Through two weeks of fake football, flags have dominated the conversation.
Too many flying as a result of too little contact. A tangible feeling that the game doesn’t really belong to players and coaches performing for fans, but to the officials who intervene like so many helicopter parents at a busy playground.
We’ve all watched the game for years. Like it a lot. But the stops and starts and legislated “rules emphasis” have made it so that some of the enjoyment is being siphoned off.
We consume and react to the action from the snap to the whistle. But now – and over the past few years – the post-whistle scan for flags is a part of the game. Especially when there’s an incomplete pass. I don’t know what the numbers are, but it feels to me that a flag accompanies more than half of the incompletions thrown.
We can all agree it sucks. I believe most of the officials would agree.
Right now, they are like cops sitting behind a cluster of trees and pulling people over for going 27 in a 25. Just trying to change the behavior so that, after a few weeks sitting behind those trees, people get the point and stop going over 25 in that area.
The players will assimilate and the flags will slow down when the regular season begins, we are told.
But here’s what happens AFTER that. A few weeks pass and some of the jersey tugs aren’t called. And some of the hands to the face calls aren’t made. And players are allowed to return to their more familiar style of play.
And then the pendulum swings back the other way and there’s a re-emphasis to the initial emphasis in the most critical portion of the season. Games, seasons and paychecks turn on touch fouls that some of the officials stopped calling weeks before.
I get the reasoning behind the NFL’s Competition Committee trying to change the defensive culture.
The Seahawks took it too far last year. They were also too successful while taking it too far. And that was the real crime. You don’t see a lot of rules emphasis movements targeting things the Bills do, for example.
And teams would still be training their video cameras wherever they wanted if Eric Mangini hadn’t been part of the Patriots success and leveraged that into a head coaching job with the Jets.
I’ve officially wandered off the main point.
All this said, the more you know the better the chance you can enjoy – or at least understand – what the hell the officials are doing.
So take nine minutes and follow this link for the weekly officiating update from Head Principal Dean Blandino. It uses plenty of case examples to show what the officials are looking for and is really helpful.