In a world where the NFL is making more rules to improve the game than ever before, they find themselves with more mistakes than anyone thought possible.
Growing up, Monday mornings consisted of ESPN before school. As you poured your bowl of cereal, packed your backpack and brushed your teeth, SportsCenter would play in the background. As you waited to leave for the bus, you sat on the couch hoping Jacked Up came on before your mother told you for the fourth time that she wasn’t driving you if you missed your ride.
It was a time when big hits were idolized and “penalties” seemed to come far and few between. The harder the blow the bigger the leap as you jumped from your seat witnessing years taken from someone’s life.
Pass interference? At the time, it was a barely known term. As a kid watching NFL Sundays, all you knew was if a receiver was going to try and catch a ball, the defender was going to make sure he felt it the next morning.
As we grew the game grew. As concussions increased and life expectancies shortened, the NFL decided changes needed to be made. Jacked Up’s time came to an end and the league started focusing on how to make this brutal game safer for those playing it.
Some say the game has gotten soft. Others believe without these changes fewer and fewer athletes would even step foot on a football field. But as the game evolves, it’s clear that the love for the sport has not faded, whether it’s getting “softer” or not.
We’ve accepted that the league’s front office has to adjust year after year. New rules and regulations are put into place each offseason as Roger Goodell and the owners try to perfect an always changing sport. A task that has unfortunately hit a cross bar in 2018.
This season, fans from across the globe witnessed games decided by poor officiating, only to end with a call that put a team, unworthy of playing in the Super Bowl, in the grandest show of them all. And while Twitter exploded, Sean Payton called the league office and media took full advantage of giving their thoughts on the absurd missed call, the NFL did, well, nothing.
In the next day or two people should expect the league to make a statement acknowledging that the play was pass interference and that the Saints should’ve had a first down around the 10 yard line with 1:49 left in the NFC Championship.
Then, they’ll disappear. No more comments will be made, no press conference discussing what the possible changes are in place for next season, nothing. They’ll dig themselves into their holes and remain silent until the Super Bowl is finished and the media has moved past the worst missed call in NFL history.
How next season will play out is yet to be known. You’d have to imagine that after seeing this on the league’s biggest stage, in front of millions of viewers, the NFL would need to make a change. Whether it’s adding reviews of penalties, hiring referees full-time or another adjustment we’ve yet to run through, some change will likely occur before the 2019 season begins.
Right now, nothing will be solved, though. For the next several months we will all speculate as to which change will be made without any guarantee, or even a sign, that change is even being considered.
The NFL can fix their mistakes. They can alter the game time and time again, revising the rules for years until they figure out how to run these events in the most proficient manner. It isn’t the modifications that upset the fans, the players, the coaches and the media. It’s the silence.
It’s time to calm the storm when it hits. Don’t acknowledge the mistake and vanish. Instead, leave a blueprint of how this will be corrected moving forward. Nothing needs to be set in stone, but leaving us with a simple “we’re working on bettering this situation moving forward,” let’s us know the future has a chance.
The time of silence is not now. The NFL needs to include the people before it distances themselves even further from those who pay just as much attention to their beloved game as they do. No one needs to be in the board meeting discussing rule changes. All we need is a sign that everything is going to be amended.