One of the Raiders’ scoring drives on Thursday gained 15 yards of fuel, thanks to a roughing the passer call on Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
Parsons made it clear after the game that he wasn’t happy with the penalty.
“We should be playing football, not tag,” Parsons said, via Jori Epstein of USA Today. “I’m not here to support anybody and play tag like it’s my best friend. I got a job to do, and I see how he’s outside of the pocket, so I’m going to the quarterback. . . . I mean, we’re playing football at the end of the day.”
On the play in question, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr exited the pocket, scrambling to the right. He fell as he threw the ball. Parsons, closing in from the right, caught the falling Carr with a wrist to the head.
Carr got up holding his neck. On his way back to the huddle, he could be seen sporting what’s known in some circles as a shit-eating grin.
Although Carr was indeed out of the pocket, the protection against a forcible blow to the head or neck doesn’t disappear until he crosses the line of scrimmage and officially becomes a runner. Thus, if Parsons forcibly struck Carr in the head or neck, it’s a foul.
Often in these situations, a simple question is asked. What else could the defender have done? The answer quite often is a version of, “Something other than what he did.”
Tony Romo of CBS sent mixed signals as to whether he believed it was a forcible blow to the head. Initially, after making an “ooooh” sound while watching the hit, Romo said, “They never look as bad as they are on the field, I’ll tell you.” Later, he expressed an opinion that no foul should have been called.
“That did not look like a penalty to me, right?” Romo said. “Like it was like, did he get banged up on it? Yes. But, in real time how big was that hit to his helmet with his hand? . . . That did not seem like a penalty.”
Rules analyst Gene Steratore agreed with Romo, on the latter point.
“Personally, it does not [look like a foul],” Steratore said. “And the thing about this, too, is Derek Carr’s running. He’s still scrambling. He’s not standing still in a passing posture. So you’re pursuing him. And as he starts to fall, to me that’s not an official blow to the head-type of a level that you would want for roughing the passer.”
We weren’t previously aware of a difference between the official and unofficial forcible blow to the head or neck area. It either happens or it doesn’t. The problem becomes officiating that wrinkle not when the quarterback is stationary in the pocket, but when he’s moving toward the line of scrimmage.
Maybe Steratore is saying that, while it shouldn’t be open season like it was a decade ago when James Harrison blew up Colt McCoy before he got to the line of scrimmage, the rule should be applied a little more loosely when the quarterback exits the pocket.
The problem is that the rulebook contains no such distinction. Thus, some officials may call the hit on Carr a foul, and others may not.
And this is just one example of a gray area that could be ironed out for all 17 crews if all officials were employed on a full-time, year-’round basis. Because that’s really what’s going on here. Some officials will call it roughing, others won’t. The same standard should be used at all times.