What I’m about to say will be received poorly by my audience of readers. I know this, but I’m going to write it anyway because I think it’s the truth and it needs to be said.
I think if readers look at this objectively and honestly, they’ll know that it’s true, but sometimes the truth hurts so it’s hard to read it, accept it and know that it’s real.
So here goes: The NFL stinks — like big time. It’s real, real bad — so bad that if I didn’t have to watch it for my job, I probably wouldn’t.
I know, I know. You’re reading this and are saying it’s blasphemy.
But hear me out.
What is there to like about the game right now? It’s hard to make a list that goes more than 1-2 things deep.
The product on the field is awful. You literally can’t do anything without being penalized. There’s a flag on every, single play. If you hit someone too hard, it’s a penalty. If you hit someone in the head, obviously, it’s a penalty. But now, if you hit a quarterback in the legs, apparently, it’s also a penalty, too? You can’t play defense aggressively without breaking a rule. You can’t line up over the center on special teams. You can’t blink more than three times during a play or a flag comes out.
OK, I made up that last one, but only barely.
It was one thing when the league was trying to take concussions out of the game. That, I understood and accepted.
But now, they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
The current NFL product is overpoliced and is unwatchable as a result.
If your sport needs to have a “referee announcer” to translate what is going on, then your sport has a serious problem and needs to be simplified.
Fans want to watch athleticism, talent, speed and agility on Sundays. Instead, we get a weird blend of sports, but also Judge Judy with all of the debate and rules-related jargon.
I actually timed it for one game on Sunday. From a three-hour broadcast from noon to 3 p.m., play was stopped to debate penalties for close to 30 minutes of that three hours.
That’s not good. In fact, that’s horribly bad.
And what makes it worse is that through all of the policing, those guys in stripes aren’t even good at what they do.
Sunday night’s prime time showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys was a glistening example of the problems the NFL has with its officiating.
In that game, I saw Ezekiel Elliott be called for a fumble incorrectly. I saw officials look at the play on replay and still get the call wrong. His elbow pretty clearly was down on the turf and he still had the ball. All three announcers upstairs agreed. But the official on the field was incapable of admitting he made a mistake, so he cowardly deferred to a lack of indisputable video evidence to overturn the call on the field, which is bogus and, quite frankly is a copout.
Add it all together and we lost 3-plus minutes of our lives watching these guys debate a play and still get it wrong.
That last statement was the Cowboys fan coming out in me, but look, the Saints got the bad end of it, too.
I saw Dak Prescott draw a roughing the passer penalty while sliding in the open field. He slid at the knees of a Saints player who couldn’t get out of the way in time.
Where is the defender supposed to go? He can’t just disappear or vanish.
To throw salt on the wound, Teddy Bridgewater did the same thing later and no flag was thrown when the Cowboys’ defender contacted his body.
I saw Eli Apple be called for defensive holding for literally doing nothing.
I saw a Amari Cooper be called for offensive pass interference twice on pretty ticky tack calls.
It was a poorly officiated game from start-to-finish.
Instinct is always to forgive and move on.
“Surely, they won’t be that bad next week.”
But right now, in the NFL, they are equally bad next week … and every week.
When was the last time you’ve watched a game that didn’t have some form of controversy? There are a few “clean” games every given Sunday, but there are more where an obvious blown or controversial call defines the storyline.
And that’s unhealthy for the sport.
This is a great sport with hundreds of dominant, world-class athletes.
I want the story to be about them, not about the officials on the field or the over-complicated rules of said game.
Until we get back to that, I’m out. I’ll watch the Cowboys, Saints and no one else.
And truthfully, it’s kind of painful even to do that.
Soon, I may be out altogether.