Has NFL’s Roughing the Passer Rule Gone Too Far?


There has been controversy surrounding what many feel is the excessive enforcement of the penalty of roughing the passer in an attempt to improve safety. Questionable calls are causing the NFL’s competition committee to evaluate the current levels of enforcement, according to ESPN.

Three weeks into the season, there have been 34 roughing the passer calls. At this point in 2017, there were 16, and in 2016, 20.

The 23-year old rule (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9), prohibits defenders from landing on the quarterback with their full body weight or driving him into the ground with excessive force. The league decided to enforce the rule more after complaints from various coaching staffs about being too lax. The competition committee released a statement to clarify its stance on what qualifies as roughing the passer, visiting all 32 training camps:

“The Committee recommends that the Officiating department emphasize that the defender is responsible to avoid landing on the quarterback when taking him to the ground. The Committee also recommended that video be shown to players, coaches, and officials during the offseason demonstrating legal and illegal plays. Examples of rushing defenders getting their bodies to the side during the contact and avoiding putting their body weight on the quarterback must be included so that coaches can teach proper technique.”

Among the more well-known incidents was the Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews’ hit on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, which lead to the Vikings’ game-tying touchdown in week 2. Matthews accused the league of “getting soft.” In week 3, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was called for the same penalty on Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones remarked that Crawford “was attempting to finesse the tackle” and under the league rule shouldn’t qualify. Jones was speaking about how the game at the professional level should be succinctly different than those at the youth and college levels.

In trying to follow the rule, Miami Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes suffered a torn ACL attempting to avoid putting his body weight on Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr.

After Monday’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said the rule’s current enforcement could alienate fans. He was the beneficiary of two roughing the passer calls.

“I can’t imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t want to criticize the officiating, especially when you’re talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out. But I was surprised at the first one.”

Roethlisberger did agree with the second roughing call since there was helmet contact.

ESPN’s Mike Golic said the only way the league changes its stance on the calls is if ratings decline. Are the penalties too excessive? Did the league make the right move to protect players?

What do you think? Comment below!