Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reactionary Measures: The Brady Rule

You've proabably heard by now that the NFL has changed its rulebook in a reaction to Tom Brady's injury last season. Brady was injured when a Kansas City lineman tackled Brady from the ground, injurying Brady's knee. The hit was legal, although some said it was a dirty play since Brady had already let go of the ball.

The new rule, states the following: "A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him."

The merits of the rule can be debated (personally I think that when the QB has the ball, he should be allowed to be tackled in the same manner as any other player), but what irks me is the fact that the league changed the rule as pure reactionary measure. If the rule was a good idea, why didn't the league implement it before the Brady injury? And can anyone seriously say that the rule would have been changed had Brady not been injured on the play? Or that the rule would have changed had someone like, say, Kyle Orton, been injured, rather than the league's sexiest star? Professional football has been played for over 70 years, and the league has survived just fine, but with one injured superstar, they're changing the rules.

What's more is that sports leagues do this all the time - they change rules and regulations in reactionary moves to quell short-term public outcry. Major League Baseball had gone over 100 years without instant replay, but a string of blown calls and suddenly a rushed instant replay system is implemented...the NFL long had counterintuitive standards of what constitutes a catch, but it took a high-profile AFC Championship application of the rule to institute the "Tuck Rule"...the BCS doesn't select the "right" teams to play in the national championship, and they change the formula.

The above examples are only a few. The leagues should take care to get it right the first time, and analyze all of the possible scenarios when they make the rules. Then when fire strikes, stick to their guns and say "that's baseball" or "that's football", rather than bowing to pressure from sportswriters and fans.

In this new rule, did the NFL consider all of the possible scenarios when they implemented this rule? It's the final play of Super Bowl 44, Brady's back to pass, nobody's open, he sees daylight and rushes toward the goal line for a sure touchdown when suddenly Brian Urlacher spectacularly dives and drags Brady down from behind by his ankles to save the game.... Wait, here comes the flag. And here comes, the rewritten rule for 2010.