannot be by limiting a defensive player's ability or his instinct to play all out.
I propose two ideas, both of which offer more quarterback "protection" by slight rule changes shifting some pressure onto defense's instead of penalizing players for playing the game the way they were taught.
The first idea is that offensive tackles should be allowed to be eligible receivers, giving offenses up to seven potential receivers instead of five.
True, that's potentially less blockers to protect the passer but accounting for the possibility of seven receivers will make defense's think twice about committing six or seven to the rush. It force's defenses to defend more of the field instead of focusing solely on disrupting the quarterback.
Although it's hard to imagine today's offensive tackles going out for passes, over time the position could evolve to be manned by players that look more like tight ends and outside linebackers with more athleticism and less bulk.
Tackles are asked to block some of the best athletes on the field but they themselves are out-sized behemoths, coveted more for size than athletic ability. I think if they could catch passes they might look more like the guys they block rather than road-grading machines.
Throwing some of the defense's athleticism back at them might be interesting to watch, plus requires no change in the way the game is officiated. The added bonus is it slows down the defensive evolution towards quarterback destruction, and is a more natural way of changing the game than legislating conact out of it.
The second idea is much simpler. Allow the offense to play with 12 men, an extra player on all plays who is again an eligible receiver. The offense has the option of how to use him, again putting different pressures on defensive game plans and players.
They could split him out or keep him in, use him as an outlet receiver or personal protector. Defenses would have to adjust accordingly to account for the extra head. If they lined up and attacked the quarterback on every play, they would pay the price.
Again, very little about the game or how it is officiated would have to change in order to accomodate this change.
Realistically, these are meant more to spark discussion rather than as serious proposals to change the game. But there has to be a better way of protecting quarterbacks than telling defenders who are on the ground to forget a lifetime of football training and give up every time they get knocked down.
Certainly everyone agrees that quarterbacks need to be preserved somehow, let's just not do it by outlawing players natural instincts and training.