Whatever Happened to Protecting Yourself in Sports?
Josh Allen got knocked out of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 4 game against the New England Patriots because he did not protect himself. Jonathan Jones crushed him with a hit where the initial point of contact was the head–and the fault was not Jones’. Jones did his job; denying Allen the first down while simultaneously delivering a crushing blow that took a starting quarterback out of the game. If you read Twitter, or listened to Sean McDermott after the game, you would have thought Jones was at fault. Micah Hyde insisted if somebody ever hit Tom Brady like that they would have been immediately ejected.
But here’s the thing; Brady would never put himself in that position (well, at least not anymore). Nobody has gotten such a clean shot off on Brady in more than a decade because Brady protects himself. Protecting yourself is one of the most important things a quarterback can do, and yet, the onus is no longer on protecting yourself, but on the rules to protect you. And we why wonder why quarterbacks are dropping like flies lately?
Protecting yourself in sports is out of style: mobile quarterbacks dive headfirst for a few extra yards, middle infielders hold the bag like they are paying rent, and hockey players skate over the blue line with their heads down. Many lament the number of penalties we see in all the various sports and decry how modern fouls were yesterday’s great plays.
This angle shows why Jonathan Jones avoided an ejection. Trying to establish shoulder contact, neither lowered his helmet nor launched into Allen, and Allen is running forward with his helmet down. Perhaps an unnecessary hit, but Allen invited contact with the way he ran here. pic.twitter.com/eB2lKWZt7D
— Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff) September 29, 2019
The Jones hit was a perfect example of a quarterback putting himself in danger and people making excuses for him. If you were to listen to Dan Fouts (advice; never listen to Dan Fouts) you would think Jonathan Jones took out a crowbar and swung at Allen’s noggin. Never mind that Allen is seven inches taller and outweighs Jones by roughly 60 pounds; Jones is somehow the one at fault even as Allen turns his body into a battering ram. Nope, in today’s game, you are supposed to let the opposing player get that pivotal first down because… umm what sport is this again?
The most revealing part of the play though was the comments from Bills players and coaches after the game. To a man, they apparently do not think protecting yourself is the responsibility of the player. Sean McDermott thought Jones “should have been ejected” even though a particular former coach who has no love lost for the Patriots thought otherwise (and so too did the NFL).
Neutral observer with no dog in the fight: Tony Dungy, on Football Night In America, says he isn’t sure what Jonathan Jones could have done differently. https://t.co/kpQPjatZQS
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 29, 2019
Or Micah Hyde going all HOT TAKEZ
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 29, 2019
But there comes a point where protecting yourself falls on the actual player. You know. To. Protect. Yourself. Younger, faster, and more agile quarterbacks keep coming into the league, and they keep getting hurt. Cam Newton is perpetually inactive, Mitchell Trubisky left his game going for extra yardage, and Andrew Luck retired before the season because he was constantly in pain. And yet, Tom Brady keeps going.
Why? Becuase Brady is not just a surgeon with the football, he is the ultimate case study in protecting yourself. Brady constantly throws the ball away under pressure. He almost never tries to get the extra yard, and his great “running” highlights are so unique because he knows the cost analysis of risking health for that extra real estate. Invariably he decides the yards are not worth the risk.
The cherished list really consists of three plays (and notice the time and score for each): the touchdown plunge against the Chiefs, the Super Bowl scramble, and of course, there is the Brady “juke” against Brian Urlacher. THAT’S THE ENTIRE LIST! There are so few examples of Brady going all out because Brady almost never goes all out.
But 12 woulda slid or not put himself in that position to get knocked out of the game soooooooo https://t.co/iLl6xap3Is
— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) September 29, 2019
Sports are violent. Football is probably the most violent of the major American sports. The average play has at least five collisions that would send the average male whimpering to a hospital. It is understandable that the NFL and the other sports leagues want to regulate the most dangerous and injury-inducing plays out of the game. However, there comes a time when one player meets another player and it is going to take something drastic to stop them.
That is why we watch sports; to see who is the better man and the better team. If one guy gets knocked out throwing his body headfirst for a first down or touchdown, that’s commendable to both the player putting his body on the line and the man that knocks him out. You cannot fault a player like Jonathan Jones for doing his job. You can applaud Allen’s effort (and I do), but at the end of the day, he knew what he was doing and he knew the risks; he wanted that first down. He did not get it because somebody stopped him and he got knocked out in the process. Sure, you might think it’s vicious, but hey, that’s football.