Five ways to ensure football players stop dropping the ball at the goal line
The emerging epidemic has already happened four times in the first three weeks of 2016
It keeps happening. Our national epidemic of football players dropping the ball before they cross the end zone just ... won't ... stop.
Who doesn't want to be a Drop The Ball Guy these days? It's a race to look cool and hard by dropping the ball right before crossing the goal line. Because really, nothing says you're a baller like disengaging with the ball as quickly as humanly possible since it's a burden to carry it a few more yards.
Clearly, public embarrassment to end DeSean Jackson Syndrome hasn't worked. If it was, my #HandItToTheRef hashtag would be trending, and I wouldn't be able to rattle off this partial list of brain-dead college football players, including four in the first three weeks of the 2016 season:
- Cal's Vic Enwere vs. Texas on Saturday night
- Oklahoma's Joe Mixon vs. Ohio State on Saturday night
- Clemson's Ray-Ray McCloud vs. Troy in Week 2
- Florida State's Dalvin Cook vs. Ole Miss in Week 1
- Oregon's Byron Marshall vs. South Dakota in 2014
- Utah's Kaelin Clay vs. Oregon in 2014
- Texas Tech's DeAndre Washington vs. TCU in 2013
- Marshall's Aaron Dobson vs. West Virginia in 2010
Clay's gaffe was an all-timer because Oregon's Joe Walker picked up the loose ball and ran 99 yards the other way for a touchdown. If that didn't change player behavior, nothing will by keeping the status quo. Even Clay is laughing at the mistakes he saw this year by Cook and McCloud.
THAT MIGHT'VE BEEN WORSE THAN ME!!!
-- Kaelin Clay (@CALiboy4) September 6, 2016
That boy McCloud out there trynna b like his pops lol
Saturday night introduced new college football lingo -- "no immediate recovery" -- that we should get familiar with due to these bonehead plays. That was the Big 12 officiating crew's justification, via Pac-12 replay officials, about why Cal kept possession after Enwere dropped the ball at the 1 and a Texas player casually picked it up a few seconds later.
Big 12 referee Mike Defee explained the decision this way to a pool reporter: "Again, immediate recovery is the judgment of the replay official, but he's got to have -- judgment based on his description to me, there was significant time elapsed between the time he picked it up that the player, No. 14, picked it up and handed it to the official."
Do you realize how insane it is that we must now use replay to determine whether a defensive player immediately recovered a ball that was dropped by a brain-dead kid looking to act cool? What even defines immediate recovery? Is it like backyard football?
One-Mississippi ... two-Mississippi ... three-Mississippi ...
At the risk of looking like a no-fun guy, let me clearly state I'm all for celebrating -- after you actually score! Since public shaming won't work, I humbly offer these suggestions.
1. Bench the player: Sorry, taking a touchdown off the board for your team can't be condoned as a "youthful mistake" that requires the offending player to "grow up," as many coaches say. It's a selfish mistake that culturally is getting embedded into players. Selfish mistakes require discipline. Sit the player for significant time. If playing time is the punishment for selfish acts off the field, why wouldn't it be the same for on the field?
2. Practice touchdown celebrations: This would be an incredible waste of time, but what other option is there? For maybe 10-15 minutes a week, have players practice running across the goal line for an extra couple yards before releasing the ball. At this rate, coaches should also have defensive players practice recovering dropped balls before the goal line to avoid "no immediate recovery" calls. I can see a whole wave of analytics digging into which teams drop the ball the most and who recovers them the best.
3. Encourage replay to look hard at Drop The Ball Guys: Why replay didn't take Mixon's points off the board Saturday is beyond me. It didn't even look like the play was reviewed. Oklahoma still would have had the ball at the 1. But removing the points sends a clear message to players to get it right. As crazy as it sounds, it's time for crossing the goal line with the ball to be an officiating point of emphasis.
4. Show this non-stop loop of Barry Sanders touchdowns: Hey, kids: The freakiest ball-carrier ever was a running back named Barry Sanders, and he celebrated by acting like he had been in the end zone before. He tossed the ball to the ref -- and I can't emphasize this next point enough -- while he was firmly standing in the end zone.
5. Have signs to direct ball-carriers: Think "Forrest Gump" and the "Stop" sign by Alabama fans, except in reverse. As a player nears the goal line, fans can quickly hold up signs that collectively spell out "Run" until the Drop The Ball Guy safely crosses into the Promised Land. Added bonus for universities: Businesses can sponsor the signs so there's another revenue stream to capitalize off uneducated players.
We can do this, America. The epidemic can end if we are smart and committed.
Let's make touchdowns count again.
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