Rooney breaks ranks on increased penalties in the passing game


When it comes to the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding, the league office has been acting like that dad who threatens to turn this car around and go home. The teams and players have been the kids sitting in the back seat, continuing to push the old man’s buttons in order to see whether he really means it.

With 230 defensive holding and illegal contact penalties called through 49 preseason games (4.69 per game), the question becomes whether that rate will continue once the regular season begins.  One of the more influential owners in the NFL has declared publicly that he hopes it won’t.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s concern around the league about [the increase in penalties] and I think that the point has been made by the officials,” Art Rooney II said, via Scott Brown of “I hope we’re going to get back to a more normal number of penalties per game.”

Rooney believes that the officials have been calling defensive holding and illegal contact more zealously in the preseason, in the hopes of sending a message that players and coaches must adjust.

“I think that’s been the history that you’ve seen things called in the preseason more than you’ve sometimes in the regular season when they’ve decided to make a point,” Rooney said.  “That’s been the pattern that I’ve noticed in the past so we’ll see if that holds true this year.”

The league insists, however, that the fouls will be called the same way once the real games start.  Which means that, at a minimum, Rooney is disrupting the ruse.

“I don’t think anybody’s trying to increase the number of penalties or the number of stoppages in games,” Rooney said.  “It will go up and down depending on a game, but on the whole I think we need to hopefully get back to something that’s more like we had last year in terms of number of penalties per game.”

A cynic would say that, given the quality of the cornerbacks on the team Rooney owns, Rooney hopes that a certain amount of down-the-field hand fighting and pushing and shoving and tugging will be permitted.  Otherwise, the Steelers will be giving up an uncharacteristically high numbers of points.

Regardless, the rules are the rules.  (Profound, I know.)  Officials don’t throw flags for the exercise value of it.  Generally speaking, if players don’t commit penalties, penalties aren’t called.  So even though fans and media will blame the men in black and white, flags during the regular season will reflect that the coaches and players have failed to adjust to the rules.

69 responses to “Rooney breaks ranks on increased penalties in the passing game

  1. Either change the rule or call the infraction. The rule is there, enforce it. However, if you are not going to let defenders make contact with receivers, offensive PI should be enforced also. Can’t place emphasis on calling only the defensive penalties when the rules already favor the offense.

  2. If i want to watch basketball, I would. We’re not interested in seeing 40-45 point shootouts. The league has gone out of its way to devalue defense & special teams.

    Talk of removing kickoffs, removing extra points, moving the ball up on kickoffs so its always a touch back sucks!

    I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s. I saw the steel curtain, LT, those Bear’s D, Ronnie Lott, et al. The motto ‘Defense wins championships’ now is nothing more than ‘Defensive pass interference automatic 1st down’.

  3. The reason the fans get upset is the lack of consistency on said penalty’s. Offensive pass interference gets called on about 10 percent of the plays that they should. It’s also obvious that certain quarterbacks are protected and others are not. CONSISTENCY is gone. Now in all fairness to refs the league has tinkered with the game so much that they have made it a game almost impossible to call consistently. I won’t say anymore, complaining may get me fined.

  4. If the league proves that they aren’t backing down, the players will change the way they play and the penalties will drop.

    They did it with tackling the QB. The defenders now only have a small area where they can hit the QB. The defenders have changed the way they tackle QBs.

    If you don’t follow through, then it just means the next time you try to enforce something the children will just pout and stomp their feet even more because they got away with it last time.

    Also, this is coming from a team that punishes it’s football players by making them play football.

    I can’t believe they said that with a straight face.

  5. Yeah, our secondary is pretty lousy.. However, the preseason has been practically unwatchable with the number of flags thrown each game. The NFL knows it can’t keep that up during the regular season. Casual fans will tune out, it’s been that bad.

  6. While I hate all the rules they are putting in because they slow the game down and just generally make it not very much to watch, they need to even the playing field.

    If you are going to make sure Illegal Contact/Holding is called on the defense, how about you start making sure illegal picks are called as well.

    Oh wait this just in Peyton Manning throws 80% crossing patterns after an illegal pick..can’t call that.

  7. .
    Mr Rooney, the owners gave the NFL Competition Committee unlimited authority to change the rules unilaterally via a self made phrase called “point of emphasis”.

    Take back your game by requiring “point of emphasis”rule changes be treated as all other rule changes, which require ownership approval.

