Blanket Coverage: The Jarvis Landry hit was another gigantic whiff for the NFL

The vicious high hit that sent Bills safety Aaron Williams to the hospital is exactly what the NFL should be trying to eliminate, so of course Jarvis Landry got off easy. Plus, why there's hope yet for Brock Osweiler and more Week 8 notes.
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As if you needed more evidence that the NFL is a complete joke when it comes to player safety, the Jarvis Landry hit happened.

With 6:13 left in the second quarter of Sunday’s Bills-Dolphins game, a Jay Ajayi run went to the left side, where Landry was lined up. His assignment was to pick off the safety, Aaron Williams. Williams slowed down to read the play and didn’t see Landry coming, and the receiver left his feet and drilled Williams up high with his shoulder. Williams was knocked out of the game and taken to a hospital.

It was one of the most vicious and unnecessary hits I’ve seen in recent years, at least since the beginning of a concerted effort to cut down on headshots. Landry was flagged for unnecessary roughness, remained in the game and caught five passes for 78 yards in the Dolphins’ victory.

It was exactly the type of hit that the NFL should be working towards eliminating in the game. There’s no place for it. Landry didn’t need to hit Williams in the head. There was plenty of time and opportunity for Landry to obliterate Williams by running through the block and hitting Williams in the shoulder/torso area.

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If the NFL was serious about player safety, Landry would have been ejected from the game and suspended for the next one. Instead, Landry will be out there on Sunday for Miami. Why? Because vice president of officiating Dean Blandino says the NFL couldn’t judge intent.

“We have very few automatic ejections in the game today,” Blandino said on NFL Network’s Total Access. “If you get two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in the same game, if you put your hands on a game official in an aggressive way, those are automatic ejections. Punching an opponent.

“Here’s Landry, he’s going to block back toward the football. He can’t go to the head-neck area of an opponent within five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage. He is going to go to the head-neck. It is certainly a foul. It is certainly something that we’ll review for potential discipline, but it’s still a football play, and it’s tough to read intent there. That’s why the officials kept him in the game. It’s not an automatic ejection. It’s up to the discretion of the crew and they didn’t feel like it was flagrant enough to throw the player out of the game.”

“Tough to read intent there”? Is Blandino serious? What else do you need to determine intent when a stationary player—a rarity on the football field in itself—is blasted by an opponent who leaves his feet and delivers a hit above the shoulder? What other reason could Landry have for launching himself? Was he trying to leap over Williams? Blandino’s babble is ridiculous and preposterous.

“It was totally unnecessary,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said on Monday. “Did he target? Did he launch? Yeah, he did all those. You can check every box you want. Was it a dirty hit? Yeah. It was unnecessary. And as I see it, it was unsportsmanlike. There’s nothing about that hit that would say any other deal.”

Leave it to Ryan to be the voice of reason. He also thinks the NFL needs to look at changing the rule.

“I think maybe we need to look at our rules a little bit,” Ryan said. “The college game may have it right. Maybe having a guy that targets or deliberately does something like that, maybe the right move is to eject the player from the game, and maybe part of another game. That’s how college does it. And I also like the fact that they review it on video.

“I guess that’s what I’m getting at, the unsportsmanlike, we’re trying to clean that part of the game up, there’s no question about it. And we should. You don’t need to do that type of stuff.”

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The NFL, as usual, is behind other sports in this area.

In soccer, a red card is issued for “serious foul plays” in which a tackle or challenge “endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality.” Not only is the player ejected from the game, but he’s gone from the next one as well.

In college football, the rule is “No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting. When in question, it is a foul.”

What are the indicators? I’m glad you asked:

• A launch—that is, a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area.

• A crouch followed by an upward or forward thrust.

• Leading with the helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow.

For the Landry it was check, check and check. He’d be ejected in a college football game.

In the NHL, Landry would have been ejected from the game and likely suspended under Rule 48: a hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable, is not permitted.

Look at this hit by Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll and tell me if there’s any difference from the Landry hit. Boll was suspended four additional games.

And, wow, isn’t it nice that the NHL has a Player Safety Twitter account where league officials actually explain decisions in a reasonable manner. You won’t hear any “it was a football play, so it’s really hard to tell what he meant” nonsense like you get from Blandino. The NHL makes real decisions in a rough-and-tumble sport and wasn’t afraid to dish out 39 suspensions that cost 176 games last season. It makes the NFL look incredibly small and weak, which it is.

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The NFL likes to talk tough about increasing player safety, but when it comes to actually doing something that could send a real message, like suspending players for vicious and unnecessary hits, it shrinks from action. The NFL, as much as it likes to perceive itself as a leader, is actually a follower in nearly every instance. Forget other professional sports—when college football is light years ahead of you, you’ve got serious issues.

