Bad phantom personal foul for hit on Blake Bortles shows NFL's issue: Too many penalties

Yahoo Sports

The default for NFL officials is to throw the penalty flag when it doubt. It doesn’t make the game more enjoyable.

We saw a great example on Sunday morning from London. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles ran and slid down. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham put both hands on Bortles’ chest and shoulder area, basically enough to slow him down but not have any effect on the 236-pound quarterback. But since it kind of looked bad, the flag came. They got Bradham for hitting Bortles in the helmet, although Bradham never touched Bortles’ helmet.

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The four-man NFL Network booth, before the flag was announced, wondered if someone had got called for taunting. Because it was clear the hit wasn’t worth a penalty. Yet, officials who can determine outcomes of the games with calls like that slapped Bradham with a personal foul for a hit he didn’t make. It was bad. That came a week after Baker Mayfield was hit in the head on a slide, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead was fined more than $26,000 for it, but no penalty was called (the NFL said it should have been a penalty).

That’s rare because NFL officials, for whatever reason, like throwing penalty flags. There’s way too many of them.

Blake Bortles got a gift late in the game against the Eagles in the form of a personal foul penalty. However the Jaguars couldn’t cash in for a TD. (Getty Images)
Blake Bortles got a gift late in the game against the Eagles in the form of a personal foul penalty. However the Jaguars couldn’t cash in for a TD. (Getty Images)

Too many cheap penalties called

The NFL product is doing just fine. Games have been great. There have never been more good quarterbacks in the game at one time. The hysteria over television ratings last season was dumb then and looks insane now.

But the game has an issue, and it’s that there are too many penalties. We often look at replays and wonder why players aren’t just allowed to play on.

On Thursday night, Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman bemoaned that every kicking play in the NFL seems to have a penalty. It’s not just special teams. It’s exhausting to watch every third-down incompletion and wait for the “FLAG” icon on the screen to show up.

Helping player safety is great, but the game would be better with fewer penalties. Bradham’s play is a good example.

Nigel Bradham’s penalty a good example of NFL’s issue

Earlier this year, commissioner Roger Goodell said one of the main themes of changing the catch rule is that fans want more catches. Well, fans also don’t want more penalties. That should get an emphasis too.

Bradham’s penalty really didn’t affect the game because the Jaguars settled for a field goal on that drive and the Eagles won anyway. But we have seen meaningless penalties impact games. A phantom holding call on the Titans that negated a 62-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry in Week 1 against the Dolphins comes to mind. The roughing-the-passer penalties have been well documented.

The NFL is having a fun, great season. It would be even better if the league told its officials to stop looking for reasons to inject themselves in the game with ticky-tack penalty calls.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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