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Roughing the passer changes won’t fix the league’s overarching problem

What the NFL is proposing will only make matters worse

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For anyone who has kept a close eye on the NFL this season, you know that the officiating has been the bane of every fan’s existence. Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, the football gods laughed upon us mere mortals yet again with the worst calls you have ever seen.

Last weekend while the Los Angeles Rams were still celebrating their Thursday night win, there were two highly scrutinized roughing the passer calls. One of which occurred in a game played by a certain SoFi Stadium roommate. Early in the third quarter of a matchup against the Dolphins, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was sacked on third down by Miami linebacker Jaelan Phillips. For anyone with a weak stomach, you may want to avert your eyes with what I’m about to show you. Things are about to get pretty rough up in here:

Wait a minute. That was it? Hold up, Phillips’ sack wasn’t that rough. My eyes are iffy at best but I can see this isn’t roughing. The defender didn’t throw his weight onto Herbert and you can even see him easing up at the end to avoid a penalty. This play was panned by fans and analysts all across the sport. In a since-deleted tweet, Phillips gave the officiating an even rougher time, calling for any kind of accountability, something he’ll never get from anyone residing in the league office.

The Rams’ NFC West rival was the beneficiary of a roughing call of their own. On the very first play from scrimmage, 49ers rookie signal caller Brock Purdy was taken down by Bucs linebacker Keanu Neal. It initially didn’t look Purdy but it seemed to be a clean hit.

Exactly right, what is the defender supposed to do? There was helmet-to-helmet contact on the play but it’s clear Keanu wasn’t leading with his head. Neal decided to take the high road following the game and gave his side of the story before the league comes down on him with a hefty fine.

“I was [surprised], honestly, because I wrapped up and I didn’t lead with my head,” Neal told reporters via NBC Sports. “I felt like I led with my chest a little bit. I was surprised. I didn’t expect a flag, but like I said, the refs are making decisions in split seconds and they made that call. I can’t argue with it, just have to move forward.”

Then there was this play in the Ravens-Steelers game:

This play is much different compared to the hits on Herbert and Purdy. Pickett is outside the pocket looking to escape his pursuers so this wouldn’t count as a roughing penalty given he had become a runner. Yet with the way flags have been thrown this year, do you really see any of these officiating crews around the league knowing the difference?

It would appear I missed another biggie. My mistake, how could I forget this non-call against Jets QB Mike White? He looked as though he was in a WWE cage match ready to be piledriven into a folding table. If that was Tom Brady you know this would’ve been called in a heartbeat. The defender would also have to forfeit his game check to pay for Brady’s boo-boos.

Roughing the passer calls have been an issue for years but the league has done very little to correct it. Remember back in Week 4 when Tua Tagovailoa took a brutal sack, seemingly giving him a concussion in back-to-back games? That play wasn’t called roughing on the field despite Tagovailoa being violently tossed onto the turf.

Related: Jalen Ramsey nails hypocrisy of NFL safety protocols

These calls have been as inconsistent as possible yet the league continues to defend the refs as if their judgement is the end-all. I would love to know the kind of dirt they have on the league because that has to be the only reason most of them still have a job.

On Tuesday it was announced that the NFL will be considering ejections for roughing the passer penalties and hits on defenseless players in the offseason. By all means, please give the officials more power while they already have a blurry definition of the calls they’re currently making. Troy Vincent, the league’s vice president of football operations, expressed caution as to whether these changes would indeed be beneficial for the sport in the long run.

“I think chasing perfection is a dangerous place to go for the National Football League and, frankly, for officiating,” Vincent said. “And that’s what happens with the cameras, replay. You begin chasing perfection, which is not a good place for the game.”

Say the NFL foregoes perfection and embraces above averageness instead? Anything has to be better than the mediocrity they’re embracing on the field each and every week. I would also love to know how “chasing perfection” isn’t a good place for the game but refusing to properly address controversies is perfectly fine.

No matter what the NFL proposes, you just know they’ll figure out a way to screw it up. Their lack of common sense is inevitable. I think we all remember teams being able to review pass interference, an experiment that lastly for only a year (compliments of the Rams and those whiny Saints).

The human element will always be the drawback for whatever the league hopes to correct. These officials are tossed to the wolves with questionable knowledge and as godawful as they are, they’re expected to make judgement calls stemming from what they know? How can the league decide to fix anything when we still don’t know WHAT THE HELL A FREAKING CATCH IS?!

It’s not possible to restore the league’s integrity when they have none to begin with. I understand wanting to protect quarterbacks from harm’s way but there is such a thing as overprotecting them. The NFL needs to quit acting like helicopter parents and let the players play. These penalties are not about player safety as the league has led us to believe. Instead, it’s about keeping the offenses on the field. Defensive battles just aren’t the rage anymore.

Assuming the league doesn’t do the right thing, a correct assumption given their history, their product will no longer be watchable. The excessive softness is ruining the NFL and is worthy of a 15-yard penalty. But let’s not kid ourselves, when has this joke of a league ever done the right thing?