Report: Members of NFL Competition Committee 'uncomfortable' with roughing the passer rule

The NFL has a problem when it comes to the number of ticky-tack roughing the passer flags thrown thus far this season, and even the men who had a hand in creating it have realized it.

At least, some of them have. But there may not be anything that can be done about it.

NFL Competition Committee members uncomfortable

NFL Network reporter Judy Battista wrote on Tuesday that “several” members of the league’s eight-member competition committee are uncomfortable with the way the group’s decision to make roughing the passer a point of emphasis this season is playing out.

After Green Bay star Aaron Rodgers missed most of last season to a broken clavicle after being tackled by Minnesota’s Anthony Barr, the committee decided to alter the roughing the passer rule to say that defenders could not land on quarterbacks with their full body weight.

It’s a good idea in theory, but almost impossible in practice, as Miami’s William Hayes can tell you.

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Dolphins' William Hayes tears ACL on sack
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Dolphins' William Hayes tears ACL on sack
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: William Hayes #95 of the Miami Dolphins sacks Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders during the second quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Sep 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes (95) reacts after suffering an apparent injury during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: William Hayes #95 of the Miami Dolphins leaves the game after an injury during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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Battista said committee members are especially bothered by the much-discussed Week 2 call on the Packers’ Clay Matthews on Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins. The flag on Matthews took an interception off the board and allowed Minnesota to come back to tie the game.

The league’s current officiating head defended the call, while Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira, the previous two heads of officiating, said the Matthews flag “sets a dangerous precedent.”

Call scheduled next week

Battista reports that the competition committee – members are Falcons president Rich McKay, Giants owner John Mara, Cowboys president Stephen Jones, Packers president Mark Murphy, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Broncos GM John Elway and Saints coach Sean Payton – has a regularly-scheduled conference call next week.

However, members Battista spoke to don’t know if anything will change with the rule emphasis; commissioner Roger Goodell may have a say, and pulling back on a rule explicitly meant to protect players may be difficult from an optics standpoint.

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Controversial roughing the passer calls in 2018
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Controversial roughing the passer calls in 2018
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: Defensive end Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns reacts to a roughing the passer penalty in the second quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 9, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The game ended in a tie 21-21. (Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns argues a roughing the passer penalty with line judge Bart Longson #2 in the second quarter of a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 9, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The game ended in a tie 21-21. (Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) who was called for roughing the passer in the fourth quarter on September 23, 2018, at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The Washington Redskins defeated the Green Bay Packers, 31-17. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) reacts after being called for a personal foul roughing the passer on a sack of Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) during third quarter action at FedEx Field. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) and cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) reacts after Matthews was called for a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter on September 23, 2018, at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The Washington Redskins defeated the Green Bay Packers, 31-17. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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But even quarterbacks are questioning the rule, and defensive players are speaking out, saying league honchos only care about the safety of quarterbacks, not other players.

How bad is the problem?

After Monday night’s Buccaneers-Steelers game, there have been 34 roughing the passer penalties through the first three weeks of the season, or 48 games.

At that rate, there will be a whopping 362 roughing calls this season, more than triple the 109 total roughing penalties last season, and nearly four times the 92 such calls in 2016.

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