By Christopher DiMarino
This post might be out of the news by now but I love writing about semi-controversial topics to see what you think. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has always been a player surrounded by drama. It all started with the tuck rule and snowballed from there. He became the poster child of the “protect our quarterbacks” campaign whether if he liked it or not.
Brady is now enthralled in another controversy due to a play he made in the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. The play involved him escaping the pocket and scrambling for yards. To avoid a hit he used the quarterback slide, which is at the center of this issue. This action was special because he added a component to it, he raised one of his legs and tripped up safety Ed Reed at the end. This was likely a defensive tactic meant to further brace him from impact, but it is very dangerous and brought bigger issues into question. Fellow Ravens safety Bernard Pollard scolded Brady and used this issue to push that the NFL cares more about offensive players than defensive.
I immediately exploded into a riot about how that play should have been a flag for unsportsmanlike. Was Brady being a poor sport? Probably not. However, it seems the frequency of scrambling quarterbacks misusing the slide this year has skyrocketed. The San Francisco 49ers playoff game against the Green Bay Packers featured another misuse. The slides made by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in my mind resembled trips and I was surprised none of the defenders he “cut” weren\’t hurt. Kaepernick explodes out of the pocket at mach speed and when he doesn’t feel he can dodge for more yards, he slides to protect himself mere feet away from an impending defender.
This action puts the defender in a precarious position. He needs to treat the quarterback as a runner and make the play. However, at any second, the quarterback might begin to slide and the defender most make the cognitive check to ease up and tag, rather than follow–through with a full hit. This is a delicate balance. I felt for a while that for this slide to be a legal action, it needed to happen so far away from a defender that any hit afterwards would be blatant and easily warrant a flag. Instead, quarterbacks have tight roped along in terms of what is a safe move, and what is a move to try and gain a competitive edge.
This brings us back to the center of the issue with Brady. I can say with confidence that he was not trying to use the possibility of sliding as bait to try and get extra yards. However, I think the rule should be stressed such that the slide needs to begin well before a defender would break down to begin his tackle. This would be a huge boost to player safety which the league would have you think is the paramount issue in the NFL. This change would mean quarterbacks would almost never get hit when trying to slide and defenders wouldn’t get errant legs thrown at them. Yet at the same time, it wouldn\’t allow scramblers to steal extra yards unless they are willing to brace for impact.
Unfortunately, the base of this issue is that the slide is a huge advantage to the offense. After all, this is an offensive driven league by popularity standards. For every die hard defensive fan who understands x’s and o’s, there are 10 occasional fans who only want to watch big games and only want to see big scores. The NFL needs to try and maintain integrity in the game, but also please the masses and attract fans. That is why I think that this issue will be swept under the rug, even if Pollard publicly tried to elevate it. He wanted to point out that player safety isn’t what the NFL cares about, it’s more concerned with offensive (quarterback) safety. I couldn’t agree more, and while I’ll concede that it would be a difficult rule change to make, Pollard might be absolutely right regarding the league\’s intentions.
What do you think?