  8. If owners and coaches keep talking about the refs calling less penalties at the start of the season. players might decide it is business as usual and go back to the way they usually play, resulting in the refs calling more penalties. Instead of complaining, owners and coaches need to get on board and stress proper techniques.

  9. its a bunch of crap. i hate it. 3rd and 25, and the offense gets a 1st down because of something happening on the other side of the field where the ball isnt even thrown. its a problem. pass interference is one thing, but the holding call needs to be re thought out.

  10. Yes “the rules are rules”, but even a call such as holding can be a judgement call. For example, in the playoffs you typically see officials “let them play” a bit more than the do in the regular season.

  11. If a team commits a penalty, it should be called. I don’t care if it makes games 5 minutes longer. If you cheat, you should pay the price; not get away with it scott free.

  12. 1. even if the refs plan to throw fewer flags during the season, why would they say so publicly? if they did, the players wouldnt adjust now would they?

    2. have you seen our pass defense? we play 20 yards off of every receiver so i’m not sure how the increase in penalty enforcement would negatively affect us. you actually have to be close to the receiver to hold or contact him.

  13. The offenses in the NFL are given every advantage. The increased scrutiny on these calls and all of the flags tossed can turn a great game into a joke. Rooney is correct. Let them play the game and stop throwing flags every time some defender touches a receiver. What they need to do is focus on dirty hits and guys like Merriweather and not random plays where contact doesn’t impact or impede an offensive player.

  14. When the games start busting through their three hour time slots because of the penalty stoppages, and then bleed into the later games or the later games into prime time, then the networks will revolt.

    TV still drives the economics and besides that lagging times, the product is unwatchable.

  15. God forbid a few extra penalties interfere with the obscene amount of commercials that interrupt and stop the flow of the game.

    There is already more commercial time than actual football being played on the field.

  16. “Made up rules are rules”, the sport was getting along fine and didn’t need rules changes on defensive penalties in 1994, 2004, or the new rules set in the last few seasons.

  17. The penalties will not decrease. The way it is now is just how Goodell wants it to be. The league office wants to see an increase in penalties. Roger Goodell is a sick, sick individual who, in his warped mind thinks the game is better this way. He has a mental illness.

  18. If there a 20 defensive holding penalties a game, they have got to be flagged. I recognize Pittsburgh is a defensive minded team, so it benefits them to get away with holding, but explain that to the more offensive teams. All those holds make the game less exciting to watch for the fan. If we can blackout Steeler games here in LA, I’m all for it.

  19. Refs should’ve just focused on the Seahawks… That’s one of the only teams that blatantly broke the rules on an every down basis..

  20. In this day and age where the NFL powers that be think the ticket to good games is more offense and scoring…well it’s not! The defenses are being handcuffed, and it’s making the games really ugly with all the damned penalties.

    The competition committee has too much time on their hands, they need to rethink some of these changes geared toward helping the offense and increase scoring.

  21. I, for one, like the new enforcement of the rule. For way too long, pass interference has gone uncalled on both sides just for the sake of game flow. You know what, damn the flow of the game and call the penalties; the players will eventually learn to follow the rules.

  22. Funny thing is, if they call the games as they have in the preseason, the seahawks will bennefit more than others. How, you ask? Simple, Russell Wilson can scramble until a flag inevatibly gets thrown.

  23. It’s making it so the game can’t be watched anymore. I don’t get who they are trying to please. From a football perspective; you can’t hit the quarterback (fine), you can’t hit defenseless receivers high(perfectly acceptable), and you can’t touch them after 5 yards… Are people delusional to how hard it is to play defense? There are 11 men coming at you that know exactly where the ball is going to go and where all the men know where they should be going and who to hit and it’s up to the defense to be able to react to this AND not make contact? These WR’s are freak athletes in peak physical condition and hand checking is causing them to drop the ball? I can understand the pulls and tugs where the DB spins the receiver, but C’mon..

    I keep reading that “the fans” want higher scoring games and higher producing offenses. Sorry, but I don’t want to see Matt Stafford or Alex Smith passing Dan Marino or Joe Montana on all time leader lists because of these inflated offense enabling penalties. A 20-21 game keeps me on the edge of the seat more than a 50-42 game.

    All these penalties kill reception yards and passing yards so it’s not to cater to the Fantasy crowd… Who are they doing this for???

