Monthly Archives: September 2012

Throw like a girl

I’ve signed on to write a weekly column for Footballz in the role of Producer Ken’s Wife. As a supportive female, I’m supposed be interested in my husband’s hobbies. I struggle with his love of unicorns and home economics teaches me that spending even more money on records is expensive. So that leaves football. Unfortunately, football, like math, is complicated. I grew up in a non-football family, so for many years I just got confused when the game kept stopping and starting and whole teams had to be subbed out every couple plays. The rules seemed opaque to me. I’ve been somewhat comforted lately by the fact that the NFL hasn’t even been able to dig up refs that understand the rules, but it still leaves me far from any useful knowledge about the game. Playing might be fun, but we’d all be horrified if I had to do this.  No, no. I know my place.

Wheeeee!

So, welcome to my weekly column on food that goes well with football. Usually I’ll find real recipes from the internet and maybe even test them out. But for starters, here’s my household’s take on a football classic.

Vegetarian Pigskin Nachos:

Que Rico!

    • 1 or 2 bags of Sesame Blues. No other chips can possibly substitute for these chips of perfection according to my husband, who is always right. Always. (The exception that proves the rule is that he’s not freaked out by this band)
    • 2 onions with a decent amount of butter and olive oil.
    • 1 can of black beans. Because I seem to be endorsing specific products, I’ll get on my high horse and support a bean brand. Like a true modern person of relative means, I pay a little more to get a little less. In the case, I’m not getting the BPA.  Anyway, the beans should be rinsed and drained.
    • An amount of smoked gouda. Probably between 1 and 2 cups that aren’t packed. I say the more the merrier, but some people hate grating cheese and are willing to take that out on the people they serve (ie family and husband’s friends). I suppose it’s up to your taste in the end.   This stuff should be coarsely grated.
    • An equal amount of more traditional nacho cheese or cheeses to round out your cheesy deliciousness. By traditional, I just mean cheese that melts, because smoked gouda, disturbingly, doesn’t actually melt. You’ll see what I mean when you make this. Anyway, Gruyere or Robusto are awesome in this role and are easily found at your local Whole Foods. Yes, I said it, I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods. No protesting in support of my local coop. Sharp cheddar is also tasy in this role. Again, coarsely grate.
    • A bell pepper or two. Skip the green. Yellow, orange, or red are all pretty. These should be chopped into bite size pieces that you would want to put in your mouth.
    • 2 tomatoes, chopped. If you’re feeling really fancy, throw in some cilantro, red onion, lemon or lime juice, salt, and a tad of garlic, and you’ve got full blown salsa.
    • 1-2 avocadoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Again, if you’re feeling fancy, throw in some cilantro, red onion, sea salt, and lime juice and you’ve got full blown guacamole. In the case of guacamole, you should mush it all up, not just chunk it. Putting this together is apparently an acceptable role for a man in the household.
    • Optional other toppings: 1/2 lb mushrooms, something like baby bella which taste good but won’t take over being too strong. These should be sliced.
    • Broccoli, or if you love tormenting the people you’re serving with a bitter mess, broccoli rabe. If you want to be snobby but don’t like food that tastes bad, broccolini does the trick. Again, prep these by chopping into bite size chunks. If you really want to you can steam them for two minutes, but I don’t think that’s needed.
    • Jalapenos sliced thin. Kind of a classic, although we never actually do it so why am I telling you to?
    • Sour cream, which I have to list because it’s classic. But I don’t want to list it because it’s disgusting.

That should be enough to get you started in terms of ingredients. You can add whatever else you want. I won’t stop you. But if you add meat, you might have to rename the dish. So then, there’s the actual instructions:

      1. The first critical step is caramelizing the onions.This is what makes these better than the nachos you currently make. To do this, do this.
      2. When you’re about 15 minutes away from finishing the onions, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Farenheit. Not Celsius. Speaking of F vs C, my husband thinks that water freezes at 0 degrees, and he’s not even European. Just a scientist.
      3. Spread the chips all over a baking sheet into a layer that’s roughly 1 chip deep of overlapping chips. If the chips pile up too much, split onto a second sheet.
      4. Put about 1/3 of your cheese all over the chips as a kind of glue between the chips and the toppings.
      5. Add all of your non-cheese toppings here except the tomato/salsa, avocado/guacamole, and disgusting sour cream. I don’t bother to saute any of the veggies because they’ll cook in the oven. But you can if you want them more cooked.
      6. Distribute the rest of the cheese on top.
      7. Stick it in the oven until it looks done to you. 10 minutes? or so?
      8. Dump the rest of the stuff on top.

So there you go, a recipe for nachos. This includes way more directions than anyone should need to make nachos, but I needed to put a bunch of words here to prove my love and dedication to my husband. And to show that I know my place as a member of America’s most important gender (after men?) in America’s most popular sport (after baseball?). In the kitchen.

TD’s thoughts on Monday Night’s Game

Suddenly certain people in Wisconsin are for unions.

4th Quarter Poll Question for Week 3

FOOTBALLZ WEEK THREE! SEAHAWKS v. PACKERS

This is a war thing named Seahawk. War and football are not the same.

v.

This is a dude named Packer, he ate other dudes, for real. Don’t do that.

 ANIME CLUB MEMBERS,

 OH BU-RUH-THA, THIS I GOING TO BE A HOT ONE. Tonight our game is between the awesome and fantastic cool dudes of the Seattle Seahawks and the perfectly fine but in this case total dickface Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks will spread their beauty and majesty all over their home stadium turf while the visiting Packers will attempt to soil this gorgeous game with putridness and horror. It will be a true struggle between all that is good and right in the world and the dark forces of evil and genocide people. Should the Seahawks fail in their quest then the whole planet will be bathed in the darkness of the evil one, at least until next Sunday. If you are smart and not a pooh-butt fart mouth baby eater you’ll root for the sweet angels from the mighty Northwest to defeat the yellow and green clad wieners from the flyover states region. Whatever, your author thinks this game will be two thumbs up.

In all seriosity, this will be a good game and despite my own Seahawk homerism I intend to give you a real preview of the game but I have to start will my beloved boys in blue. The Seahawks come into the game flying high after a big home win, there are big expectations, and fans are fired up. Unfortunately there is perhaps a little too much hype from some corners of the internet (the last time this happened, things did not work out (special extra parathentical, the ESPN website search function is a pile of utter dogshit)) and I’m a little spooked because of it. Luckily I had a special preview of the team when I went to visit their training camp, which I highly recommend you do with your favorite team. Oh the insights I got from my trip, just look at this photo, if you can’t discern how the whole season is going to go from that you should just stop watching football. Check this one out, can’t you just see the strategies forming? Maybe this one is a little hard to figure out but I can glean info from it with my super football brain, one day you might get there. Also, offensive lineman John Moffitt had this portrait made and that is something that you know now, good luck getting the image of that bull’s strangled eyes and his weird musculature out of your mind.

The Packers have had a bit of diminishing returns since their Super Bowl run of a couple years ago. Their defense hasn’t been able to regain its championship form, the offense hasn’t been able to cover that up, and their commercials have gotten worse. They will remain contenders as long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback, even if he does look like one of the grossest muppets. They have a long and storied history, who can forget when they were quarterbacked by this weird looking/named dude, but that might mean diddly-poo when they travel to one of that loudest stadiums in all of sport. I GUESS WE’LL ALL FIND OUT TONIGHT! I’LL BE WEARING MY SPORTS HAT! NON-SPORTS HAT WEARERS, DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE NEW SPORTS HATS ARE NOW? VERY EXPENSIVE! THEY ARE LIKE THE IPHONES OF HEADWEAR! BUT WITHOUT EVEN THE MEAGER NEW FEATURES THAT ARE OFFERED TO THE SUCKERS THAT WAIT IN LINE FOR THAT GARBAGE! I HONESTLY CANNOT THINK OF A NEW FEATURE THAT I WOULD WANT OUT OF MY SPORTS HAT THAT WOULD DO ANYTHING BUT MAKE ME NOT WANT TO WEAR A SPORTS HAT! I WANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME HATE OTHER KINDS OF HATS ANY LESS! I MEAN LOOK AT DUDES WHO WEAR SPORTS HATS! AND NOW NOT SPORTS HATS! I KNOW THAT WAS KIND OF A FISH IN BARREL THING! ANYWAY! LOTS OF SPORTS HATS WILL BE WORN ON AND OFF OF THE TELEVISION SCREEN! TONIGHT! 8:30PM! FOOTBALLZ.ORG!

