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The Brady Rule Effect

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Quarterback protection has been a hot topic in the early part of the 2009 season. The Baltimore Ravens' October 4 loss to the New England Patriots was marked by two ticky-tack roughing-the-passer penalties -- one against nose tackle Haloti Ngata and one against end/linebacker Terrell Suggs. In both cases, the contact appeared to be borderline incidental, and Suggs looked like he was trying to avoid contact with quarterback Tom Brady's knees when he dove to Brady's right. Each call gave the Patriots 15 extra yards and helped facilitate two touchdown drives. The Ravens were not happy after the fact.

Last Sunday night, the Tennessee Titans were flagged for two roughing calls in the same second-quarter drive as they tried to defend Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. The first call against end Kyle Vanden Bosch came after Vanden Bosch beat a double team and grazed Manning's legs with incidental contact. And the call against end Jacob Ford came when Ford hit Manning with his arm after being pushed in that direction by tackle Ryan Diem.

Why so touchy? When Brady was lost for the 2008 season in New England's opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, Bernard Pollard's tackle led the NFL's Competition Committee to alter quarterback protection to what is now known as the "Brady Rule" - an edict which dictates that "a rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him."

Baltimore had been penalized twice in 2009 for roughing before the Patriots game, but the Titans hadn't seen a single call all year until they faced Manning. Is the NFL's increased focus on quarterback safety allowing a disproportionate amount of protection to its star quarterbacks? Through the first four weeks of the 2009 season, the data is inconclusive. The Patriots have drawn three roughing calls, tied for the NFL lead with the Buffalo Bills, whose quarterback, Trent Edwards, will never be confused with Brady or Manning. And going back through five full years of penalty data tells us that roughing calls have been surprisingly unbiased.

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That's only one Brady in the bunch, and the only Manning on the list is Peyton's brother, Eli. The data for roughing calls among teams with split starters is either even or slanted by one call to one starter or the other, so it isn't as if officiating crews felt a great and pressing need to protect Alex Smith over Trent Dilfer in 2007. You could say that 2008 leans a bit heavier on the marquee side, but overall, it's a difficult argument to make. Given the data we have, it does look as if the NFL has been reasonable and fair in its implementation of the roughing-the-passer rule, as opposed to throwing more flags when star quarterbacks are threatened. Where that takes us in 2009, with the Brady Rule in full effect, could be a completely different story.

Next week, we'll turn the tables and see if, as the Ravens have suggested, certain defenses are targeted for roughing and unnecessary roughness penalties over time.

By Doug Farrar  |  October 14, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , Statistics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 2009's Surprise Teams | Next: QB Protection Nothing New

Comments

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Ray Lewis has nurtured an image as a thug--beating his chest for the most basic tackle, shoving his face at opponents during pre-game warmups and woofing, etc. so, you know what Ray? You want to project the thug image then you get calls for thugs.

Posted by: cr1957ny | October 19, 2009 1:58 PM

Wouldn't is be better to look at Roughing calls per dropback in order to control for bad teams that pass often?

-d

Posted by: meep42 | October 14, 2009 8:25 PM

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