SPORTS FOCUS: A new low for the NFL


Just in case you’re wondering – and fuming at the roughing the passer penalty against Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett – Tom Brady will someday retire.

Hopefully, the National Football League will rewind the time to when Brady was not destined to be the most coddled, worshipped, envied and placated professional football player in the history of the league.

If you saw the play from the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game Sunday (it was on locally), you would have been as dismayed as Falcons head coach Arthur Smith when Jarrett, exuberant about the sack that made it fourth down of a 21-15 game. But instead of punting, the Bucs ran out the clock and Brady once again was put up on the pedestal of the league’s double standard of protecting quarterbacks.

Opposing players flocked to him like Brady was the pied piper. I’m surprised some didn’t kiss his ring finger or bow down in deference.

Why this obsession with a single player? Why the extra attention, and why was a penalty called when there was none? Jarrett executed a nifty crocodile roll, but at no time was Brady flung like a ragdoll causing his head to bounce off the field, similar to what happened to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Where was the protection for Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz when Seattle’s JaDaveon Clowney speared Wentz with the crown of his helmet and forced Wentz to leave the game with an obvious concussion?

It’s because there is no protection for other quarterbacks. Period.

The rule we call the Brady Rule is observable fact – from the “tuck” game to the low hit that ended Brady’s season in the opening game of the 2008 season.

The hit on Brady was child’s play compared to some of the vicious sacks throughout the history of the game. There was Chuck Bednarik laying out and knocking unconscious Frank Gifford. Buck Buchanan’s body slam of an aged George Blanda. Joe “Turkey” Jones pile driving Terry Bradshaw headfirst.

None of these hits drew penalties.

Nowadays, when you even look at Brady wrong, you’re in danger of the incurring the wrath of the officials.

It appeared from watching the game that the flag did not drop immediately after the tackle. Rather, it came out when Brady looked in the direction of the referees, then pointed in the direction of the Falcons indicating that the penalty was on them.

Then came the official explanation.

The NFL – a monolithic professional sports league worth multiple billions of dollars and influence that reaches deep into the American culture, society, households, communities and corporations – does what it does because it’s what it does. It doesn’t care about dissenting opinions. Its response is rigid, unflappable, and indifferent to the bizarre “reality” it has created with the ascension of Brady to the throne of quarterbacks.

Brady, like many others, has overstayed his welcome. He has become a nuisance to those who want to watch other players, and he has the ubiquitous way about him without saying a word.

In the meantime, Brady will continue to be the Pretty Boy of the NFL, with a personality and appearance that is the opposite of what a football player should be like. Football players used to look like Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgenson, Johnny Unitas, Billy Kilmer, Norm Van Brocklin, Ken Stabler and Fran Tarkenton.

They were flawed. They were dirty. They took hits with the understanding that they were part of the game. Then they retired. They left the game and stayed gone.

How Brady came to be where he is as an elite quarterback is beyond my comprehension. His physical appearance is not that of an athlete. His statistics are staggering, and his longevity, at least at a glance, can be attributed to the shepherding of the league, its coaches, and, most important of all, the officials.

All that can be said is that, someday, Tom Brady will retire.

It can’t be soon enough.

Lee Goodwin writes about sports for Local.News. His column, “Sports Focus,” appears weekly.

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