Thanks,

The FOOTBALLZ team

Flea Flicker Vol. 1

Hello to all and a brief introduction – my name is Matt and I’ve been listening to the quality broadcasts of Footballz Talk for years now over my internet connection.  I haven’t had TV and wanted to know what was happening in the game and by Monday nights I was tired of watching shoddy internet streams operating out of Macedonia. I have absolutely no first-hand experience in football other than playing in my friend’s backyard with his dad as quarterback calling out plays they’d worked on before, all codenamed by different ‘80s Bengals receivers.  When real football began in middle school, I weighed about 60 pounds and said no way.  It was an artist’s life for me after that.

But football is pretty cool.  Lately the state of mind I get in when I watch it is, “I wish I was with some foreigner right now so I could explain the intricate strategies and role-playing and lightning fast decision-making that goes into every play on this field!”  Because it does seem pretty complicated, right?  But also I picture myself paying attention to someone explaining cricket to me and realize this scenario would not happen.  That leaves me with a constant imaginary conversation with some young football disciple, always eager to learn more of the ways of this mystical, warlike, and highly evolved sport, who will always hunger for more of my observations and expository thoughts and who will never contradict me.

So thanks to Mac and TD and Ken for giving me a shot at my dream of Sportswriting!  I’m calling my column “Flea Flicker” because I plan on flipping the ball (attention span) off to several different ball carriers (topics) in one play (blog post) that typically results in failure.

We’ll start with my most natural connection to the league, the Cleveland Browns, who are my favorite team because I grew up in Ohio. The Bengals were completely unappealing aesthetically and plus the Browns players came to my hometown once for a benefit basketball game against the local fire department.  Webster Slaughter dunked over and over again and you cannot beat that.

Nowadays they’re the pretty much the worst expansion team ever masquerading as a storied franchise that goes back to a string of legendary championship teams led by guys like the King Buzzo-looking Otto Graham and Marion Motley and Frank Ryan, who quarterbacked the team to its last title in 1964 a year before he went to school and got a Ph.D. in mathematics.  Also Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar. What more do you want, Super Bowl titles? Eh.

That team moved on and it’s called the Baltimore Ravens now and tends to rule.  They’re not the greatest team ever, but they’re definitely good enough that it’s so so so painful to realize that the Ravens organization was once my pals.

Instead, the team I am left with is one of the sorriest groups you’ll find, highlighted by this year’s season opener, in which their latest quarterback – a 30-year-old rookie named Brandon Weeden – performed at a passer rating of literally 5.1.  Do you know what a passer rating is?  I’m afraid I don’t either, but for comparison let’s see – the next worst guy was Ryan Tannehil from the Dolphins who scored 39.  The top twelve guys were all above 100.

Weedon started the game buried under a giant American flag pulled out by Army guys, which will probably be his defining moment as a football player in this sad life. That’s alright, because he has a lot of company.  Here, I have compiled a photographic review of Browns quarterbacks of the post-Reformation era.

Tim Couch

Ty Detmer

Doug Pederson

Spergon Wynn

Kelly Holcomb

Luke McCown

Jeff Garcia

Trent Dilfer

Charlie Frye

Derek Anderson

Brady Quinn

Ken Dorsey

Bruce Gradkowski

Jake Delhomme

Seneca Wallace

Colt McCoy

Brandon Weeden

Oh and I forgot!  I intercepted this note that was on GENUINE NFL LETTERHEAD while going through my neighbor’s mail and thought I’d share it here on the football blog!!!!!!!!!!!!

MEMO: To the Defense Football Guys re: New Methods of Tackling

Don’t know if you all have heard yet (or maybe you have and just forgot because well nevermind), but it’s basically not cool to spear people in the forehead anymore using your helmet.  It’s true that it’s awesome to watch and it makes the most superbadass sound (we even spent billions developing plastic cone microphone dealies to hold up on the sideline so we can hear it up close and crisp-like), but there’s only so much fun that we can have.  Dude on the Steelers can obviously afford to just keep doing it regardless of what we fine him, so I don’t even know what to do about that.  But how about some positive reinforcement?

