Let’s think way back to Week 1 of the 2008 NFL Season. Kansas City Chiefs safety Benard Pollard lunged at “Captain America”, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and knocked the NFL’s biggest prize out for the season with a knee injury. As we all know, the hit didn’t end the Patriots season as everyone seemed to predict. The Patriots picked themselves up and posted an 11-5 season without Tom Terrific.
However NFL owners in their infinite wisdom decided at the NFL Owner’s Meetings last spring that more needed to be done to protect the NFL’s greatest commodities, “Golden Boy” quarterbacks. Thus “The Brady Rule” was born, where defenders who are knocked to the ground can no longer lunge into quarterbacks if the play is still going on. Of course the owners didn’t bother to ask defensive players or the quarterbacks themselves about needing such a rule.
As soon as the rule was on the books, you knew there would be a game situation that highlighted the ambiguity (at the referees discretion) and overall ridiculousness of the ‘Brady Rule’. It had to be fate as the Patriots-Ravens game this past Sunday was the model for the misinterpretation of the rule that basically makes NFL quarterbacks into China dolls and of course Tom Brady was the “victim”.
In the Patriots 27-21 win over the Ravens, the NFL officiating crew led by referee Ron Winter called two ridiculous personal fouls against the Ravens that of course extended Patriots’ scoring drives.
The first came on a crucial third-and-nine play in the first quarter and the ball at the Baltimore 37. Ravens DT Haloti Ngata was hit with a “roughing the passer” penalty on a play where he was clearly trying to deflect Brady’s pass as it was being thrown. Ngata’s left arm barely grazed Brady’s facemask as it was coming down and of course Tommy “the actor” (by the way—did you see his work on HBO’s Entourage earlier this season?)‚ went down like he was hit by a Mike Tyson haymaker.
The second instance of roughing the passer against the Ravens was the most egregious and occurred with 5:16 left in the first half and the ball at the Baltimore’s 43-yard line. On a second-and-11 play, Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs beat his man and applied pressure to Brady as he threw a pass. Suggs fighting through a block went low, but clearly tried to avoid contact with Brady’s knees. But Winter’s crew threw the flag citing the “Brady Rule”. Brady even motioned to an official to throw the flag even though Suggs was nowhere near his knee.
The two calls amplified the NFL’s continuing “sissy-fication” of the game and further fueled the debate that the league cares more about their million-dollar passers than any other position. After the game, the Ravens players could not hold their tongues.
“Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play. When you have two great teams that are going at it, let them go at it. Both of their touchdown drives had personal fouls that kept drives alive. Did that win or lose the game? No, but it got them 14 points.”
I could not agree more with the Ravens as the NFL that I grew up watching in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was a league where a quarterback put his shoulder pads and helmet on like everyone else, so he was rightfully fair game. In a paradox, retired passers that I have talked to cannot believe the level of “compassion” that today’s quarterbacks are afforded. Recently on HBO’s Joe Buck Show, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway said that it irked him that quarterbacks are treated with kid gloves today and that he could have probably played another couple years under these rules.
As former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan used to say, “They should just put flags on the quarterbacks and get it over with”. C’mon let the defensive guys play hard...can anyone tell me if the same kind of measures are taken on chop blocks and zone blocking knee diving blocks?
I also saw where during this same weekend that a different set of NFL officials did nothing when Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell suffered the exact hit used to write the “Brady Rule” in his team’s loss to the Texans. Maybe there are two NFL rulebooks, one for Brady and one for everyone else. Have fun explaining away these two calls (head of officiating) Mike Pereira!
On NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Brady’s former teammate Rodney Harrison jokingly told Brady, “Take off the skirt and put on a pair of pants”.