  24. Its pretty simple. Dont manhandle a receiver, and they wont call a penalty.

    The officials have gotten the Eagles with this throughout the preseason. But I honestly think they were all deserved.

    The only exception I have seen is where a receiver runs smack dab into a DB and pushes him, and they call defensive interference, or illegal contact.

    They need to make sure and call them on the offense, because it sure seems to me that receivers are attacking that particular flaw. And when you get a guy the size of Jimmy Graham or similar, it just isnt fair to a 5’10” DB when they get thrown 5 yards AND they get a penalty on top of it.

  25. Fans, in general, do not like most of the rule changes and how games are officiated. So, the million dollar question for me is…

    If the fans, coaches, players, and owners don’t like it, why in the hell are they changing it? What’s driving the changes? We all understand the safety changes related to concussions, but the other changes are not warranted. If you ask me, it’s because golden boy forehead got worked in the Superbowl by the Hawks last season.

  26. Terrible preseason for the NFL………when the emphasis for every game is the number of penalties and not the play on the the field then you have lost the core of what made the NFL great……….the NFL could actually experience a decline in TV ratings which would shock them all…but the reality is the games are slow paced, filled with commercials and just waiting for the next yellow flag……

  27. I mean come on…. more people watched OUR “horrible” Pro-Bowl than a game of your “precious” World Series game 6 last year…

  28. He currently serves as Chairman of the NFL’s Stadium Committee, and serves on numerous NFL boards, including the Legislative Committee, the Management Council Executive Committee, the International Committee, the NFL Foundation and the Digital Media Committee.

    His views don’t only have to do with his team. Believe it or not haters. He cares deeply about the integrity of the game and does more good than most owners.

  29. Shame on Rooney for politicking on behalf of the Steelers shady secondary… The reality is that nobody wants to see that many penalties in a game. This will lead to the most injuries ever to QB’s, because teams with poor secondaries will blitz more than ever to mask their deficiencies.

  30. .
    NFL Competition Committee :

    1. Rich McKay (chairman)
    2. Jeff Fisher
    3. Stephen Jones
    4. Marvin Lewis
    5. Ozzie Newsome
    6. Mark Murphy
    7. Rick Smith
    8. Mike Tomlin

    McKay, Fisher and Bill Polian were the architects of the 2004 illegal contact explosion (from 79 to 191) which resulted in Peyton Manning being “awarded ” a ring. I’m doubtful that McKay and Fisher have forgotten this episode.

  31. Too many of these changes are against the defense. I’m ok with enforcing illegal contact more if they change the intentional grounding rule. If the QB throws the ball away intentionally it should be a penalty period. Regardless if it reached the line of scrimmage or he is outside of pocket by a couple of inches.

  32. Good work Goodell. All these changes make watching a game like watching paint dry. So far this pre-season, it’s been more about the refs and senseless penalties than anything else. Keep it up Goodell, and I’ll find something else to do on Sundays. We lost over 1/3 of our fantasy league owners who’ve walked away from the game and are finding other things to do on Sunday. I’m definitely leaning that way. This is NOT the NFL I grew up watching.

  33. This is just another way of controlling the outcome of the game so the NFL can make sure their Golden Boys are taken care of. None more evident than last year in the final moments of the Cleveland vs New England game. It is a judgment call just like holding that happens on every single play yet they kill drives and change the outcomes of games by discretionary use of it.

  34. “I don’t think anybody’s trying to increase the number of penalties or the number of stoppages in games”

    There are entirely too many teams counting on exactly that.

  35. If this keeps up, I’m out. It’s not football anymore . I love the game and look fwd to every opportunity to tune in, but this has gotten ridiculous. I can’t even get into a game anymore because the flow has been so disrupted. I appreciate excellence in performance, not winning and moving down the field because of penalties . It’s going to get to the point where teams are going to have to sit back and play cover 4 and allow the underneath throw then come up and make a tackle. That’s not defense. That’s boring and offenses are going to march up and down the field all day. Red zone channel , look out, you’re going to need another station to cover it all.

