Dunlap: NFL Sack Stupidity Has Reached Great Heights

There was a bigger story than Clay Matthews, too

Colin Dunlap
September 24, 2018 - 1:05 pm

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Matthews got many of the headlines Sunday in this new brand of defensive-players-don't-know-what-to-do-when-they-tackle-the-quarterback National Football League that we are seeing nowadays. And, I guess, rightly so. He's a big-name defensive guy who has been to the Pro Bowl six times, has that Super Bowl ring (sorry to bring it up here in Pittsburgh) and plays with a drive and force just about everyone can appreciate. He's a stud and stories that involve him get a ton of buzz. 

He was flagged for one of those silly landing "with all or most of the defender's weight" penalties after the Green Bay linebacker looked to lay a perfect hit on Washington quarterback Alex Smith. How someone --- especially at the speed at which an NFL game is played --- can quickly and subjectively come to the conclusion that someone landed with "all or most" of their weight on someone else, I will never know. What if it was just 49 percent of his weight but looked like 51 percent? What if it kind of looked like he landed on him but the majority of his weight wasn't directly on the quarterback? What if the quarterback weighs more than the defender? What if a portion --- that would skew the percentage --- actually landed on the ball and not the quarterback? 

Heck, all I know is that if the NFL is going to try to legislate form tackling --- which this was and a damn fine job of it --- then they might as well play 7 on 7 flag football or some form of two-hand touch. If you aren't permitted to tackle, what's the use of trying to have a league where you play tackle football? 

All that said, while the Matthews story garnered widespread attention and a gazillion clicks on all the sites that cover the NFL (as it should have) there was a bigger story in this realm on Sunday. A much bigger story. But the player isn't as sexy of a name, so maybe you didn't hear it. 

Defensive end William Hayes plays for the Miami Dolphins. 

Hayes tore his ACL on a sack of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. 

This all happened because of that ridiculous news rule --- or, more to the point, an attempt to avoid being punished as a result of it. 

Dolphins head coach Adam Gase explained, "[Hayes] was trying to not put body weight on the quarterback and his foot got caught in the ground."

A logical follow-up to Gase by the assembled media was if the coach felt as if the new rule contributed to Hayes' injury ... 

"I'm just telling you what happened. ... I'm just telling you what he did," Gase responded. 

He didn't want to answer so as not to come under some sort of violation of a code of conduct, so I will answer for Gase. Of course this idiotic rule didn't just lead to Hayes getting hurt, it was the sole reason the mammoth player is now out for an extended period of time for the undefeated Dolphins. Had Hayes been able to simply tackle the way he was taught --- and always had in the past --- Carr would have been brought down as he was, everyone would have lived to see another day, patted each other on the rump and got back at it. 

Instead, the Dolphins are now missing a key cog because the over-officious NFL wants to try to go so far as to throw flags for good, hard tackles. I don't get it; I never will get it. 

You either need to be in the business of letting these guys tackle each other or get out of the business of tackle football and make it something else. 

The Matthews story will get so much notice because of who he is. In a way that's good, but it was just a 15-yard penalty. With Hayes, because the NFL acted boneheaded, a man's livelihood is now at stake.