The Designed Rush Redux: Is Football Really Going To Become A 'New Game'?

JACKSONVILLE FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by safety Courtney Greene #36 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on October 18 2010 in Jacksonville Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Designed Rush column covers all NFL action through Sunday each week. Of course, with the exception of Week 17 and the postseason, there's this pesky thing called Monday Night Football. Which means there are possibly significant developments and storylines left uncovered. Enter The Designed Rush Redux.

Loosely Connected Observations About The Giddy Thrill Of Trent Edwards And Kerry Collins On Monday Night

- I think really the less said about last night's game, the better. While there was some grousing from fans about the lack of buzz surrounding last night's game going in, on paper it was still a solid contest with two teams with winning records facing each other with the winner joining the top of the AFC South while the loser fell to last place in the division.

Then Vince Young, who started the game hot, got hurt.

Then David Garrard, who was decidedly more keeping with his usual schizophrenic play, left before halftime.

After Trent Edward's first drive ended with a Marcedes Lewis fumble, Jacksonville seemed inclined to accept the loss and dully plod through offense in the second half. Trailing 20 points midway through the 4th, Jack Del Rio had the offense burn through two minutes of clock just within the Titans' 10 before Edwards was intercepted in the end zone on 4th down.

- All told, however, that underwhelming contest still beat out the ALCS in the ratings.

NFL game of small market teams in 30-3 rout gets 7.2 rating. Yankees playoff game gets 6.5 rating. And there is talk of NFL lockout?less than a minute ago via web

 

Hey, why worry about a lockout? If that many Americans are willing to watch Trent Edwards, they're gonna love the UFL.

- Jeff Fisher never really gets his due as one of the more cold-hearted coaches in the NFL. And that's already a cutthroat group as it is. He gets excited when his players taunt the competition and openly engage in acts of poor sportsmanship (see his defending LenDale White's Terrible Towel stomping a few years back).

Last night, up 23-3 inside two minutes in the 4th quarter, he runs Chris Johnson on a 4th and 5 to keep padding his rusher's stats. I'm not pretend to be sanctimonious like I care about things like running up the score, because if the Jags didn't like it, they could stop it, but that is still a pretty amazingly callous move.

- ESPN announcers and production team were placing a lot of emphasis on the helmet-to-helmet rule discussion that has in just a few days' time overtaken the lockout for some as the next great thing to destroy the game. They made sure to highlight one instance in the 4th quarter when Chris Johnson was contacted helmet-to-helmet while going to the ground.

 

- Then, of course, there's Matt Millen speaking during the postgame show taking the jockocracy line and blaming the movement toward softer regulations on these hits on "non-football people" in the media and elsewhere who fail to realize that such things are part of the game. It's a dopey and insular sentiment, but also one shared by a lot of current and former players to varying degrees.

To an extent, I understand the concern and worry myself if the NFL will go overboard in its enforcement but a lot remains to be seen about how the NFL plans to go forward with its new regulations amid the current hysteria. Expecting ESPN talking heads to withhold judgment is nuts, but it might be worth it for the general public, even if they are "non-football people."

 

-If on one hand, the NFL merely increases the severity in punishment in cases where players clearly launch themselves helmet-first into another player in an egregious way, that's one thing. If, however, "devastating hits" are identified and cracked down upon in a manner as vaguely as they as described by the league, then perhaps Steve Young wasn't being as melodramatic as he seemed last night and, yes, we could see something very different when we watch NFL games in the near future.

 

NFL Player Tweet Of The Night

Hard hits this wknd. Have to wonder does the free access play a part w/ the hard hits in secondary?less than a minute ago via Echofon

 

That's an excellent point and one a reader raised to me over e-mail yesterday. While Steve Young is inclined to argue that many of the damaging hits to receivers are the result of subpar quarterback play serving them up to defenders, you have to look at how the league has put defenses in a position where trying to destroy a ballcarrier is, in many cases, the only possible way to stop a passing attack.

If the league were to reverse some of the ruling it has set up to assist the passing game, defenders could have an easier time causing incompletions and wouldn't have to rely on nailing the ball loose. The flip side of this means that you would see less fluid offenses and possibly lower scores if the league were to permit more contact between defensive backs and receivers prior to the ball reaching the target in passing plays, which of course might turn off casual fans who are almost always more enticed by offensive fireworks than defensive stalemates.

But it would likely lead to fewer injuries of the sort sustained by DeSean Jackson and Mohamed Massaquoi this past Sunday.

A Delicious Bundle Of Gripes

- SI released its annual poll of 239 NFL players voting on who are the most overrated players in the league and this year the top spot goes to Terrell Owens, who garnered 14 percent of the votes. The rest of the top five was rounded out by Tony Romo (7 percent), Mark Sanchez (5 percent), Albert Haynesworth (5 percent) and Eli Manning (4 percent). The voters seem to be railing against who gets the most media attention as opposed to who's the most highly regarded. In that case, quarterbacks of New York teams are always likely to be a permanent fixture on the list. The only problem with that theory, however, is that Brett Favre somehow went from topping last year's list to not even appearing in the top five this year. Perhaps the shine of his impressive 2009 season hasn't dulled completely yet for season.

- The widely reported James Harrison quote that he tries to hurt people is being cheaply twisted by the media outlets with screaming headlines that imply he's a headhunter. Harrison admits that he aims to inflict pain much in the way that any defensive player would if you stuck a microphone in front of him. Harrison also clarified in his comments that he doesn't seek to injure anyone and that the pain he wants to inflict isn't the debilitating kind that would cause a player to miss time. But then the helmet-to-helmet scandal needs to a manufactured villain as the drama plays out and the hard-hitting Harrison is as good as any after the hits he delivered on Sunday.

- Easily the most meatheaded piece in response to the head injury issue is this article by Ross Tucker, who takes the "injuries are part of the game" argument to the extreme by saying the crushing shots seen across the league on Sunday were not only a thing of beauty, but his favorite part of the game. Look, I'm not going to pretend there isn't a visceral charge from watching a big hit. It would be disingenuous to say otherwise, but to base an argument saying the NFL has no business protecting players just because you derive enjoyment from them getting hurt is patently ridiculous.

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