There is still a lot to like about the National Football League, but there are so many things that have removed the game from its glory days.
As folks enjoyed a full football schedule on Thanksgiving Day, the real jewel of Thursday was food and time with family. That’s way more valuable than anything happening between the sidelines at NFL contests.
But football is still a nice side dish. Now, if somebody could just fix the thing.
Admittedly I’m biased toward running the football. My NFL appetite was whetted on The Hogs, Joe Gibbs and the counter trey.
It intrigued me how a team could basically say, “We’re running the ball; try to stop us” — and then proceed to succeed. If you play me in Madden 25 online, I will be running the ball until you prove you can stop me.
To this day, I would much rather watch a team dominate with a ground attack. Take note of the word “dominate” because there’s nothing worse than a team stubbornly running the ball despite going nowhere.
A five-yard gain is a thing of beauty. It gets you where you want to go while simultaneously playing keep away from the opponent.
But I digress. The background was necessary to set up some of my NFL pet peeves.
No. 1 — The goal-line fade. Or any pass from the 1- or 2-yard line on first or second down for that matter.
I recently watched a Chicago Bears game where they had seven plays from inside the 2-yard line in one sequence. They ran it once. And guess what? They didn’t score.
Stop right there. I don’t have Matt Forte or Vulture Bush on my fantasy team.
Dude. Trestman. Head coach. Grow a pair of linemen and RUN THE BALL!!
No. 2 — Guard the tight end already. This is also about the goal line, and it ties into No. 1.
If a team lines up against me and can “man up” and run the ball down my throat from one or two yards out, I slap them on the back and congratulate them.
I am so tired of teams failing to realize why passing touchdown totals are so inflated these days. Guard the tight end, or the eligible tackle — duh, they announced him — and make them earn a little pain with their gain. I hate the little schoolyard flip to a wide open tight end. It doesn’t even take any athletic ability or strength of arm. That’s not real-man football.
No. 3 — Officiating. On almost every incompletion, receivers are whining for pass interference. If a defender is within touching distance, the receiver apparently feels violated.
Officiating has gotten so touchy, defensive backs have almost no chance. And it has made them unable to play the ball in the air like they did in the past. They are so concerned about brushing against a receiver, they can’t even get a hand up to deflect the pass.
Even though the Redskins lost to the Raiders in the Super Bowl during the 1983 season because their receivers couldn’t get free of the Raiders’ lock-down defensive backs, it was still more of a real football game than the current don’t-touch, don’t-breathe policy.
No. 4 — Play calling. OK, so almost all fans think they know better than the coaches who make a living doing this stuff.
Certainly the game plans are detailed and meticulously studied. But it doesn’t take rocket science to run the ball and keep the clock moving on a drive late in the first half.
If a team is ahead by 10 points and has the ball, and the opponent has a great two-minute quarterback, eat the clock to such a degree the other team has no time left to score again in the half — even if it means settling for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
A 13-point lead is better than scoring quick and allowing the other team enough time to cut it back to 10 points before the break — especially if you get the ball to start the second half.
No. 5 — Allowing one receiver to beat you.
When a guy gains 200-some yards receiving on one game, it’s a great accomplishment. But in the NFL, it’s also an embarrassment. Somebody needs to chuck an elbow into the defensive coordinator to wake him from his nap.
Yes, it’s more difficult to guard receivers these days. But an NFL team that doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary to stop one guy needs a new general manager.
Hey. It’s easy being an armchair quarterback.
Douglas Fritz is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.