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The “crown of the helmet” rule doesn’t make it flag football

Crown of the HelmetJust shut up, Emmitt Smith. You’re standing in the way of safety and progress. You’re being an ass.

Despite my begrudging respect for the Hall-of-Fame worthy career of the man who holds the record for most rushing yards in league history, Emmitt Smith’s tirade following the announcement of the new “crown of the helmet” rule is playing havoc with the insecurities of fans and players. It’s also ignorant and shortsighted.

For those who missed it, the NFL Competition Committee passed a rule change prohibiting players from executing a “forcible blow with the crown of the helmet” while outside of the tackle box. (Video explanation of the rule here.)

Of course, before the full verbiage of the rule even became public (my case for calling him ignorant), Emmitt Smith was already spouting his misguided concerns in a very public way to the Dallas Morning News. He called the rule ‘ridiculous.’ “You’ve been taught since you were a little kid to get behind your shoulder pads to protect yourself and lower your shoulder,” said Smith in a phone interview on Monday. “The first thing you do is lower your shoulder but attached to your shoulder is your head. It’s not like you’re trying to go in there and really trying to deliver a blow but your head is part of protecting yourself.”

Sure, that sounds reasonable enough. Until you consider the specifics of the rule. Which won’t do very much to change the game at all.

Let’s break it all down:

1) What is the crown of the helmet?

The crown of the helmet is the top of the helmet (see graphic above). It’s not the whole helmet, as many fear it to be. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, one of the most outspoken proponents of the rule change, specifically indicated that the runner still has the opportunity to initiate contact with the face mask or forehead. So essentially this rule amounts to not “dipping your head” while you try to run through somebody. Dipping your head is how people get compression fractures in their vertebrae. Dipping your head is how you get bulging discs. Sure, you can break a tackle by doing it, but you run the risk of knocking yourself out (or worse) in the process.  Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 02/10/13 – Discussion: Will the NFL exist in 30 years?

Here’s what we’re talking about: 

Bernard Pollard inadvertently creating the “Tom Brady rule” in 2008.

Ravens safety Bernard Pollard: “Thirty years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it… Guys are getting fined, and they’re talking about, ‘Let’s take away the strike zone’ and ‘Take the pads off’ or ‘Take the helmets off.’ It’s going to be a thing where fans aren’t going to want to watch it anymore.” (ESPN)


Right Click for Download: Around the Cooler 02/10/13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

Where did all the goals go and how do we get them back? – The NHL lockout issue nobody is discussing (Poll below)

New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi prevents a goal / contributes to the slow death of his sport

The reason why the NHL’s 30 owners and ownership groups are willing to lock out the players and miss hockey games is infuriating, arrogant, and undeniably true: When the dispute is over, the fans will be back. The revenue will be back. After a time, all will be forgiven, and the NHL will continue to rake in the profits during what has been perhaps the greatest period of financial growth in its history. In the past two years, we’ve seen labor disputes in the NFL and NBA settled with relatively little long-term fan backlash. Why not the NHL, too?

But there is a huge obstacle to this line of thinking that nobody seems to be talking about: The NHL is hemorrhaging goals. Scoring has been decreasing league-wide for decades. And if this issue isn’t fixed, the NHL could soon find itself dealing with far worse problems than a lockout alone could ever cause.

So what’s the problem?

Ok, maybe I was too dramatic. The scoring drop isn’t quite a hemorrhage. But the fact remains, NHL per-game scoring average has been decreasing almost continuously for two decades. Less scoring means less excitement, less appeal to the casual viewer, fewer new fans, and ultimately decreased profitability.

NHL goals-per-game by season, 1917-2011

The graph above represents total goals per game per season since 1917. Since a peak in the early 1980s, scoring has decreased from a peak average above 8 goals per game (GPG) to below 5.5 GPG in 2011-12. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the overall decrease (larger pads, better goaltending techniques, trap defense strategy, etc.) but the particulars here are not important.

The average fan, the guy or gal that makes up a vast chunk of the viewing audience, probably doesn’t or can’t appreciate what good defense looks like, except when it is displayed on the score sheet. I am a rabid fan and I’ll readily admit to having trouble evaluating defensemen I watch every game. Hardcore viewers and former players might be able to pick out and appreciate the nuances of a low-scoring game, but for your typical Freddy Flyers Fan, unless it’s a do-or-die situation, a 3-1 result sounds far less interesting than an equally-competitive 5-3 game.

When it comes to fixing this issue, you first have to diagnose the problem. And when you keep digging at the numbers, an obvious culprit emerges: shooting percentage.

Read the rest of this entry


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