If the NFL listens to any one person, that one person would appear to be Tom Brady. Three days after the future Hall of Fame quarterback complained on Twitter about the number of penalties in the Thursday Night Football game between the Titans and Jaguars, the league saw a precipitous drop in holding penalties.
According to ESPN, “Officials threw 41 flags for offensive holding in 14 games Sunday, an average of 2.9 per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the first 33 games of the season, there were 188 such flags — a rate of 5.7 per game.”
NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating, Al Riveron, held a conference call with league referees this week to address the issue, ESPN reports.
During the Titans-Jaguars game, a game where referees called ten penalties for offensive holding alone, Brady tweeted his disgust at how the number of penalties were interfering with the players ability to play the game.
Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!! #TENvsJAC
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) September 20, 2019
To be fair, Brady wasn’t alone in complaining about rash of penalty flags being thrown. Thousands of fans and media alike, tweeted their frustration at how unwatchable the game had become.
According to ESPN:
This summer, the NFL asked officials to focus on a technique sometimes referred to as a “lobster block,” when an offensive lineman wraps his arms around a defender while blocking on the backside of running plays. As it turned out, they increased their focus on holding all over the field.
During the first two weeks of the season, they threw 178 flags for offensive holding — a 66% increase from the same time period in 2018. The spike also contributed to a 16.2% increase in total penalties compared to Weeks 1-2 of last season, as well as a slight drop in scoring from 21.97 offensive points per game in 2018 to 20.9 in 2019.
During Saturday’s call, Riveron instructed referees to continue emphasizing the need for offensive linemen to immediately move their blocks inside the frame of the defender if they initiate the block outside. But on front-side and other blocks, Riveron counseled them to allow for more time to get inside the frame.
The league is already facing a potential ratings crisis with injuries to several high-profile quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton. So, the last thing the league needs right now is constant interruptions for penalties and less scoring. Making an emphasis on holding penalties, of any type, is especially problematic considering that holding is the one penalty that could literally be called on every play.
While the rules have to be followed and the officials clearly have a job to do, a balance has to be struck. That balance is a lot closer to the way holding penalties were called this past Sunday, as opposed to the first two Sundays of the season.
Thanks, Tom Brady.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn