Watching Baltimore Ravens defenders like Ray Lewis whine about the costly personal foul calls made against them by Ron Winters's officiating crew provided both entertainment and an educational learning experience.
Perhaps even more enjoyable than Lewis crying about "bad calls," and not the choke-job drop of Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton on 4th down, was watching Ravens coach John Harbaugh barely acknowledge the presence of Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the game.
Seriously folks, the league really hates ole Billy Boy, and it isn't because he is good.
Back to Lewis, what he, Peter King, and even SB Nation.com editor Chris Mottam (a friend of mine) do not understand is that Ron Winters (a referee we all think would be better suited bagging groceries than calling live NFL games) and his crew called the penalties correctly against the Ravens according to the NFL rules.
Chris Mottam summed up what many people were feeling this morning on Ray Lewis' comments following the Ravens v. Patriots game:
Lewis’ comments are spot on. I think we’d all agree it was an awful roughing the passer call.
Sadly, Chris is incorrect on this point, and it pains to disagree with him and have to agree with the butt wart in the NFL known as Ron Winters. Now, before my editors jump all over me and say "Brad, WTF are you doing taking on one of our own?" let me just say that the problem is not, in my estimation, over the call made on the field, even though people are saying it is.
The problem is the rule itself; a rule that has been on the books for seven months. A rule that, quite honestly, should have been protested back in March, making Lewis's and Mottram's protests a bit too little, too late.
More explanation after the jump...
On a drive which eventually led to a 17-7 Patriots lead, the Ravens were called for a personal foul, low blow to the QB. This is a new personal foul added to the rules this season, often referred to as "The Brady Rule." This type of personal foul was called twice in the Pats v. Ravens game, and on both drives it helped New England score eventual touchdowns.
The Brady Rule was added into the NFL fold this past offseason mainly because, in Week One of last season, Patriots QB Tom Brady was knocked out of the game after Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard made a clean hit on him in the pocket. The hit resulted in an ACL tear in Brady's knee, ending his 2008 season and decapitating any and all hope of the New England Patriots returning to the Super Bowl that year.
More importantly, the loss of Brady meant the NFL would not make the kind of money, or create the kind of regular season and post-season buzz, that it normally makes when Tommy Terrific is playing.
So, what did the NFL do? They took Bernard Pollard's clean hit and turned it into a personal foul.
Back in March, the Boston Globe's Christopher Gasper wrote an article clearly articulating what this new "Brady Rule" is [emphasis mine]:
The fifth provision of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12 (roughing the passer) says that: "A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him."
In both incidents where roughing was called against the Ravens Sunday, Tom Brady was hit by a defender below the knees while both his feet were on the ground. After at least one of the plays, Tom Brady was seen pumping his fist after the referee threw the flag. The stated rule mentions nothing about a defender's "intent". The rule is simple: If you hit a QB, essentially, below the knees, it is a 15 yard penalty. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The article also has some very interesting comments from Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who (for me anyway) accurately articulates what many NFL owners, and many in the league office, feel is most important to professional football (hint, hint: It ain't linebackers or defensive players, period):
"I think all the quarterbacks in this league are critical to what the game is about," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft. "It's like if Peyton Manning were gone for a season, I think the whole NFL suffers, the same way the NFL suffered with Tommy out. So whatever we can do to protect quarterbacks and to minimize the opportunity of them being taken out with a year-ending injury I would support.
"It's not good for the league. What makes it special is special players. It's like going to see a great movie and the star isn't in the movie. It's the same principle."
Take note of that and then apply it to what Ray Lewis said following the game:
That's embarrassing to our game," Lewis said. "Fine me, do whatever you please. I'm not speaking against anybody. It's embarrassing, for them to treat one person on the football field different than everybody else.
"That's what's embarrassing about this game. You cannot do that. You gotta let the game take care of itself like it just did. But when you call penalties like that, it takes away from the love of the game, because you can get a Tom Brady to walk by you and say, 'Oh, that's a cheap one.' Wow."
"We're men, we put our pants on the same way. I got kids, just like Brady got kids. Every man has kids. Treat them with that same respect."
