NFL Controversy: Roughing the Passer

Paulina Handal, Staff Writer

There is an ongoing controversy in the National Football League about “roughing the passer” and it has angered fans and players. Roughing the passer is a foul in which a defensive player makes illegal contact with the quarterback after the latter has thrown a forward pass. The penalty is 10 or 15 yards, depending on the league, and an automatic first down for the offense. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this rule and what it has become.

This foul has become a center of debate throughout football history, but it has never reached the extreme it has today. Now, referees call fouls and penalties on any contact made with the quarterback after they have thrown a forward pass, no matter how minimal it might be. Referees have grown stricter in order to protect the quarterbacks, one of the most important components of the sport.

There are two sides to this controversy; some believe that the actions of the referees are ridiculous, while others value the initiatives to protect the quarterbacks. 

“I believe that they are getting a little extreme and some of the ticky-tack plays that are occurring do not need to be called, but the bottom line is that it is entertainment, and without a good quarterback the entertainment value goes way down. So they have to protect one of the biggest assets on the team which is the quarterback because receivers do not catch the ball without a quarterback and running backs do not get the ball without the quarterback, and the game does not function without a quality quarterback, so they need to protect it to maintain the entertainment value of the sport,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Athletics Director Steve Batten said. 

At the end of the day, the NFL profits from the fans, and the only way to maintain engagement, is by constantly providing entertainment. On the other hand, some fans do not believe that the quarterback is the center of entertainment.

“I think the refs are giving the quarterbacks too much leeway, and they have made football very soft, it is supposed to be a physical sport and they have given the quarterbacks a certain freedom, to get away with the certain things, where back then they were not able to get away with, so I do feel like the game has softened and it takes away from the entertainment value,” MPSH assistant football coach Kevin Mujica said. 

Additionally, football players, regardless of their position, hold conflicting opinions on roughing the passer and its effects on the game.

“I think they are being extremely strict because it is part of football. I mean why are you even on the field if you do not want to get hit? It is all part of the game you either run or get hit and the refs changing that up just ruins the whole game,” MPSH senior and outside linebacker Ken Hanna Jr. said. 

While the other positions on the team might feel a certain way, quarterbacks — who this rule revolves around, feel differently about it. 

“I think the NFL is handling it a very good way, like the way they are making the calls, I feel like they are doing what they have to, to protect the quarterbacks, I feel like when I play the refs do not make the calls right, and the quarterbacks do not get as protected as they should be,” MPSH sophomore and quarterback Lucas Goenaga said. 

Roughing the passer continues to wreak havoc in the NFL, and there is no right side. However, it seems the entertainment value is at risk either way, as angry fans consider that the game has “softened,” although the game quality could decrease if the quarterback injuries continue. Among football fans and players, one question has taken the stand: if a game has been played the same way for so long, is it really worth changing it up now?