If there's anything I've learned watching football this year -- both collegiate and professional -- it's that I don't know what a catch is, and I don't know what targeting is. Nobody does. It seems as if we make up the rules as we go along.
For example, take this hit from Nebraska safety Nate Gerry against UCLA on Saturday night.
Nebraska's Nate Gerry ejected for targeting on this hit pic.twitter.com/6TkaS6PhbW— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) December 27, 2015
Here's what I see when I watch the replay. I see a defender bending his knees, putting himself in position to make a tackle and then exploding through a ball carrier like he's taught to do. I see a player turning his head away from the point of impact and delivering the hit with his shoulder while wrapping his arms around the ball carrier. Exactly like he was taught to do.
What the refs saw was targeting -- live and at full speed. I get it. Gerry didn't lead with his head, but his helmet did make contact with Paul Perkins' helmet, if only for a brief instant. After replay, however, when one could see everything Gerry did to avoid making such contact, and knowing that this was just one of those inevitable moments in a football game, the officials upheld the call and ejected Gerry from the game.
Listen, I know how difficult a targeting call can be for officials, and I think it's something that should exist, but we really need to have a little more common sense involved in these calls. There's a noticeable difference between a hit that is malicious and one that happens in the course of a game. All too often we're seeing players kicked out of games for hits that are going to happen no matter how well we coach the players to avoid making them.
It's a physical sport. No matter what we teach a player, or how many times we eject players for making hits that weren't malicious, nothing is going to change that.