Opinion: What is a sack in today’s NFL?

Will Ortner, Staff Reporter

As we enter the fourth week of the NFL season, one thing is clear: the league has gone soft. It seems that every time a quarterback gets tackled, a flag gets thrown. Players and fans alike have voiced their displeasure as many of the plays that are being flagged for roughing the passer seem like regular football plays.

For those who do not know why the “roughing the passer” rule has become so controversial, allow me to provide some background knowledge. On Sunday, Oct. 15 of last year Aaron Rodgers, arguably the biggest star in the NFL today, was sacked by Anthony Barr in the first quarter of the Packer and Vikings game. When Barr landed on Rodgers, he broke his collarbone and almost ended his season.

The following offseason, the NFL owners decided they needed to make a rule change so that no team would have to go through a season where their star quarterback had to miss a majority of their season due to an injury as Rodgers did. God forbid someone gets hurt from a tackle in tackle football.

Soon the owners came up with Rule 12, section two, article nine of the NFL rulebook to better protect quarterbacks from being tackled too roughly. Here is the rule in its entirety:

“A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.”

One of the issues with this rule is that in a lot of cases, it is humanly impossible to accomplish what the rule is asking. Seriously, go outside, run as fast as you can, then stop on one step. Impossible. Now imagine a 300-pound defensive lineman who runs like a deer trying to stop on one step. It will never happen. It does not matter whether the defensive player wanted to hurt the quarterback or not; there is no way for them to avoid a flag.

Another issue that is brought up concerning the new rule is that the defensive player is not allowed to land on the quarterback when they tackle them. This is almost an impossible task for a defensive player. Defensive players are taught to wrap up the quarterback in their arms so that they are not able to throw the ball away. Then they would have to have to try and roll not to injure the quarterback and get a flag. Rolling would then put the defensive player at risk of injury. This season, this has already happened to William Hayes when he sacked Derek Carr. Hayes tried to roll, so as to not land on Carr, and tore his ACL. Hayes’ injury is a direct result of the new rule by the NFL.

The NFL needs to revert back to their old “roughing the passer” rule. That way, players can get back to playing football without worrying about getting penalized for a normal football play. Then we can get back to what is most important, and watch football all Sunday long.