Your Best 11 Mailbag: What Is Leading with the Head?

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Your Best 11 Mailbag: What Is Leading with the Head?
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we talked about why tackling was bad, and this week I got hit with a question that was another quality jumping off point. Since everyone else is focused on some basketball thingamabob, I figured now is a great time to hit on this topic.

First of all, I was so unimpressed with the state of footwear in Oblivion, the Tom Cruise movie. His shoes were somewhat futuristic, but his partner, that lady who worked at the earth station with him, was wearing regular pumps. You would think in a world where they can live and travel freely in space, shoes for women would move past the a basic silver pump.

Alright, now the real topic and that is "leading with the head." Something that, in watching football with people, and thanks to the glory of twitter, I have learned not everyone understands to mean the same thing. Leading with the head has always been a no-no in football.

However, the term has evolved from its original meaning, all about safety and proper technique, to mean any sort of first contact made with any part of the helmet. That is not what leading with the head or helmet means or should mean. When you lead with your helmet, that is making a very specific reference to using the helmet as a weapon, also known as spearing.

Spearing has been illegal for years. Every locker room has a sign that shows spearing and why you do not do it; most notably, you will paralyze yourself. Every coach screams head up, see what you hit and the like in an effort to break players from spearing, or hitting the opponent with the CROWN of the helmet.

The crown is the problem. The crown is the weapon. The crown is dirty football. The crown is how people hurt themselves and others. The. Crown.

Good tackling, whether it is taught as "heads up football" or "chest to chest tackling," involves the face and forehead. Tackling is, in a nutshell: squaring up on the target, sinking the hips, making contact moving forward, rolling the hips to explode through contact, shooting the guns or clubbing up to secure the tackle and running the feet to bring opponent to the ground.

When players go in for a proper form tackle, the face is in front, that is how the human body is designed. Football is all sprinting, and one cannot sprint with anything but his head out in front. Science.

This is why coaches preach keeping the head up. Head up means face-to-face or face-to-chest contact during the tackle. If players are moving their head to either side, they run the risk of exposing the neck to the full brunt of the opponents' forward momentum. That is not a good thing. Tackling should be as straight on as possible, with the neck protected.

It all makes sense when you talk technique and the actual science of the human body running to make a tackle on a target. However, because of the way all helmet contact is treated equally in the eyes of many, with no adjustment made for offensive players last minute movements, the term "lead with the head" has become a scary catch all. 

Despite what the new initiatives try to tell people, you cannot simply "take the head out" of the game. The push to lower targeting points creates angles where defenders must bend at the waist, not hips, forcing heads down. That creates more opportunity for injury and, as we see every week with guys ducking heads and diving, more missed tackles.

Spearing should not be allowed. Targeting the head where a defender is launching to hit a "defenseless" player should not be allowed. But good football should not be penalized, and more importantly, fans should realize that all helmet contact is not created equal.

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