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The last two men who served as the NFL’s head of officiating have come out strongly against the league’s emphasis on roughing the quarterback, in particular the two called in the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game on Sunday.
Much of the emphasis has been placed on the call against Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews, which took a Kirk Cousins interception off the board and allowed the Vikings to come back and score the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion.
‘Those are not fouls’
Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, both of whom served as the NFL vice president of officiating (Alberto Riveron holds the job now) and are currently rules analysts for Fox Sports, do an online show together called “Last Call” where they go over plays and penalties from the week’s slate of games.
The two were adamant that the roughing the passer calls in the Vikings-Packers game – Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks was called for it at the end of the first half – should not have been fouls.
Here’s the relevant transcript:
“Those are not fouls. We don’t like those as fouls,” Blandino said.
“If you go back to when we were there, they’re clearly not fouls,” Pereira added. “The problem that I have with it, and I know it’s a point of emphasis and I know referee Tony Corrente is taking some heat for this, but this is a point of emphasis coming off of Aaron Rodgers last year with the Anthony Barr hit ended up to be the injury [Barr drove Rodgers into the ground, breaking his clavicle]. But that clearly – I don’t even think that was a foul, but the contact was much more flagrant – but what I’m having a problem with now, even though it’s a point of emphasis, is they’re creating penalties for contact and tackles to me that don’t put the quarterback at risk of injury.”
“Correct,” Blandino said. “You look at the rule and it says you can’t commit intimidating or punishing acts, you can’t violently or unnecessarily drive him to the ground or land on him with all or most of your body weight. That’s not what you’re seeing in at least those two calls in that game.
“What do you want the defender to do? To me it looks like he’s wrapping and he’s trying to bring the quarterback to the ground. There is going to be some force. There is going to be some impetus that takes both players to the ground. Again, what do you want the defender to do in that situation?”
Summarized Pereira, “I think we’re setting a dangerous precedent … You can’t have that as a foul. There’s got to be a line drawn closer to a more violent hit.”
Matthews did what he was coached to do
On Monday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy defended his player, saying Matthews brought Cousins down just as he’d been instructed.
“He did what he was coached to do. He tries to brace the weight distribution,” McCarthy said. “[The referees] saw it differently.”
McCarthy added that he understands the goals of player safety and protecting quarterbacks, but he also wondered how far things can do.
“I’m all for the goal being achieved, but you have to make sure it’s not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher. Those are quality conversations you can have with the officials,” he said.
Matthews’ sack will be used in instructional video
While knowledgeable observers like Pereira and Blandino and even players believe that the Matthews call in particular was wrong, the league is doubling down, and will use the play in a teaching tape that will be sent to teams to continue to illustrate what constitutes a foul.
The league says Matthews used a “scoop and pull” technique, but when officials met with media during training camps, there was no mention of the scoop and pull technique being a foul, at least according to Packers reporter Aaron Nagler.
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