NFC North: Jeremy Jarmon
As you know by now, Rodgers had just released a pass in overtime when Redskins defensive end Jeremy Jarmon hit the front of his head with his helmet. Redskins safety LaRon Landry intercepted the errant throw at the Packers' 39-yard line, setting up the Redskins' game-winning field goal. Replays showed Jarmon holding his hands up as if to signify he had pulled up before the hit, but there is no denying that illegal contact occurred. The resulting call should gave returned possession to the Packers and put them at the 39-yard line.
On Friday, the NFL fined Jarmon $5,000 for unnecessary roughness -- a tacit admission that referee Gene Steratore's crew missed the call. The same thing happened last January, when referee Scott Green's crew failed to call Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Bertrand Berry for another clear helmet-to-helmet hit in the Packers' overtime loss.
Having not seen every play of every game Rodgers has started, those were the two major calls that popped in my head. After opening up the issue on Twitter, readers brought up at least a half-dozen other calls that were questionable at best.
Jon of Madison, Wis., wrote this representative plea:
Being a Packer fan, I am pretty upset with the way Aaron Rodgers is abused on the field without penalty. Now, I watch almost every game that is broadcasted in my area and it seems as though it only happens to Rodgers. And I'm not saying that as a blind fan. I would like to see the stats on Rodgers roughing penalties vs. all the other QB's in the league and would also like to see how many no calls penalties he has had. I can think of at least four helmet-to-helmet big hits that happened since last year.
After messing around with a spreadsheet for a while, I turned up this interesting and possibly relevant nugget: Steratore's crew hasn't made a single unnecessary roughness call all season. It's the only crew without one. For context, referee Tony Corrente's crew is at the high end with 11. And for what it's worth, Green's 2010 crew has made three such calls.
Steratore's crew has called three roughing-the-passer penalties this season, and no crew has called more than four. But the helmet-to-helmet call technically falls under unnecessary roughness, not roughing the passer. We all know how violent NFL games are. Objectively speaking, Steratore's crew has been awfully stingy on the former.
I don't think we have enough data to suggest Rodgers has had the misfortune of getting hit in the head during games officiated by crews that don't often make that call. But just as we see in baseball, I think we can all agree that NFL games are impacted to some extent by the subjective and inconsistent decisions of their rotating officials.
Even with that said, I can't accept that officials who are stingy with a certain call should have missed either the Jarmon or Berry hits. They were blatant and came in an era when the league has instructed officials to make every effort to protect all quarterbacks. Independent of any tendencies, they were simply bad and inexcusable non-calls. The subsequent fines confirmed as much. I don't have any way to sugarcoat that for you, but I'll continue to study the officiating spreadsheet this season to see what other trends we turn up.
Before we get to our Challenge Tracker, I'll publish the entirety of the NFL that relates to helmet-to-helmet hits. (For those following at home, it's Rule 12, Section 2, Article 13.3.)
In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer in the head, neck, or face (see also the other unnecessary-roughness rules covering these subjects).
A defensive player must not use his facemask or other part of his helmet against a passer who is in a virtually defenseless posture -- for example, (a) forcibly hitting the passer's head, neck, or face with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him, or (b) lowering the head and violently or unnecessarily making forcible contact with the "hairline" or forehead part of the helmet against any part of the passer's body.
This rule does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or non-crown parts of the helmet in the course of a conventional tackle on a passer. A defensive player must not "launch" himself (spring forward and upward) into a passer, or otherwise strike him in a way that causes the defensive player's helmet or facemask to forcibly strike the passer's head, neck, or face -- even if the initial contact of the defender's helmet or facemask is lower than the passer's neck.
Examples: (a) a defender buries his facemask into a passer's high chest area, but the defender's trajectory as he leaps into the passer causes the defender's helmet to strike the passer violently in the head or face; (b) a defender, using a face-on posture or with head slightly lowered, hits a passer in an area below the passer's neck, then the defender's head moves upward, resulting in strong contact by the defender's mask or helmet with the passer's head, neck, or face (one example of this is the so-called "dip-and-rip" technique).
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- A review of the Bears' two biggest personnel changes on defense: the addition of linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and the departure of safety Mike Brown, from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times and Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders.
- Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said in a national radio interview that the Bears' weakness is at receiver. Driver: "[The Bears] have the running back, they have the offensive line and they have a great defense. But you're going to have to need receivers to make plays down the field, and they don't have that right now."
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News says the Lions don't need to worry about receiver Calvin Johnson getting in trouble with the law.
- The Lions might take Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon in Thursday's supplemental draft, suggests John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Safety was a primary consideration when the Packers built their new training camp practice field.
- Dorsey Levens, set to enter the team's Hall of Fame, reflected on his career with the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Mike Vandermause.
- Brett Favre has been stepping up his workouts and admitted that time is "running out" for him to make a decision on whether to resume his career with the Vikings.
- Coach Brad Childress appears willing to wait on Favre to make a decision.
- Vikings receiver Sidney Rice wrote on his blog that he worked out recently at full speed without his knee brace and was pain-free.
I'm sure many of you have been eagerly awaiting Thursday's supplemental draft, that mysterious virtual event in which NFL teams make bids via e-mail for players who weren't eligible to be drafted in April.
The big name this year is Kentucky defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon, who is projected as a defensive end who could move to tackle on passing downs in a 4-3 scheme. And as Aaron pointed out over on our red-hot Facebook page, Detroit is on the short list of Jarmon's likely landing points. (ESPN.com's John Clayton reported that news here on his Insider-only blog.)
The connection makes sense for several reasons. The Lions have been trying to upgrade their defensive line for much of the offseason, having signed nose tackle Grady Jackson and used a fourth-round pick on raw prospect Sammie Lee Hill. But they missed on veteran John Thornton, who might retire, and as of yet haven't closed a deal with veteran Kevin Carter.
The NCAA ruled Jarmon ineligible for this season after he tested positive for a banned substance. He declared for the supplemental draft last month and, according to Clayton, has fourth-round value. Any team that selects him would forfeit their corresponding pick in the April 2010 draft.