Waive that flag: The NFL returns with zebras on parade

nfl flag

The NFL’s back, and oh man is it boring. Last night’s Chiefs-Patriots game, the first of the 2017 regular season, should have been exciting. Kansas City hung close with the defending champions in Foxboro until they pulled away later in the fourth quarter. What should have been a compelling contest instead dragged. The third quarter alone took nearly an hour. Even if the NFL has eliminated the touchdown-commercial-PAT-commercial-kickoff-commercial sequence, the penalty flags literally are getting out of hand too often.

The last five minutes of the third quarter was comprised of fifteen plays from scrimmage. Officials threw flags on seven of them.

KC NE 09072017 3Q

If it seems to you like penalty flags are on the rise, you aren’t wrong. From the NFL Penalty Tracker, a website I just found:

nfl penalty flag data 9-8-17

The 2017 data comes from one game, of course, but the referees were significantly more active last night as compared to an average game last season.

Another interesting point in that penalty-flag data is the jump in total flags beginning in 2014. It isn’t immediately obvious to me why that happened (here‘s a list of rule changes heading into that season), so I’ll just quote from my Super Bowl XLVII preview post:

Call it the Efficient Breach Bowl. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle defense is so successful against the pass, in part, because they just don’t care about being penalized for pass interference. They know that officials won’t call PI on every single play (and the number of penalties called in the playoffs is significantly lower than during the regular season), so they take their lumps with a few flags over the course of a game, disrupting receiver routes all the while. In a follow-up article in advance of the Super Bowl, the Journal suggests that Denver may look to combat Seattle’s aggressive secondary through so-called “pick plays,” in which receivers run routes designed to shed defenders by drawing them into collisions with another player. Though subject to recent controversy following a play in the AFC Championship game that resulted in a game-ending injury for New England corner Aqib Talib, picks or “rub routes” are not necessarily against the rules. As The MMQB’s Greg Bedard explained, the key question is whether the offensive player initiated the contact or whether the contact was incidental: “within one yard of the line of scrimmage, anything goes . . . but beyond that one-yard buffer it is illegal for an offensive player to initiate contact with a defender.”

The Seahawks won that Super Bowl (if you can name the MVP of that game without looking, I’ll send you some ALDLAND merchandise), so it isn’t unreasonable to speculate that other teams would mimic their aggressive defensive approach beginning in the next season, thereby triggering more penalty flags leaguewide, but I haven’t looked at an offensive/defensive breakdown of those numbers in the table above.

For years, people have been predicting that football would end as a result of its potential for dangerous, lasting injury, including brain injury, but we need to consider the possibility that a different and more immediate market force– boredom– might trigger its decline even sooner.

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Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker

fairleyALDLAND’s weekly football roundup is back, taking a look at all the highs and lows of the latest round of football action.

College Football

Pregame:

  • In anticipation of the LSU-UGA game, a secret-recipe cheesy bean dip was made. So much was made, in fact, that it lasted much longer than the game, although not quite as long as Georgia coach Mark Richt spent kissing his wife following a win over Kentucky.

The games:

  • LSU-Georgia was a thriller. Georgia continues to lose important players to injury, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down. This week, star running back Todd Gurley sprained his ankle in the second quarter, but backup Keith Marshall filled in and had a career day. In the end, the Dwags outgunned the Tigers 44-41 and are in the driver’s seat on the road to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
  • I also thought Ole Miss-Alabama would be a good game, but it was not. The Rebels limited Alabama’s scoring early, but they were unable to do any scoring of their own, which is an easy-bake recipe for a loss. Ole Miss 0, Alabama 25.     Continue reading

The sports profession: Where not everybody’s working for the weekend

Investigative journalism of one kind and another gave us a peek behind the curtan of two major athletic operations this week. While most sports fans probably think that working for their favorite team would be a dream job (they certainly like the prospect of owning a part of their team), fans of the Kansas City Chiefs are finding out that Arrowhead Stadium may not be such a healthy work environment. Kent Babb, “sports enterprise writer” for the Kansas City Star, reported on conditions inside GM Scott Pioli’s operation. There isn’t really a quick-hit, money quotation from Babb’s article that neatly sums up the state of the working scene at the Chiefs’ HQ. Rather, like the style of most things I associate with K.C.– ribs and territory blues and jazz big bands– Babb’s piece is a saucy slow-burner, the full effect not realized until the reader is in too deep to escape anything but the conclusion that things really are fairly twisted in that organization. Take it all in to get a good sense of what’s going on behind the closed blinds at Arrowhead. Among other things, you’ll learn that then-unfired head coach Todd Haley genuinely thought that numerous rooms in the building were bugged– and he isn’t alone– and that now-fired former head coach Todd Haley thinks his cell phone still is tapped.

On the other side of the coin, country, and collegiate threshold we have the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, and his South Carolina Gamecocks. The offseason is here and Spurrier is in the market for some new assistant coaches. Or at least that’s my assumption when he’s answering questions about what he looks for in a new member of his coaching staff. Because I don’t want to pay $10.00 to read the article on GoGamecocks.com and neither do you, we’re going to stick with the author’s teaser tweets, which really give us all we need:

Got it?