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The NFL is not getting softer, it’s getting smarter

The world changes all the time. Culture, people, society all adjust and adapt to the new information we face on nearly a daily basis. There was a time, in the United States, where it was perfectly fine to beat your wife because that was just the way it was. There was a time, where you would have to work 15-hour days in a factory in 90-degree heat. But that’s just not the way it is any more, we got smarter. We learned that’s not the way to treat people, that there is a more civil and human way to do things. Now, not to relate domestic assault and labour laws as the same, or that there aren’t injustices or problems in 2018, but the point I’m trying to make is that society has without a doubt changed.

With all that in mind. I cannot stand the argument that America has gotten “soft” because Clay Matthews can’t for the life of him figure out how to sack a quarterback properly.

Clay Matthews is upset and has caused a whole PR storm because he isn’t allowed to, at a dead sprint, drive a smaller lesser padded NFL superstar into the ground with the entirety of his 275-pound frame.

He can’t do all this a second time after only one week ago being told you can’t do that. He got flagged for the first one, was told exactly what not to do, and then got upset he penalized for doing it. I have absolutely no sympathy for Clay Matthews. Rather than learning, or getting better Clay Matthews moaned and groaned.

The NFL is rightly protecting its greatest asset, it’s stars. The Quarterback is the marquee player of the roster; highest paid, and most in danger. They wear fewer pads, see the most playing time, and the point of the defence is to search and destroy the quarterback. All of this protecting the quarterback conversation came from when Aaron Rodgers (Matthews teammate) was injured a year ago, and the Green Bay Packers became essentially a lame duck. All hope of success was gone because, despite only one player left, it was the most important player.

The NFL is a star-driven league, the stars make the game exciting. The skill players are what people come to see. No one comes to games to see “3-yards and cloud of dust football”. They want to see passing. Look at all the best running backs in the league, they are all duel threat runners and receivers. Le’veon Bell, Alvin Kamara, Zeke Elliot, David Johnson, Karem Hunt. All of them are receivers.

The game needs to protect its stars.

As a fan, I have no interest in watching an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, a Tom Brady-less Patriots, a Matt Stafford-less Lions, and so if the league needs to learn from the past and adjust to what is acceptable today. I am 10000000000000% ok with that.

This is a part of a larger conversation across all four major sports. Every league is facing its own version of this conundrum, and I end up the same side of this argument every time. The NHL has gotten rid of the “goon” the fighters, the tough guy who is only there to be tough. So skill is the driving motivator of the league. The league has never been faster and more talented than it is now, and ticket sales are way up. In the NBA you can’t tackle anyone now, and all you hear about is how “soft” the NBA is. The NBA is way better off for it, the league is driven by SKILL. If you can’t shoot in the NBA, you aren’t on the roster. No one is seriously interested in some power forward who grabs 13 rebounds and tackles people. They want to see Steph Curry nail 3’s, or Kyrie Irving dribble his opponents out of their shoes. The MLB enforced rules about running over the catcher and taking out the infielders with tackles and slides. Good, those plays were dumb, reckless, and the goal of the game should never be to injure someone in order to accomplish your goal.

This is without a doubt the right direction for the NFL to go. The Packers are a good example, the Browns are an even better one. The Browns were an embarrassment of a franchise for a lot of reasons, chief among them was they couldn’t win a football game. They didn’t have an even moderately adequate quarterback to lead the team. All of a sudden, Browns draft Baker Mayfield, and he leads them to a late-game comeback, the Browns are an interesting and watchable franchise.

The burden of the everyday fan has never been higher than it is now in terms of ticket prices. When a fan buys an NFL ticket to see the Packers, they are paying to see Aaron Rodgers, not DeShone Kizer. They are paying to see Tom Brady, not Brian Hoyer. No one wants to see the backups. There is nothing worse than, for example, being at a Broadway show and hearing “The role of Aaron Burr will be played by the Understudy…”. Hollywood has stunt doubles so that Ryan Gosling and Tom Hanks don’t hurt themselves and ruin the money maker.

Stars Matter.

The NFL is changing, and if you were to ask me. For the better. The NFL (and all of America for that matter) is not getting softer, it’s getting smarter, and that’s only going to continue much to the chagrin of the dinosaurs who wish for some bygone era.

Every other profession in the world needs to be trained and retrained to continue to be effective and modern. Engineers, teachers, mechanics, all need to consistently learn and adapt to get the best results. Why are NFL players the only people who are exempt from relearning how to tackle better?





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