Well Ray, clearly the NFL Competition Committee, the NFL league office, and the NFL owners do not agree with you when you say that all players should be treated the same. Quarterbacks are valued more than any other player in the game. They are the game's "stars," and without marquee QBs throwing TD passes, the NFL makes less of that green stuff often referred to as "money." And while Ray Lewis and Chris Mottam seethe at Ron Winters for throwing yellow at the Ravens Sunday, the fact of the matter is that, by rule, both those plays were indeed penalties.
Now, is the rule a good rule? Hell no!
Just like the "Tuck Rule" in 2001 (another dubious rule that Tom Brady has benefited from), the system of guidelines the NFL uses to protect the QB is now beyond ridiculous. But the NFL has made it clear that the excuse of "People get hurt and teams just gotta move on" is not acceptable to their bottom line. A team cannot "move on" when the face of their franchise is wiped out in one play.
A league cannot "move on," which is another way of saying "make money," when Tom Brady does not play the entire 2008 season.
Quarterbacks are special. They are more important than any other player on the team, and players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are valued a helluva lot more than Ray Lewis, Dwight Freeney, Patrick Willis, or anyone else on defense who has the potential to end a QB's season.
Yes, some rules are indeed needed in order to protect QBs from the violence pro football glorifies. I'll bring up Carson Palmer's rather ominous comments from this offseason:
"The truth of the matter is ... somebody is going to die here in the NFL. It's going to happen.''
Palmer made that statement during a roundtable discussion involving NFL quarterbacks and their safety on the field. Palmer clarified the statement, and when you read it in tandem with Lewis's comments from yesterday and Kraft's comments from March, they provide a sobering reason why quarterbacks are so protected [emphasis mine]:
"Guys are getting so big, so fast, so explosive,'' Palmer said. "The game's so violent. Now that they're cutting out the wedge deal on kickoff returns, those guys [are] coming free, and at some point somebody is going to die in football. And I hope it's not anyone at this table, and I hope it doesn't happen, obviously. Everyone talks about the good old days, when guys were tough and quarterbacks got crushed all the time, but back in the day, there weren't defensive ends that were Mario Williams -- 6-7, 300 pounds, 10 percent body fat, running a 4.7 40.
"The game has changed, the game is getting bigger, faster, stronger, and there needs to be more protection. If I weren't a quarterback, I would be mad about the rules. If I were a safety or a defensive back, I would be mad about the new rule that you can't hit your helmet above their shoulder pads or whatever it is because it does take some of the ferociousness out of the game, but somebody is going to get seriously hurt, possibly die.
Take all this in, and the message is clear: Quarterbacks are special, and the league would prefer that they not get hurt during games, thank you very much.
What astonishes me is this rule has been on the books since March, and it is only now that people are starting to bitch about it. I mean, come on folks! This was an obvious move by the league to say the QBs are important and everyone else is garbage, and it was done nearly sevens months ago. Why are we only now saying, "Woah, woah, woah! This is BS!"
So, if I could offer a point of emphasis here: Don't be mad at Ron Winters or his crew on this particular subject. Yes, Winters is one of the worst officials in football, and is long overdue to receive a pink slip to go with his pink hat and pink shoes this month. The people you should be mad at are the NFL owners. They are the ones who think that protecting the QB is more important than protecting the game of football.
I say all this as a fan of a team built around the face of the NFL: Peyton Manning. The league saw Brady go down last year, and they all did a quick calculation in their head as to how much money they would lose if the same thing happened to Peyton. When the negative number popped into their brains, they collectively began to panic.
If Peyton Manning ever went down as Tom Brady did, it would spell disaster for the NFL.
Yes, games would go on. Yes, fans would cheer their teams. Yes, there would be a Super Bowl. Yes, the sun would still rise and set. All these would happen if Peyton Manning were lost for a season. But, what would not go on is the continued increase in profits the NFL owners receive when players like Peyton Manning quarterback their teams to the playoffs. Major corporate sponsors like Sprint, Visa, and Budweiser would lose milions in endorsements because no one wants to see a player out for the season pushing cell phones, credit cards, and beer.
This is the reality pro football in the 21st century. In today's game, the quarterbacks are everything. The Brady Rule simply enforces that.
Look for Ray Lewis to receive a rather hefty fine for his comments, which essentially said the league's "Brady Rule" embarrasses the game of football. Lewis is indeed right in his comments, but his comments are about seven months too late.