Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Mack: Referees Need To Put Away The Laundry

Constant stream of penalties is crushing the NFL

Chris Mack
September 26, 2018 - 9:55 am

If you've been at any of the Steelers three games to open the 2018 season, whether at home against the Chiefs or on the road in Cleveland or Tampa, you've undoubtedly seen plenty of yellow laundry twirling in the air.

The problem is, only a fraction of those are Terrible Towels. More often than not, the yellow flying through the air at Steelers' games this season has been penalty flags. Through three weeks they are far and away the most penalized team in the National Football League, averaging 12.3 penalties for 120.3 yards per game. The next most penalized team in the NFL are the Buffalo Bills, averaging 9.3 per game for 71.7 yards.

According to Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's math, they're giving away points.

"I've always heard that a hundred yards in a football game is seven points, and 50 yards is three points," said Roethlisberger on Tuesday, referencing the 155 yards his team was penalized on Monday night. "There's 10 points that we gave up in penalties. That's crazy."

While the issue for the Steelers has been at the forefront of their early struggles, starting 1-1-1 for the first time in 44 years, it's not entirely unique to them. Penalties are being called around the league at a rate they've never been called before. It's not just the ridiculous, "bodyweight" roughing the passer rules, either. 

In the 2017 season, the NFL saw just four teams average more than 7.5 penalties per game. Through the first three weeks of the 2018 season, nearly half the league is averaging that many, as 15 of 32 squads are at 7.7 penalties or more per game.

If Roger Goodell is seeking answers for increasing fan frustration or disengagement, he'd do well to look beyond fantasy football or trumped up concerns about social activism and instead consider that nobody puts down money or turns on the TV on Sunday to watch the referees announce penalties. Fans want action.

Have you turned on the RedZone channel lately? It's nothing but action. Play after play, typically in the most important areas of the field. That is what fans want on Sundays, not flag after flag after ridiculous flag.

No one wants to see headshots. No one prefers a battle between back-up quarterbacks as opposed to the faces of the game in Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc. In the midst of trying to legislate concussions out of a sometimes violent, collision sport though, Goodell and the league have gone over the top, and have legislated action out of the game. From snap-to-whistle, there's still plenty of fun. After every play though, you look to the corner of the screen and wait for that little yellow indicator to pop up that a flag's been thrown.

If you love football, God knows the explosive offenses that now proliferate the NFL can make it incredibly exciting to watch. To sit there and torture yourself with break after break in the action though, is not a football lover's dream, and it shouldn't have Steelers' fans happy, either.

Even if you do love the sight of yellow laundry spinning through the air on Sunday night at Heinz Field.

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