The NFL has been accused of doing too much to protect quarterbacks over the last decade or so, and Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan's latest comments won't do much to put an end to that view point.
McMillan told reporters Wednesday that the referee in Sunday's Week 2 matchup between the Dolphins and New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium told the Miami linebacker to "stay off" quarterback Tom Brady after a legal hit. Referee Bill Vinovich and his crew officiated the game.
#Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan, who played edge rusher for the first time and got a hit on Tom Brady, said referees "told me to stay off Tom" during Sunday's game. McMillan said refs were advising him so he wouldn't get a roughing the passer penalty.— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) September 18, 2019
Raekwon McMillan told me when he hit Brady on Sunday - a perfectly legit hit - the referee told him "Stay off Tom." NFL still protecting those QBs amid several early season injuries to marquee ones— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 18, 2019
It's impossible to know this official's rationale without hearing his side of the story. Maybe he felt that while McMillan's hit was legal, it was close to roughing the passer and he wanted to help the Dolphins linebacker avoid a 15-yard penalty later in the game. Or, it's possible, he didn't want the game to get out of hand given the lopsided scoreline throughout the afternoon. The Patriots ultimately won 43-0.
In fairness to the NFL, the rule changes it has made in recent years to protect quarterbacks were smart decisions. Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, both in terms of on-field performance and success from a business perspective. These players are the league's most marketable stars. In fact, a recent poll of league executives and other experts concluded that six of the 10 most marketable players in football were quarterbacks, led by Brady and Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes (in that order).
Brady was on the injury report Wednesday with a calf injury, but it's not known if it happened on McMillan's hit.
McMillan's frustration is understandable, but we shouldn't be surprised that referees in 2019 are looking out for the safety of quarterbacks. And we should expect more caution going forward given the recent injuries to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
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