I guess it’s time we discuss this thing now! Nobody likes the new NFL helmet rule. Do you? Of course you don’t. It’s case file #3957 of the NFL screwing it up.

(As a quick aside, I find it interesting how we talk about the NFL now compared to roughly a decade ago. The Ray Rice fiasco, the anthem stuff, deflategate, the teams moving to LA…we used to think the NFL was evil but competent. Now we don’t. If there is anything signifying that we saw peak football and are watching the beginning of the decline, it’s conversations like this – about how the NFL just screwed it up again)

I like the new helmet targeting rule in theory. The spirit behind the rule is good. First off, we should call this rule what it is: The Ryan Shazier rule. Ryan Shazier almost paralyzed himself on the field and it was horrible and nobody wants to see that again, even if the probability is low. But thanks to decades of glorifying big hits and such, the game needs to pull back on the violence a bit and try to actually encourage good tackling. Tackling has gone down the tubes in the age of instant replay. Tacking doesn’t get you paid. Hits do, but hits are bad for you and the opponent. This is a rule change that needs to happen. This is a change the NFL needs to make in order to survive down the road.

So of course they’d write a vague, garbage rule that has no chance of being enforced right.

Let’s be real. This rule is being over-enforced right now to try and set a precedent before it means anything. I do not expect this rule to get called basically ever during a game unless we see a really violent hit, which we already see calls for when it happens. This rule will get called a few times to help the Patriots (probably against the Ravens so that Harbaugh can complain some more) and it will directly cost the Lions a game against the Packers. That’ll be about it. Remember when they made a rule about RBs lowering their helmets during open field runs? Remember how mad people got? Remember how often that rule is called? It never is. If they call this rule as frequently as they are doing right now in preseason we’ll have a riot, because the rule is terribly written and poorly defined.

There’s no way this rule can be enforced well. With the speed that tackles happen, sometimes things just look illegal when they aren’t. Sometimes they are and don’t get called. Refs have a hard enough job as it is, but now they have to make split second decisions based on physics. You can look at roughly 40% of pass interference calls or like 60% of roughing the passer calls to see evidence of how hard it is to actually call it right. So many roughing the passer calls are just a defender being unable to defy physics and stop in mid-air, and it is infuriating when it happens. This rule is basically roughing the passer on every defender in the open field. If a defender so much as lowers just a bit, there is a pretty good chance it’ll look slightly illegal because the line between legal and not is too narrow to observe at that speed with quality accuracy.

I’m not a “MAY AS WELL PUT ‘EM IN DRESSES” guy but this rule is crap and has a chance to become a major issue if strictly enforced. Flags are bad and nobody likes them. Reducing the flags and simplifying rules needs to be a priority to making the sport watchable again. Every good play ends with me looking for a flag before I celebrate now. Every bad play ends with me hoping for a BS flag in our favor. It’s a trash way to watch a sport.