Targeting Rule On The Agenda For 2018, Says Troy Vincent

I have frankly lost count of the number of player-safety rules changes that have come about pretty much directly because of the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was the Mel Blount rule. There was the Hines Ward rule. There was the Ryan Shazier rule. And you might as well call it the James Harrison initiative, the re-emphasis of the defenseless player protections from several years back.

Following Monday night’s violent showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals, the league is already talking about potentially adding another rule change that I’m quite confident will not be very popular around here. The competition committee is seriously considering adopting the targeting rule from college football that has been in place the past few years.

The targeting rule is a constant target for criticism, but part of the issue is that it has to be individually policed and enforced by different conferences, so there is an obvious problem of consistency. Now, the NFL is no bastion of consistency in the enforcement of discipline, let alone rules, but I would like to think that they could do a better job.

Adopting the targeting rule is on the table for discussion during the first session of league meetings during the offseason in February, and I would not be surprised at all if there will be a strong backing for getting it passed.

Through a number of lies and mischaracterizations that he spewed forth yesterday about fairness and consistency, executive vice president Troy Vincent did say yesterday that the targeting rule “is something that we have to consider”.

“We’ve seen it work” at the college level, he said, “to a degree. It’s clean. The play is a reviewable play at the collegiate level. But we think there’s been some positives”, he added, with respect to its function as a successful deterrent”.

I’m sure I’ll be in the minority, but I wouldn’t have a problem with the league experimenting with the targeting rule, or some variation of it, though I would like to see it run on a trial basis for a season first to see how it functions at this level before it becomes codified in perpetuity into the rule book.

The NFL, of course, would not have to adopt a perfect copy of the collegiate rule, and could tailor it to their own needs. The general idea is simply to provide a very significant deterrent for players to avoid contact above the shoulders with defenseless players, which is a noble goal.

Making a hit on a defenseless player reviewable, however, would be a major change for the league and would open up a whole new can of worms that they have wanted to avoid. Frankly, many have actually wanted such things reviewable, so in a backward way, some fans through this process may actually get something they wanted.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Doug Sawyer

    Troy Vincent has got to go if he honestly feels this way

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m fine with the idea. I have zero confidence that the NFL could actually enforce a targeting rule with any sort of consistency. But it truly is the only way to take head shots out of the game. Otherwise you’ll always have situations like Iloka on AB in the endzone, no reason not to go for the hit because it’s only a 15 yard penalty and a fine. But you throw the guy out for the rest of the game, that’s a lot harder to justify going for the hit.

  • Doug Sawyer

    MM said it best you can not adjust to a player running 4.4 4.3 in open field and not hit them in a way you can control …this is football …if a ball in thrown poorly and wr takes a bad angle at a ball full speed while a DB is trying to make a play you can not get rid of head to head contact…as he said put flags on them …college and 65-58 scores …we want pro sports not kids gloves

  • falconsaftey43

    Head to head contact is different than head shots. It is possible to greatly reduce these types of hits. The hit on AB by Iloka is 100% avoidable. It’s called you don’t attempt the hit if you can’t make a clean one. Yes, you’ll allow a TD. You know why you allowed the TD? Because you weren’t in a good enough position to defend it properly. You don’t have to like the idea of removing some of the violence from the game, but a lot of it can be removed from the game. They’ve already greatly reduced the number of head shots in the secondary because guys have adjusted their aiming point. This would just be another step.

  • Ike Evans

    That rule has done 0 for college football….it’s window dressing its a PR move…it’s a preventative measure against court

  • Doug Sawyer

    yeah …I just don’t agree the job of a defender is to willfully take the ball away from the offensive player try running full speed and do that with anyone…targeting is just a garbage term for aggressively making a play where the timing ends up being off and someone might get hurt …did Brown cry about the hit he took?…no…because he also get’s it …it is a violent sport …people need to stop candy coating it

  • Doug Sawyer

    absolutely …it’s a smoke screen to say see we tried to make it not dangerous…don’t sue us
    it’s either a violent sport or it’s not…they can play flag football and no one gets hurt

  • falconsaftey43

    It’s also the defenders job to do so within the rules. Look, I was totally fine with the game before all these player safety rules. I got excited and celebrated the huge hits Ryan Clark and the like would dish out. But these rules are being instituted for a reason. And that reason is largely because former players sued the league over health issues from head trauma and the information the NFL knew about it. Players can say all they want that they don’t want these types of rules, and many don’t, but they primarily exist because former players sued the NFL for head trauma issues and then the public perception of head trauma greatly shifted. The NFL had to respond to both protect itself from future legal action, and to help it’s image and public relation to maintain a large fanbase. And yes, that often means catering to the masses rather than “true” football fans.

