Merton Hanks was an NFL defensive back before he became the guy in charge of issuing fines to NFL defensive backs. And he says there’s no doubt in his mind that those fines have changed the way defensive backs do their jobs.
Hanks, whose title in the league office is Vice President for Football Operations, told the New York Times that there was a player in this season’s Jaguars-Titans game who had a clear shot at a tackle but let the receiver go by and get to the end zone for a touchdown, which was presumably a result of feeling uncertain about whether he had a proper angle to hit the receiver without drawing a flag.
“As a former defensive player, I can’t tell you I’m happy about this,” Hanks said. “The fact of the matter is guys, when they are unsure, they are turning down hits. That’s a paradigm shift in our league. Usually, you make the hit and we’ll figure it out later.”
But Hanks doesn’t seem to feel any sympathy for a player who doesn’t know how to make a hit without getting a penalty.
“That’s on him as a professional. He has to master his technique,” Hanks said.
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Football Operations, said his film study indicates that the new emphasis on protecting defenseless receivers is working.
“Given enough instruction to both players and coaches that certain rules are going to be enforced more rigorously, we were very confident that players and coaches — they are very bright and very skilled — would make the adjustment,” Anderson said. “At this point, we’re actually quite pleased with the progress we’re making.”