Instead of those amazing, bone-chillingly watchable hits you’ve been working on, how about instituting some of the following changes:

Proper old-fashioned tackling where you wrap the guy up and take him down. It’s not that hard – they used to teach this kind of thing.  It’s clear you don’t know how to do it on those 15-yard TD runs where Maurice Jones-Drew bounces of guys like a Plinko chip on his way to your end zone. As he celebrates, listen to the moans of middle-aged dads across the country for once.

Tripping.  You might have to distract the runner so he doesn’t look down and just jump over your leg though.  Forget this one — probably against the rules.

Intercept the ball constantly.  You never have to tackle anyone if you’re the one with the pigskin.  It’s been said that with the rise of guys like Tom Brady, Drew Breese, Cam Newton, and Colt McCoy, it’s the age of the quarterback – they’re so awesome that they’re passing all the time now.  This means you can basically make an interception on every play.

Technicality – if you manage to rip up the sod and touch the player’s knee with it, that actually counts as being down.

Just ask for the ball nicely, I mean have you ever even tried that?

Wrap up the ball carrier in your choice of classic wrestling submission holds like the Sleeper, Arm Lock, Facelock, Camel Clutch, Clawhold, Figure-Four, Armbar, Chickenwing, Hammerlock, Million Dollar Dream, Pumphandle, Skin the Cat, Tree of Woe, Indian Deathlock, Sharpshooter, Crucifix, Tilt-a-whirl, Boston Crab, or the Surfboard. There are a few more, just make sure the player you’re tackling can’t flip the ball back to someone else.

Do the Turkey Jones.

This will kill an afternoon

I don’t know if this will be a regular feature here on the site but this if for sure the football related tumbr of the week

Smokin Jay Cutler

Flag Watch

Flag Watch is a weekly, season-long series focusing on the rules of NFL football. Each week I’ll consider a different rule and try to provide a bit of commentary/analysis as well as some clariflying historical context.

ILLEGAL CONTACT

Last week I talked about the pass interference rule and its occasionally disproportionate effect on game flow and outcomes. This week I’ll consider another passing rule that has had a different sort of effect on the game; illegal contact.

Among rule changes and tweaks perhaps none has had a more significant effect on the game and its popularity as the institution of the illegal contact rule. Between 1950 and 1977 (the so-called Classical Age of pro football), pass defense was played largely in a “bump-and-run” style in which there was little restriction on how or where the defender could contact an intended receiver. Perhaps the greatest practitioner of this style of defensive play was Mel Blount, the outstanding Pittsburg Steeler’s cornerback who was named Defensive player of the year in 1975. So effective was Blount’s physical style of pass defense that the the league implemented a rule in 1978, the so-called “The Mel Blount rule”, to prevent it, (“The Mel Blount rule,” it turns out, is actually a refinement of “The Issac Curtis rule” instituted in 1974 and so-named for the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver whose world-class sprinter’s speed motivated opposing pass defenses to bump and hold him the length of his route). From that point forward defensive contact with the intended receiver was limited to within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Contact beyond 5 years would result in a 5 yard penalty and automatic first down. The effect on offensive play was immediate. Average per team passing yards increased by 12% from 1977 to 1978 and would continue to increase at a comparable rate through the middle of the 1980s.

Yup, this guy.

Over time, the strictness with which officials were enforcing the illegal contact rule relaxed some and by the beginning of the 2000s the rate of increase in average passing yards has slowed significantly. Then, following the 2003 AFC championship game, a game in which Ty Law and a smothering New England Patriots defense intercepted Payton Manning 3 times en route to a 21-14 Patriots win, the rule was revisited. That off-season the NFL competition committee (comprised, in part, a conspiracy-minded Mike Felger then of the Boston Globe reminds us, of freshly embittered Patriot’s foes Mike Martz and Tony Dungy) elected to “reemphasize” the existing illegal contact rule. In Martz’s own words, “It just seems like (the illegal contact penalty) was called differently the last few years… Somehow things got a little redefined, whether it was subconscious or not, and we have to get back to calling the rule as it’s written.” The so-called “Ty Law rule” has been in effect ever since and between 2005 and 2011 passing yardage and scoring have increased by 16% and 14% respectively.