“This game is the greatest game in the world because of the players,” Ryan said. “To me, we ought to protect our players at all costs. ... If we really want to protect our players, we need to look at things.”

Don’t hold your breath, Rex.

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Go crazy, folks

The shine is off the Giants: For a long time, probably back to the inception of the NFL, the Giants have been one of the gold standard franchises. It was a franchise that exuded class and appeared to exhibit the best of the NFL. Maybe we glossed over a few things (ahem, Lawrence Taylor), but there’s little question that the Giants are like any other franchise after the Josh Brown saga. The Giants completely screwed this up and were way too slow to accept responsibility. There’s no excuse. The Giants will never be viewed the same after this, and for good reason.

Tate gets it, Fitzpatrick doesn’t: Two NFL players were benched in recent weeks, as the Lions sat down receiver Golden Tate and the Jets did the same with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tate said that the benching “lit a fire under my tail a little bit” and “I had to dig deep a little bit” and “had to soul search.” Fitzpatrick whined about how nobody believed in him. “When the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” Fitzpatrick said. Good for you, Golden Tate. You actually handled your profession like a grown up.

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Slow your roll

Osweiler isn’t a lost cause: Not to be the Brock Osweiler defender, because he has some serious issues with his game, most notably being that he’s not winning before the snap and his post-snap processing is a step or two late. But there should be a little context applied. The Texans’ three losses and Osweiler’s worst games all came on the road against the Vikings (great defense), Broncos (great defense) and the Patriots, who invented the offense the Texans run, in a Thursday night game. In those three losses, Osweiler completed 52.4% of his passes for 4.12 yards per attempt and a 58.9 passer rating. In the other games, Osweiler completed 63.2% of his passes for 7.1 yards per attempt and a rating of 83.2. That’s still not great (as a season-long rating, it would rank 25th in the league, between Carson Palmer and Cam Newton), but not as bad as some of the commentary about Osweiler has implied.

Overtime is fine: After the Seahawks and Cardinals tied 6–6 on Sunday night, people have wondered if the NFL needs to make changes so that ties are avoided. In the last decade there have only been five—why would we need to make changes for that? The way I look at it, if the teams don’t want their games to end in a tie, they have plenty of opportunities to avoid it. If a tie hurts them, it’s their own fault.

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10 thoughts on Week 8

1. I’ve tried to figure out a way the Colts can stop the Chiefs enough to steal a victory, but I haven’t been able to do it. The Chiefs should be able to run and throw at will against the Colts. That being said, the Colts have sneakily started to play better on the offensive line.

2. One of the strange things about this NFL season is that the Raiders are 4–0 on the road (all games in the Eastern Time Zone) and 1–2 at home. They play at Tampa Bay on Sunday before four straight games in Oakland.

3. The Falcons are young, talented and undisciplined on defense, and that could be a problem against the Packers. Teams that have done the best against Aaron Rodgers have been able to keep him in the pocket and not make plays with his legs. It takes a lot of discipline to rush Rodgers but not go all out. Can the Falcons do that? Doubt it, but we’ll have to see.

4. Of the Chargers’ last seven visits to Denver, six have been decided by seven points or fewer. Expect another tight contest on Sunday. The Chargers, with all their injuries, shouldn’t be this competitive, but they are. If San Diego can pull the upset, it should be favored in the next four games on the schedule.

5. The NFC Championship Game rematch between the Cardinals and Panthers could very well be an elimination game for both. It’s starting to look like the NFC wild cards will be won at 10–6. The Panthers are 1–5. A loss would drop the Cardinals to 3-4-1. They’d have to go 7–1 down the stretch to edge a 10–6 team. That’s a tall task.

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6. It’s a shame, because the Cardinals have, finally, made some good adjustments and are back to playing close to their level in 2015. Offensively, they’ve gone through David Johnson and lived with the short passing game. On defense they’ve added an extra defensive back to many sets and have improved their coverage.

7. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks and Cardinals struggle on Sunday. Their matchup last week was that physical, and there could be a hangover.

8. Cowboys-Eagles will come down to whether or not Dallas can put pressure on Carson Wentz (doubtful), and whether the Eagles can limit Ezekiel Elliott (maybe). This is a good matchup for the Eagles.

9. Philadelphia allowed 230 rushing yards to Washington in Week 6, but the Eagles have allowed an average of 66.5 yards on the ground in the other games since the opener. The X-factor on Sunday night could be Dak Prescott’s legs. If the Eagles key on Elliott, which they should, Prescott may have chances with his legs.

10. If the Cowboys are to emerge with a victory, end DeMarcus Lawrence needs to have a huge game. Dallas should switch him from the right side to the left so he can matchup with rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai.