DeMeco Ryans on Dre Greenlaw ejection: “We have to ease up a bit” when QB runs


Sunday night’s game between the Chargers and 49ers included an ejection of San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw, for violating the rule against lowering the helmet and making forcible contact with an opponent.

It was a questionable call, and an even more questionable ejection. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had become a runner, abandoning all specific quarterback protections. And while a running back also would have been similarly protected in that situation, it’s hard to imagine a flag being thrown if Herbert had been a tailback. And an ejection would have been unthinkable.

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, a potential head-coaching candidate for the coming 2023 hiring cycle, was asked by reporters on Friday to provide his “viewpoint” on the ejection of Greenlaw.

“[It’s] a tough situation that everybody’s just, we’re quick to get upset about it [when] he gets ejected,” Ryans said. “I don’t want to see any of our players get ejected or suspended, anything like that, so the thing is coaching. How can we coach him better?

“The thing is when the quarterback is running, we know you can’t get a violent hit on the quarterback, so you have to be smart when the quarterback runs the ball, we have to ease up a bit. We have to ease up and make sure that we’re especially not hitting him in the head or neck area, but if the quarterback’s giving himself up. We just have to allow him to give himself up and that’s the end of the play. We can’t think we’re getting violent hits on the quarterback. It’s just not happening.”

The issue with Greenlaw wasn’t hitting the quarterback in the head or neck area. It was Greenlaw lowering his helmet and making forcible contact with Herbert.

In many respects, it was unavoidable. Greenlaw was moving in to make a tackle. The target was moving. He didn’t launch himself at Herbert. (If you watch the play, you’ll see that 49ers safety Jimmie Ward did.) Also, although NFL senior V.P. of officiating Walt Anderson defended the ejection in part by saying Herbert was down, his knee struck the ground a split second before Greenlaw hit him.

The most important aspect of Ryans’s explanation comes from his observation that a “violent hit” on the quarterback must, as a practical matter, be avoided. Often, it’s the result of the impact that draws the flag, not the impact itself. In the Vikings-Bills game, a similar hit by a pair of Vikings was applied to quarterback Josh Allen on a 25-yard scramble late in the first half. Because he wasn’t apparently affected it, there was no knee-jerk reaction to throw a flag. As to Herbert, it appeared in real time as if he’d taken a knockout punch.

It’s not supposed to be that way when quarterbacks run. When defenders “ease up a bit,” some quarterbacks will take advantage of it, stealing an extra few yards along the sideline, for example, when the defender “eases up a bit.” And when it comes to trying to tackle Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, any hesitation makes it even harder to track down a player with an uncanny knack for moving his body in a way that makes it very hard to hit him.

For defenders, it’s a tough position. They’re just playing football. Through the course of playing football, football players who choose to run with the football sometimes get hit. Sometimes, they get hit hard. In today’s NFL, it’s becoming harder and harder to apply hard hits — especially to quarterbacks — without those hard hits creating flags, fines, ejections, and/or suspensions.

6 responses to “DeMeco Ryans on Dre Greenlaw ejection: “We have to ease up a bit” when QB runs

  1. When QBs run they should get hit and not be allowed to slide to avoid taking the hit they deserve

  2. Ridiculous call. Yeah, he lowered his helmet, but it certainly seems to me like he was trying to protect the both of them while hitting him. You might as well just say that no hits on the quarterback are allowed, only wrap up tackles.

  3. The favoritism shown to the 49ers on this site is becoming unbearable, a flag would of been thrown regardless if it was a RB or QB, he was straight up head hunting. That sort of crap was outlawed for good reason but I wouldn’t expect anything less from SF dirty play is their calling card. I’m sure they’ll be trying to do the same thing to Murray targeting his head and legs come Monday night because it’s the only way they’re gonna stop AZs offense n KM who’s destroyed that defense historically and their corners won’t be able to stop Hopkins, Hollywood n Moore.

  4. Hit the QB in the head with your helmet and youre out of the game. That’s the rule. I don’t know why people are so outraged at this call. Change the rule if you don’t like it. It doesn’t matter if one guy was lowering himself and the other guy couldn’t avoid it-it’s going to get called targeting. My question is why wasn’t the QB pulled from the game for precaution? Did they want another Tua situation? That’s what made no sense. The new rule is if the guy takes a big shot to the head, he comes out of the game and you basically have to keep him out so you don’t have another Tua situation.

  5. iliketurtles says:
    November 19, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    My question is why wasn’t the QB pulled from the game for precaution? Did they want another Tua situation? That’s what made no sense.


    You didn’t watch the game, did you?

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