It was a great showcase for all the NFL can be on Monday in Kansas City. Even if you put aside the defiant and ignorant Chiefs fans doing the chop on Indigenous People’s Day — a truly lovely touch — or Troy Aikman insulting any woman who might be watching the broadcast, it was also an example of how the league’s refs are pretty much making it up as they go.
The major talking point coming out of the Chiefs’ 30-29 win over the Raiders will be the roughing the passer call, which didn’t end up mattering as the Chiefs won. The “body weight” clause got Chris Jones of the Chiefs, even though this seems a totally reasonable football play. The refs even had an out here, as they could have decided it went from sack to a fight over a fumble, which it was. But of course, that’s not what they’re conditioned to do.
Coming one day after the larceny committed on behalf of Tom Brady on Sunday, the coddling of NFL QBs is going to be a topic in just about every coach’s press conference during the week. But here’s the thing, there is no sport that has been bent more to one position than football to the QB. Every rule change is basically about opening up the game for quarterbacks to throw for more yards and more touchdowns. That’s what the league wants, it’s what the TV execs want, and it’s what the fans want with their multiple fantasy teams.
Because of that centering an entire league around one position, and the owners would tell you the union caps on practice time that don’t allow backups to really get any reps in-season, a team’s season is going to be a complete balls-up if their QB should go down to injury. At least some teams’ would be. Certainly, any contender would be pissing up a rope if they lose their QB for any length of time. Aaron Rodgers got hurt once this way, so now this is the deal for everyone.
The only position in sports that might compare is a goalie in the NHL, and you’ll notice that goalies in the NHL are highly protected, too. The NFL certainly has done the calculations about what you’ll be more upset about, the occasional farcical roughing the passer penalty or your team’s QB missing eight to 12 weeks with a collarbone injury.
Does it have to feel fair? Nope. Does it feel like it’s utterly impossible to play defense now? Of course, but the NFL doesn’t care. And though fans will wail and moan, they don’t really care either, ready to make next Sunday night’s game the highest-watched program of the week.
Of course, that wasn’t all we were treated to on Monday night, where the Raiders cost themselves the game by holding…while trying to block a field goal? How does that work? NFL refs are instructed to only call holding if it impacts the play. Holding on the other side of the field from the action generally won’t draw a flag. Although as you know, holding near the ball doesn’t automatically draw laundry either. But how did this affect anything that was going on? Isn’t this just looking for something? Why you might get the feeling it was a makeup call of some sort.
Oh, also we got another Josh McDaniels cracking open his skull to show off his big brain to the world again, going for two while down one with four minutes left. You could see McDaniels’ argument, that were it to fail (which it did) the Raiders would have enough time to get the ball back if they could keep the Chiefs from running out the clock. But that would work as well if the game was tied, and if the defense did as they did, and you’d have the safety net of overtime where Davante Adams is always a threat to walk it off. Maybe McDaniels thought the Chiefs would be easier to stop if only trying to run down the clock, but what was his plan if he went up by one? If you trust your defense to get you the ball back down one or up one, then why not while tied?
But this is the NFL, where the goal is always to generate debate. There are daily shows and websites like these to fill. They’ll have it now.