Most offensive players welcome the expanded protections of the past decade. One prominent offensive player believes that those protections have actually been bad for the game.
Via USA Today, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady recently explained in a discussion posted on the team’s website that he believes many penalties called on defensive players are the result of mistakes made by offensive players.
“A quarterback should only throw the ball to certain places, because your receiver is in danger of getting hit,” Brady said. “For example, when I used to play against Ray Lewis, I wouldn’t throw the ball to the middle of the field because he would . . . hit them and knock them out of the game. And now, every hard hit is a penalty on the defense. So I feel like they penalize defensive players for offensive mistakes.”
“The quarterback messes up, doesn’t see the blitzer, or the line screws up,” Brady said. “I don’t know what happened, the quarterback or the lineman on offense. The defensive player comes in and hits him hard and they throw a flag on the defense.”
Brady said that quarterbacks need to protect themselves and their players. “It shouldn’t be the responsibility of your opponent to protect you,” Brady said.
“It creates really bad habits for platers, because you feel like I can basically do anything,” Brady said. “I can run and not slide. I can throw my receiver into any coverage and not have any repercussion for it. The only thing they’re gonna do, they’re actually gonna blame the defensive player for making a good, solid hit.”
Brady called it a “disservice to the sport,” reasoning that the sport isn’t being played at a high level. “It actually deteriorates because you’re not teaching the players the reasons and the fundamentals of what the sport should be,” Brady said.
He’s right about this, to an extent. Quarterbacks are now more willing to throw what once were called “hospital balls,” because defensive players can’t hit the receivers like they once did. And if they do, it’s a free 15 yards of field position. But there’s no illegal hit if the ball isn’t thrown into a spot that will allow an illegal hit to happen.
That said, defensive players must learn techniques that comply with the rules. Smith hit Fields illegally. There was a way to make the Bears pay for the mistake that someone had made. Smith could have capitalized on the blunder without applying a helmet-to-helmet hit to Fields.
So it’s really a shared responsibility. That said, Brady is right when it comes to quarterbacks and other offensive players believing that the rules give them a coat of armor in the form of a possible 15-yard penalty.
As it relates to Brady’s suggestion that quarterbacks believe they can “run and not slide,” that’s simply not a correct interpretation of the rules. Quarterbacks who take the ball past the line of scrimmage are no longer quarterbacks. However, Brady’s words underscore the fact that defensive players are so wired to be conscious of the safety-driven rules that they sometimes tread too lightly, almost becoming paralyzed by fear of committing a foul while the quarterback runs rings around them.
In some situations, a big hit is legal. In others, it’s not. Brady’s point is that the responsibility ultimately resides with the offensive players to use techniques that protect them from big hits that could injure them.