The Good and Bad of the New Roughing the Passer Penalty


Many football fans are scratching their heads over the new roughing the passer rule and its impact on the NFL

The NFL is now through the first quarter of play and despite some draw dropping action, one of the front talking points is the new roughing the passer rule. A defender cannot land on top of the quarterback with full bodyweight falling to the ground. The 15 yard penalty attached with the new rule can be a back breaking proposition for NFL defenses. This new rule among others was implemented to protect the quarterback, the most important and coveted position in the game. There are both sides to the question, “Is the NFL too soft?” Let’s delve deeper into the good and bad of the new roughing the passer rule:

The Good: The newest modification to the roughing the passer rule is certainly beneficial for the quarterback position. In terms of concussion prevention and general health this new modification is a quarterbacks dream come true. Every time they step back to throw they know that an aggressive sack will be flagged by the officials.

As the NFL is at an all time high in viewership, sales and ratings, the NFL surely benefits from attempting to keep their star quarterbacks upright. In professional sports, injuries to impactful players can result in viewership, ticket and sales decline. In the NFL this is especially true with a quarterbacks impact to a local and national fan base. People want to see the best quality of exciting and playmaking style of football on offense, and with a star quarterbacks injury due to a gruesome sack, there is less motivation for people to watch and be enthusiastic about the NFL.

Although the NFL is naturally a violent sport, more and more players are starting to adapt to a more safe style of play. NFL coaches are actively teaching their players to use better technique to allow penalty free play. The new bodyweight sack rule emphasizes the movement of safer play with proper technique to prevent injuries to the quarterback. Players especially involved with sacking the quarterback are now trying to go after the football, not the quarterbacks head. The NFL is simply a quarterback driven league, and with this new rule the NFL is successfully protecting the most important player on the field.

The Bad: The position that sees the most significant downgrade in the new sack rule is defensive lineman and blitzing linebackers. While trying to bring the quarterback down, it is very difficult to readjust your body position when moving full speed at the QB. Many defensive lineman argue that it is nearly impossible to completely comply to this new rule based on your relative body position to the quarterback during a play. In addition, even if the defender doesn’t land on top of the quarterback with full bodyweight the benefit of the doubt is given to the quarterback not the defensive lineman. Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the new emphasis on roughing the passer that bars a defender from landing with his full body weight on the quarterback has altered the game “as much as any one [rule] I have seen make a change from our past.” As the NFL becomes more and more pass heavy and quarterback friendly, defensive lineman and defenses in general take the biggest hit. In week three of the NFL season, roughing the passer penalties were flying all over the field. In ESPN’s Monday Night Football during week three, there were six roughing the passer calls. The 15 yard penalty attached to the new modification is a brutal reality that can have a major impact on any given game.

Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL trying to avoid the new roughing the passer penalty