    My only problem with your stance is that it is somehow impossible to play within the rules. It’s not. It’s harder, specifically for the defense, but it’s 100% possible. You could have said the same thing about any rule that was instituted. “How are we supposed to block without holding…by not holding”. “how are we supposed to cover WRs if we can’t hit them after 5 yards…simply by not hitting them after 5 yards.” “how do we tackle or break up a pass with out blasting a guy in the head…by being in position to play the ball or by making a tackle that avoids the head.” will there always be some instance when a hit to the head occurs, yes. Just like there are instances of guys committing a hold when they didn’t intend to because the defender fell or moved in an unexpected way. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible not to hold, the player just took a risk and it cost them.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    It is a terrible idea for multiple reasons.

    1. You already limit the defenders ability to do their jobs with the rules currently in place. A receiver goes up for the ball, a guy targets him properly, and then the receiver ducks into the hit and the defender is penalized 15 yards because the receiver moved a certain way. So not only is a defender already getting penalized for something he had no control over, but this would take that further and we would eject the guy for something that was basically someone elses fault.

    2A. The quality of the product goes down and nobody wants that. I don’t mean about people loving big hits, but if you start ejecting high end defensive starters for hits and you get backups in there and that isn’t something people typically want to see.

    2B. The quality of the product goes down because you are adding even more power into the refs hands and they can already swing games with bad calls and now we are giving them more chances to make huge impacts by ejecting players. Just imagine is a playoff game and Steelers vs Patriots in the AFC Championship game and Joe Haden were to get ejected for a helmet to helmet and we lose. Fans would burn down the city.

    I am not the alarmist type that is always talking about flag football and players wearing dresses and I am all for player safety, but at some point the NFL has to draw the line and accept the game for what it is. Otherwise the steps will go so far as to get to a point where there really is no choice but to completely alter the game to something akin to flag football. Or all games end up being 70-54 scores because they basically tell defenders to back off unless they are 100% certain they can hit someone in a completely safe manner.

  • EdJHJr

    Troy needs to justify his job

  • EdJHJr

    How about calling a penalty on every pass then every possession ends with a touchdown. Isn’t that the idea

  • NinjaMountie

    They better make the rosters bigger. Will be getting down to the 3rd or 4th string in some games

  • JNick

    I disagree. MM is confusing being a good safety, with covering up for your inadequacies. A safety, flying into a play late and diving, shoulder or head first is always, always avoidable. Having good, sound tackling technique and being in a good position on the field would dramatically reduce those hits. Head up, to the side of the player and running through a WR, will not generally get a flag, but the caveat for MM is you have to be in position to do this. Otherwise you are caught like Iloka, diving headlong back into the play trying to break it up.

  • Rick McClelland

    The NFL will not apply the rule evenly. It will benefit certain teams and certain players and they will turn a blind eye to the rest like they do for every other rule they have.
    If it benefits NE and Tom Brady, great, but the rest of the league will see no benefit whatsoever.

  • JNick

    The only issue I have with your statement is at some point, the rules committee needs to consider what position the offensive players are putting themselves in. You can’t have WRs laying out for catches across the middle and not expect contact to the head, when that is the first thing an oncoming defender will likely encounter. QBs sliding downfield 1 yard in front of defenders are putting themselves at risk. They need to consider guidelines to make it fair for defenders. The way it is going at some point, the defenders are going to have to let plays happen in front of them for concern of getting flagged, fined or ejected.

  • rystorm06

    Welcome to the NFFL (National Flag Football League)

  • Charles Haines

    On the surface it’s a great idea. I would have 3 ex-players reviewing the plays and let them determine the context of each hit. If you really wanted to change the culture, ejected players also miss the next game.

  • PittShawnC

    So I mean, it doesn’t reverse JuJu’s suspension or make Vincent and Runyon send personal, handwritten apologies to 2,000,000 Steeler fans…but if you care at all about this game, I encourage you to think longterm.

    Everyone’s aware that within the past few weeks the first case of diagnosing CTE in a living patient was successful, right? Within five or so years, after testing and approval, they will be able to use the test players for CTE.

    “Ah yes, Mr. 24 yr old Franchise QB, please have a seat. We got your test results back and you’ve been diagnosed with Stage 1 CTE” (no, I’m not sure the specifics, not sure if a 24yr old can show signs, 26, etc. but you get the point)

    Does that player keep playing…or do they choose to retire? What does that do to rosters, to superstars? “Mr Brown, congratulations on being the first WR to win the MVP award. However, you’ve been diagnosed…”

    Adapt or die, right? (and yes, I know that it’s not the Iloka/JuJu hits that do the most damage, it’s the repeated, continual hits that OL/DL/RB’s/LB’s have every play)

  • nutty32

    Stop going in forehead first in any blindside/defenseless situation, period. It’s not that hard to use forearms and shoulders first. It’s no coincidence shoulder pads have gotten smaller and forearm pads have disappeared with the rise of using the helmet as a weapon. This wouldn’t reduce the physicality of the sport a bit, just take dangerous head shot away for BOTH the hittee and hitter. The replay review can screen out situations when the receiver causes the helmet to helmet with last second moves. Just stop leading with the forehead – it’s not that hard & doesn’t take away physicality.

  • nutty32

    Except it works fine in rugby, where there are natural barriers to using the forehead as a weapon.

  • nutty32

    Just don’t go in forehead first…..its not that hard to turn slightly sideways to use your shoulder or put your forearms out there first. It’s a learned technique & nothing about it is inevitable/unavoidable.

  • johnnypudding

    I’d be okay with a targeting rule, but an automatic suspension if called is too much…how about a personal foul and an ejection from that game, and maybe a fine…but no automatic suspension for the next game

  • Jim Foles

    So your running down and targeting an ILB potential tackler, lay him out to stop him from tackling your ball carrier. That would be targeting on the ILB everytime. lol…

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    How do you carry out your blocking assignment or tackle guy with ball WITHOUT ‘targeting’ him and not miss? It’s beneath laughably sub-moronic even for the ‘Let’s kick it from the 50 this year and see what happens’ league!!!

  • Steve

    Iloka was not fined.

  • Steve

    I’m surprised AB did not have a concussion after that shot. Wonder if he was examined?

  • Steve

    The quality of the product has gone down with many people not watching NFL football anymore.

  • Steve

    With over 200 yards in penalties, Cincy had a penalty on every series in the 2nd half.

  • Steve

    With Fort playing we are down to out 3rd or 4th (Spence) string ILB.

  • Steve

    Good one, cause that is what the NFL is turning into.

  • Edjhjr

    Wow over 200. Actually holding calls can be made on pretty many pass plays too.

  • Steve

    Cincy set the record. With the Thugs they have, problem will get worse. till they get a new Head Coach. Seems were back to the Bounty system that Buddy Ryan started. And kept going down in New Orleans, when they suspended their coach for the Bounty System for one year.

  • Steve

    What is too much? Knocking out AB from the game, is that too much?

  • LucasY59

    If the targeting rule clears up the incidental helmet to helmet penalties I would be ok with it, and of course it needs to be reviewable, but I dont have a lot of faith in the league implementing rules that will actually work

  • Steve

    Hit the player with your body, arms, shoulders, not your head.

  • Ed Smith

    You call out an excellent point. Tackling technique has changed (for the worse) since I played

  • Ed Smith

    We were taught to “see what you tackle” which means going in with your head up, wrap arms and twist for leverage to bring opponent down. If you had to tackle high there were occasions that the Face mask made contact with opponent, including their head. Was nothing like today where they guys act as misses. Eliminate ALL top of head hits (definition of Targeting) but allow face mask to task mask/helmet incidental contact.

    Minimize face masks and you’ll find guys will be less willing to get their head involved. It might bring back the correct tackling technique so,often lacking in the NFL these days. Watchthe best tacklers in the league these days, they go for hips/mid-section/legs using the technique described above.

    NFL – let’s get back to football “basics”!! (A really good coach named Noll once stressed that – kind of got him far now didn’t it? 😁)