But this reemphasized illegal contact rule is not without its detractors, including Mike Pereira, former NFL V.P. of officiating, (and current FOX Sports rules analyst). During a radio interview prior to the 2010 Super Bowl Pereira said “You always tried to officiate the game advantage-disadvantage… it didn’t seem logical to me that you would take advantage-disadvantage out of the equation, that just a touch became a foul whether or not it had an affect or not.”  Pereira’s critique would seem to stem from the fact that there are already several other rules in place regulating a pass defender’s conduct including, but not limited to, defensive holding, illegal use of hands and, of course, pass interference. Each of these rules explicitly constrains a defender’s behavior in a way that seems geared toward maintaining fairness, while the current illegal contact rule operates as a sort of subjective catch-all any defensive conduct that diminishes offensive potential. With the introduction of several additional (and necessary) player-safety rules over the last few seasons expect passing yardage to continue to climb for the next few seasons as defenders adjust to the new universe of rules.

MISCELLANY

In researching this week’s column I came across a reference to a rule that I had never heard of before, the “fair catch kick.” Simply, the rule allows a kick-receiving team to attempt a field goal from the spot of the fair catch. Unlike a typical field goal though, the defending team must line up 10 yards downfield and the kicking team can either kick from a teammate’s hold or drop kick the ball. Once the ball has been kicked, the conventional rules for field goal apply. So rare is the use of the “fair catch kick” that it has only been attempted 21 times since 1933 with the kick succeeding on just 5 of those attempts (the most recent in 1976). Here’s Arizona’s Neil Rackers attempting a “fair catch kick” in a 2008 game against the NY Giants, (and failing miserably).

This weeks Flag watch best enjoyed with:

 

4th Quarter poll for Week 2!

FOOTBALLZ WEEK TWO! THE FALCONS v. BRONCOS!

This is a comics character called The Falcon, also I did not vote Lucifer for mayor.

vs.

if you cannot identify this Bronco you are too young to be reading this site.

HUZZAH!

WEEK TWO! NOTHING IS AS GOOD OR AS BAD AS IT SEEMS (except for the Browns, sorry Condi)! This thing is in full effect (oh man, that movie is well over ten years old, I suppose I should update my references, ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Week One is just like Chris Brown’s neck tattoo? It isn’t as bad as you think immediately but then after a while you realize it is so much worse? And that it might just be another horrible moment in the life of a horrible soulless attention seeking money machine? More relevant to the NFL than I thought) and people are saying this team is good and this team is bad and blah blah blah, we here at FOOTBALLZ maintain neutral (except for our power rankings of course, by the way have you looked at ALL THE NEW CONTENT AT FOOTBALLZ.ORG? We have new stuff almost every day now, like a real website and everything!) and know/love that the NFL for all of it’s patterns is an unpredictable unstoppable ball of beauty and head injury that we can only bear witness to and make fun of and our bliss at its return has not yet abated. THIS WEEK ON THE PROGRAM, we have a match-up between teams people think are good so far and Mac interviews our good pal and future FOOTBALLZ contributor Gregg Gethard. Now let’s get our previewing pants on and talk about the damn game.

MONDAY NIGHT we see the Denver Broncos (1-0) travel to the traffic choked Coca-Cola washed streets of Atlanta to face the home team Falcons (also 1-0, BATTLE OF UNDEFEATEDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). The Falcons come into the game flying high (ugh ugh ugh, just terrible) after their swooping down and clawing the faces of the Chiefs last week (better!) and have sky high expectations (blurg) of capturing the Lombardi trophy this year and returning to their nest with it at which point they will chew it up and feed it to their fans by spitting it into their mouths (there it is!). They are lead by their quarterback Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan who, while being a fine player, has the worst nickname in all of football (sorry fans of Lester “The Molester” Hayes). First off Natural “Natty” Ice, the beverage that Mr. Ryan is named after, is one of the most disgusting beers in the known universe and is drank exclusively by the dregs of our modern society (see it’s presence in this photo, and this one, and this one, it’s also probably somewhere in here too). That Mr. Ryan went to Boston College, perhaps the bro-iest of bro universities in the greater Boston area (sorry Northeasterners, this was a university that when your humble author visited during his college search he was met with not only a kid with alcohol poisoning but one (or possibly many) who had filled every toilet and sink on the floor with vomit) and a large consumer of this vile vile garbage, might make it appropriate but still, gross. Perhaps it is the similarity between the taste and after effects of the beer and Mr. Ryan’s playoff performances (disgusting and diarrhea inducing) that earns him the moniker but I JUST HOPE IT GOES AWAY. The Falcons do have some players that induce diarrhea of joy at their potential though (SEGUE!), chief amongst them is wide receiver Julio Jones. After a rookie season where many questioned if the Falcons gave up too much in a trade for the rights to draft him (which ended up being mostly current flag and completions phobe Brandon Weeden), he is poised for a breakout year and has draw comparisons to amazing wide receiver/man trapped in sports purgatory Larry Fitzgerald. Look for Ryan to spend most of the game trying to hook up with Jones (don’t even think of the lame joke to be made about that sentence, we are all above it) and score bigtime.

The visitors for this game are one of my least favorite teams in history, now quarterbacked by one of my least favorite players in history, I’m of course talking about the Denver Broncos and their jerkface of a quarterback Peyton Manning. The former opinion is strictly bias, growing up in the Northwest the Broncos were good and to me that will forever make them evil (also they had horse impersonating a man turned used car salesman (the Elway promise, “I will lose many Super Bowls”) turned franchise figurehead John Elway, who started his evil run in the NFL forcing his way out of the then Baltimore Colts like a giant baby, which may or may not have lead to the Colts moving to Indianapolis in one of the great travesties in all of sports, so he’s got blood all over his terrible teeth). Mr. Manning however only recently turned from being the merely annoying winner into a full fledged dickwad. Before appearing in possibly evil commercials with pizza magnate/living wax figure/demon who walks among us (why do you think he always wears red?) Papa John, he spent the offseason watching  teams get down on their knees to beg him to come play for them. One, after another, after another, after another begged and pleaded for the man with the million dollar neck to come to their town and grace their fields but he turned them all away for the mile high climes of Denver, what a dick. I think he should have just hung it up, he had multiple MVPs, a Super Bowl title, and more money than he could spend in 1000 lifetimes, why risk it possibly paralyzing yourself? I say hubris, I can also think of another extremely talented person who came back from a scary body problem with lots of money and didn’t know when it was time to walk away. I’m not saying that Peyton Manning blew up Jim Caldwell by tricking him into a meeting with an old coach who murdered Caldwell’s best friend by a pool in Mexico (Caldwell survived because he is mostly robot already) but I’m not saying he wouldn’t.

sorry about the spoilers but seriously most of that stuff has been on netflix for months now

ANYWAY! TONIGHT! FAKE JERKWAD VERSUS TERRIBLE NICKNAME! ACTUALLY THEY WON’T EVER BE ON THE FIELD AT THE SAME TIME SO IT WILL BE A BUNCH OF OTHER DUDES VERSUS THE QUARTERBACK JUST LIKE USUAL! AND JUST LIKE USUAL WE’LL BE ON AT 8:30PM! SET YOUR WRISTWATCH ALARMS ACCORDINGLY! WE’LL BE READY THIS WEEK! I WON’T BE SAD BECAUSE I’M WEARING A WORK SHIRT WHEN IM NOT AT WORK! YOU SHOULD NOT BE WEARING A WORK SHIRT EITHER! UNLESS YOUR WORK SHIRTS ARE COMFORTABLE AND NICE FEELING! EVEN THEN YOU SHOULD PROBABLY TAKE IT OFF AS YOU SHOULD CREATE A NICE LINE BETWEEN YOUR WORK YOU AND YOUR REGULAR LIFE YOU! IT’S MUCH MORE HEALTHY! BUT WHATEVER! DO WHAT YOU WANT WEIRDO! AS LONG AS YOU TUNE IN AT 8:30PM! FOOTBALLZ.ORG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks,

The FOOTBALLZ Team

Flag Watch

Welcome to Flag Watch. This is the first in a weekly, season-long series focusing on the rules of NFL football. Each week I’ll consider a different rule and try to provide a bit of commentary/analysis as well as some clariflying historical context.

PASS INTERFERENCE

By yardage, defensive pass interference, is potentially the most severe penalty in the NFL. That’s because, unlike almost every other foul in the NFL, defensive pass interference is a spot foul. What’s a spot foul? From wikipedia: “A so-called “spot foul” is one that has its penalty yards (if any) applied from the location (“spot”) where the foul occured, as opposed to the line of scrimmage or the end of the run.” On the one hand, there’s some sense in this. If the maximum enforceable penalty for defensive pass interference were 15 yards and an automatic first down, there would be, in principle at least, a strong incentive to interfere with a receiver who would otherwise be in position to make a downfield catch for long yardage or a touch down. Yet, in practice, the application of this rule is one of the most problematic in the game, occasionally resulting in seemingly unfair or unearned outcomes.

Case in point, this call, (better link about half way down the page here) late in the second quarter of Sunday’s Packers-49ers games in which Jermichael Finley gets caught up with (and eventually stepped on) by a couple of 49 defenders in the end zone. While one could reasonably argue whether or not the contact between Finley and the 49er defenders constituted contact consistent with pass interference on the play, its pretty clear that the pass was uncatchable, and, as such, not pass interference. From the NFL rule book: “Actions that do not constitute pass interference include but are not limited to… (c) Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players.” With the ball placed at the one yard line, the Packers scored on the next play and Jim Harbaugh’s head exploded into a million tiny, angry pieces.

Jim Harbaugh at rest

Obviously, this was a blown call. One of many that decorated the game. And while, in the end, the outcome didn’t necessarily hinge on it, it certainly could have. Blown calls are going to happen. That’s a part of the game (even with the ever-increasing, compulsory official reviews) and the rules should be designed to accommodate, as best as possible, that possibility. That’s why the persistence of the current defensive pass interference rule is so puzzling.

Looked at statistically, the case for awarding the offence a spot foul for defensive pass interference on a “deep” pass is especially problematic. In the 2007 season, the average completion percentage for thrown balls, the highest ever in the NFL, was 61.2%. Since 2007 no more than 20.5% of throws have been “deep” throws (20+ yards). That year Tom Brady lead the league in total yards (4806), completion percentage (68.9) and QB rating (117.2) and yet, for passes longer than 20 yards his completion percentage was 40.1%. Allowing for the fact  that some number of those incompletions were likely due to errant or purposely uncatchable throws, (but not throws in which pass interference was called), the proposition of awarding a spot foul for a play that has, at most, a 60% chance of succeeding seems disproportionate, especially given the necessary subjectivity entailed in making the call itself.

But perhaps the most vexing aspect of the pass interference penalty is the presumption of offensive success. As clearly stated in the NFL rules, “defensive players have as much right to the path of the ball as eligible offensive players”, but if the defender clearly interferes with the intended receiver a spot foul is awarded which can result in placing the ball on the 1 yard line, while, if the opposite is to occur, the maximum penalty is 10 yards. Certainly one could argue that the “intended” receiver is in a better position, in principle, than the defender to complete the catch, and there is a simpler judicial path between the point of the infraction and the eventual ball placement, but there is no reason, a priori, to presume that an interfered with defender would be less likely to make the catch. They are, after all, also highly skilled athletes capable of catching footballs, (on average, 5% of caught thrown balls are interceptions). And if that’s the case, why should we be any more comfortable accepting the placement of the ball on the one yard line, in the extreme case, than we would be awarding a turnover based on essentially the same set of probabilites?

So, what to do about this crummy state of affairs? One proposal that seems to have attracted a fair amount of interest over the years is to break the pass interference foul into two calls, one commensurate with the current NCAA rule (instituted in 1983 following the result of a SMU-Arkansas game whose controversial outcome depended on a blown pass interference call similar to the one in the Packers-49ers game) which calls for the spot of the foul for infractions committed within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, and 15 yards for fouls committed beyond that distance, (along with an automatic loss of down), and one consistent with the current spot of the foul rule but only to be applied in cases of obvious and egregious player interference. While this proposal doesn’t eliminate the possibility of official error, it would afford the official another option for the sorts of ambiguous cases described above.

This weeks Flag watch best enjoyed with: