It's time to stop rewarding college football quarterbacks for making bad throws
Pass interference is a pox upon football, and it's time to make some changes to the rule
You see it in every game. A receiver beats his man off the line of scrimmage. They're 15 yards downfield now, and the safety isn't coming to help. The corner is toast, and he knows it. So does the receiver. By now, the quarterback has figured it out as well, and he's about to unleash a pass that should result in a touchdown.
But then something happens. It might be the result of a weak arm or the quarterback's lack of confidence in his ability to make the throw. Maybe the QB is scared of overthrowing his target and being the guy who blew what should have been six points. Or perhaps he's been coached to do it.
Whatever the case -- possibly a combination of it all -- the QB lets it rip, but it's not a great throw. It is not a throw that will allow the receiver to run under the ball, gaining further separation, pull the ball in and cruise toward the end zone. The throw is short. Now, instead of running full speed, the receiver has to slow down. In some instances, he has to stop entirely and maybe even turn around completely and come back to the ball.
The defensive back was already toast, but when this happens he's given life again, but it is a life that will be filled with nothing but punishment.
He is Sisyphus reborn.
Because, you see, it's not only the receiver running at full speed right now, but also the defensive back. And once that receiver slows down or stops, there isn't a human being alive that can perceive that shift in velocity and momentum quickly enough to match it step for step. The defensive back is doomed. Unless he's beat by five yards already, he is 100 percent going to make contact with the receiver. Then, whether the pass is completed or not -- and more often it is not -- the flag will emerge from the hip of the official and fly through the air toward the spot on the field where the defensive back was victimized. Then, to add insult to the injury, the official will tell the referee "we got a pass interference on the defensive back." The ref will then announce to the tens of thousands in attendance, and all those watching at home "defensive pass interference, Sisyphus."
Sisyphus will then raise his hands in the air in a classic "what did I do?" gesture, and head back toward the line of scrimmage, this time 15 yards closer than before. He will then be asked to push that rock up the mountain again, and when the QB makes a bad throw, he'll be punished for it once more.
And it will drive me insane every time. There is no rule in the sport of football I hate more than pass interference. There are dumber rules -- ones that make less sense -- but none that cause my blood pressure to rise as often as a pass interference penalty. The reason is that I believe it is mostly unnecessary, and the definition of the penalty is too vague. There are seldom any pass interference penalties that can't easily be called defensive holding or illegal contact. On the flip side, there are far too many pass interference flags thrown for contact that couldn't, nor should be avoided. Pass interference was first implemented in the sport of football to make it easier for offenses to pass the football. It made sense at the time, but as the sport has evolved, passing attacks have changed with it. In fact, I would argue no aspect of the sport has evolved quicker or more effectively than the passing game. In many senses, the pass is making the run obsolete.
So now I think it's time to give the defense the same break offenses were given when pass interference rules were implemented. Ideally, I'd like to eliminate pass interference from the sport entirely and rely on illegal contact and defensive holding, but I know that's not going to happen. So instead I will compromise.
Let's keep pass interference, but stop rewarding quarterbacks for making bad throws. Underthrowing your receiver downfield is becoming one of the most efficient ways to pick up a first down, and it needs to stop. I'm calling on the NCAA to implement changes to the pass interference rule. If the targeted receiver slows down or is forced to come back toward the ball due to a bad throw, any contact between the receiver and the defender should be seen as incidental and ignored.
Let's reward quarterbacks and offenses for making good throws and not just any throw. There is no more difficult position to play in the game today than the defensive back position in pass coverage, as the rules severely limit what the defender can do. Admittedly, the college game is more lenient than the NFL, but that's not saying much.
The college game has always been ahead of the NFL when it comes to innovation and improving the game -- the NFL is just now realizing guys like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray can be useful if you mold your offense to them rather than forcing them into something else -- and this is another area where it can be the agent of change. Give defensive backs a break. Stop rewarding bad execution.
It will improve the product in the long run.
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Compare Drew Lock to a current NFL QB. - @TrevorBitt
Well that's not so much of a question as it's a command. When I look at Drew Lock, I see a QB with the size that NFL teams like, as well as a strong arm and decent footwork in the pocket. However, he does not have the accuracy I want from a QB. I love strong arms as much as anybody as they help at the NFL level, but I'll take the ability to put a throw on the money over the ability to throw it 70 yards. As for which current NFL QB Lock reminds me of, Lock came up while we recorded The Cover 3 podcast this week and my colleague Barton Simmons had a pretty good comparison. He compared him to Matt Stafford. I think of current NFL QBs, that makes the most sense. I think Lock has better accuracy down the field than he does on intermediate to short routes.
Last season, 57 college QBs threw at least 50 passes of 20 air yards or more, according to Sports Info Solutions. Of those 57 QBs, Lock ranked 14th in completion percentage at 42.4 percent, but that's a bit misleading. When ranked by on-target percentage (it's exactly what it sounds like), Lock ranked third behind only Iowa State's Brock Purdy and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray. He also had only one interception among his 59 attempts, giving him an interception rate of 1.7 percent, which ranked sixth.
The problem was on shorter throws. Forty-three QBs threw at least 175 passes between 5 and 20 air yards last season. Among them, Lock ranked 25th in completion percentage (58.9), 27th in on-target percentage (72.8), 31st in yards per attempt (7.8) and 21st in interception percentage (2.5).
You can't make your living in the NFL just throwing deep. If you can't throw underneath, you're going to have a lot of trouble succeeding, and that's my biggest concern about Lock at the NFL level.
Given the school's history, can Kentucky maintain 7-9 win seasons under Stoops? - @wklawdog
I had a conversation similar to this with a Kentucky fan on Twitter a few weeks ago. To be blunt, I expect Kentucky to take a step back next season. The 2018 season was a special one for the Wildcats as they finished 10-3 and ranked No. 12 in the AP Top 25 poll. It was the first time Kentucky won 10 games in a season since 1977.
I think it was just one of those perfect storm seasons we see happen with non-top tier programs from time to time. I don't think it's a sign of things to come for Kentucky's future because, even if things have improved under Mark Stoops, the Wildcats haven't had a recruiting class that finished in the top 10 of the SEC since 2014, and that class was ranked 10th. While this roster is more talented than most other Power Five programs, it's still playing from behind within the SEC, and that's going to make it difficult to stack 10-win seasons.
But that doesn't mean Kentucky can't live in that 7-to-9 win range every season, and that should be the goal. Given the program's history and the current state of the SEC, getting to a bowl game every season and looking competent should be enough for a fan base at a school that's always going to value basketball success more anyway.
What is the next team that's NOT Clemson or Alabama to win a national title? And when? - Lynn
I believe there are two obvious answers to this question. Based on how recruiting has gone in recent years, you have to think Ohio State and Georgia are best-positioned to beat those two. Also, unlike other talented teams like LSU, they don't have to get past Alabama in their division every year, though Georgia would more than likely have to face it in the SEC Championship Game.
Because of that, I lean toward Ohio State, but there are questions there as well. Will Ryan Day be able to maintain what Urban Meyer built in Columbus, or could the Buckeyes take a step back? I'm not sure, but I think they have an easier road to a playoff spot than other SEC teams do.
There's also the question of Oklahoma, but until the Sooners make significant improvements on defense, I have a hard time considering them a legitimate title threat.
As for when a school other than Alabama or Clemson will win the title, I would wager it'll be at least three more seasons. With Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence around for 2019 and 2020 (only Lawrence in 2020), I'd think Alabama and Clemson are more likely to win titles in those seasons than anybody else. Plus, you know, they're more talented than everybody else at other positions, too. The fact they have elite QBs only makes it more difficult to beat them.
So I'll say that 2020 is the absolute earliest a different team wins the national title, but I think 2021 is much more likely.
Assuming Jacob Eason starts for Washington, is this their best shot at a national championship since Petersen arrived? - Jacob Hedeen
What's the ceiling for Washington this year with Jacob Eason? - @NickParadies
Here's the thing about Washington: the last few years I thought the one thing holding the Huskies back from being the clear power in the Pac-12 was Jake Browning. It's not that Browning was bad -- he wasn't -- he just wasn't elite. He wasn't at the level you seemingly need these days to compete for a national title.
So if Eason is a considerable improvement over Browning, Washington will be in a great position in the Pac-12. I don't think the Pac-12 is very good, nor will it be all that good in 2019. I'm not a big believer in Oregon, and while USC is going to improve, I don't know that it'll improve enough. Stanford will still be good, but I feel as if that program has hit a plateau in recent seasons.
So if Eason can live up to that five-star billing he had out of high school -- the one that saw him initially win the starting job over Jake Fromm at Georgia -- then Washington could be quite good in 2019.
If Eason is great, then this Washington team is suddenly a Pac-12 favorite and certainly a College Football Playoff candidate. But I still don't think they'd be a true national title threat. They don't have the depth of talent that Alabama and Clemson have. That's not to say they couldn't win a semifinal, but I have a hard time thinking the Huskies would win two playoff games.
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