Being a staunch supporter of the New England Patriots for the better part of four separate decades, I have grown accustom to other NFL teams calling rules the "Brady Rule" We can now officially call the new defensive rules the Peyton Manning rules. Don't get me wrong Manning is a great quarterback and his teams are always odds on favorites to compete for a championship. Yet Manning and other quarterbacks are getting a little help from their friends on the competition committee.
This is the second time that the year after a high flying Peyton Manning offense lost in the playoffs to a better defensive team that an "emphasis" was put on the Mel Blount Rule. The rule was first brought into play for the 1978 season. At the time the NFL was looking to up scoring and ratings by allowing the passing game to flourish. Before 1978 a defender could contact a receiver anywhere on the field. The new rule only allowed contact or bump coverage for the first five yards after the line of scrimmage. The results were marginal at first as in 1977 the leading passer was Joe Furguson of the Buffalo Bills who averaged just over 200 yards per game. In 1978 Fran Tarkenton would average 216. After that the Dan Fouts show took over as he lead the league for four straight years in passing, all but the strike shortened 1982 season having over 4,000 yards.
The first time the Mel Blount rule was brought back up again was for the 2004 season. The season after the Patriots defensive backs, manhandled the Indianapolis Colts wide receivers on their way to a championship. After the season in which Manning had thrown four interceptions in the AFC Championship game, the competition committee, changed the rules to have the NFL officials more strictly enforce illegal contact, pass interference and defensive holding. The 2004 season saw Manning throw for 20 more touchdowns and 300 more yards on the season. His average yards per attempt skyrocketed from 7.8 to 10.2. Manning was not the only QB to benefit from the rule changes. Daunte Culpepper led the NFL in passing yards with 4,717 up from 3,479 in 2003.
The NFL of course has benefited greatly with the rule change. Points puts butts in the seats and money in the pockets. In four of the last six season an NFL quarterback has gone over 5,000 yards in a season. This was only done once before by Dan Marino in his historic 1984 season. Passing yards and the passing game has lead to more fantasy points scored by fantasy football players. Another huge revenue boost for the NFL. The question becomes when is enough, enough?
Last season Manning broke the yardage and passing touchdown records, besting Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Why is the emphasis needed with what has happened the last ten years? This writer believes that the only way the NFL can make more money is to have its biggest star win it all. The NFL is a business there is no denying that. Businesses want to make money. How long will it be before the game becomes unwatchable? Preseason is hard to watch as it is. Now we are being forced to see the referees on what feels like every play. It is getting in the way of what has been the best sport in the world.
Sometimes the better defense wins. We saw it with the Steelers in the 1970's, the Bears and Giants in the 80's. Even the woeful Baltimore Ravens offense won a Super Bowl in 2000 on the heals of the defense. The Seattle Seahawks were the best team last year, they won it all with balance on offense and an aggressive in-your-face defense, and good special teams. Last time we looked, football is a three phase game. Yet with the NFL rule changes of late, it seems that they want to take defense and special teams and make it a side note. The NFL competition committee is supposed to help the game be more competitive, not hand the best offense a free ticket to score. The flags have got to stop, we don't go to games to watch the officials. If football fans really wanted to see the Zebra's that much, we would all go to the zoo.