  36. Another bad step in the wussification of the game as the rules inflate passing stats like steroids in baseball – enough already and I say that as someone who only played defense after throwing a pick – let them play

  37. The Seahawks still have zero illegal contact or defensive holding penalties in the preseason. This myth that the Seahawks play this great defense by contantly holding the receivers was perpetuated in the media and by a few football bloggers and the entire nation believes it. Does anyone actually watch Seahawks games? The one guy on the team regularly got called for that type if penalty was Brandon Browner and that’s because he’s slow. He wasn’t even on the team for most of the 2nd half of last season or the play-offs and now he’s a Patriot. The Seahawks definitely press at the line of scrimmage on a lot of plays but not all. And when they do it is in the 5 yd area that’s allowed in the rules. In your mind you think this emphathis on db penalties is because of the Seahawks but the reality coudn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never seen any of the so called football experts on any of the many NFL TV shows show examples of the Seahwawks constantly holding on pass plays. Even when the NFL used high lights to explain this penalty emphasis they didn’t include any high lights of the Seahawks. Tell your DB’s to move their feet and play better defense and they wouldn’t be getting all these penalties called.

  38. The NFL is close to ruining itself. Roger Goodell needs to be fired today. Football players know the risk of the game. Fans want to see “our game”. Goodell is clueless…. he fines the Seahawks for cheating in practice, but the Patriots cheated as an organization and the fines were almost equal? Aldon Smith? Ray Rice? His decisions make no sense. He favors certain teams and allows Jim Harbaugh to cry and whine like a baby all the time. Bring in an old school commish and let’s play football. Bill Parcells as commish!

  39. They never address the actual problem areas when it comes to rules. When they call helmet to helmet hits for 15 yards why can’t teams challenge it if they think it was a clean hit. The tuck rule may have been the stupidest thing ever in football. Why can’t a team challenge to see if possession was established on a replay?

  40. So I get the idea that there’s a category of penalty (DB holding downfield) that the league wants to stamp out and the chosen methodology to meet this goal is deliberate over-enforcement. I get it.

    But when we have 4 refs throwing flags on a false start (as happened in the Chiefs-Vikes game), we have a situation where over-enforcement has become systemic. Instead of calling more PI or IC, they’re calling more of everything. Lowering the threshold for a specific penalty has instead resulted in a global reduction in a zebra’s putative reluctance to keep their flags in their pockets (waistbands, whatever).

  41. Big plays get called back way too much and it kills the game. Somebody runs a kickoff back only to have it nullified because somebody not even involved in the play held, or at least looked like they held.
    Pass interference, both offensive and defensive is killing the game.

    Kickers deciding games gets you riled up? Officials are deciding games.

    It really devalues the game. all these changes do what? Increase scoring? But at waht price this.

    Kickoffs are now pretty much a waste of time.

  42. IF they are going to call the defensive penalties closer, then they HAVE to call the Olines for holding. IF not then the NFL is just another version of the CFL. Only way to keep a little balance.

  43. The overwhelming majority of football fans want to see close high scoring games decided by athleticism on the field, not physicality.

    Nobody wants to watch three yards and a cloud of boredom games.

  44. In Seattle we love defense. Always have. It goes back to the days of Jim Owens and Don James at the UW. Probably farther if you’re old enough to remember. That is why you see the 12s cheering so loud when the other team has the ball. That goes back to Husky Stadium and the Seahawks in the Kingdome in the 1980s. It is not new for us. Even though we loved the Mike Holmgren years, most of us found his defenses a little frustrating because for the most part they were just too soft and gave up too much yardage. Offense is fun but give us some shut down defense anyday.

  45. Refs get graded. They need to hit a flag quota for a good grade. Their bosses ate watching and counting. NFL won’t admit that but it’s true.

  46. I like Art.

    Why not review every PI called on the field. Yea it will slow the game down, but at least they might get it right. The ref are getting like the police. Over enforcement with no accountabilty.
    Thats a nice mess in Missori

    Its really sad when the media plays up players as a god and they dont perform, then someone cheated. Cmon the Broncos got smacked by the Seahawks, We all got to seee it, but the media and papa john were so busy humping Paytons leg they forgot that the Seahwaks players have TVs to, and they thought they were gitting dissed. So why not lay a little sack down.
    The Broncos ran straight into a buzzsaw!
    I saw the Bronco hype, and your a fool if you did not.

  47. When increased penalties start meaning longer games and the networks can’t fit the games into their 3 hour timeslots, then something will be done about the number of penalties. Something will have to give. We KNOW they won’t cut down on the commercials, so at least go easy on the penalty delays.

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