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Owners won’t be addressing roughing the passer today

Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss why the officials’ attention to roughing the passer must be communicated to fans during the games, so they at least understand what’s happening.

While there may be some scattered harumphing in the room today from the multi-billionaires who will gather for the quarterly meeting of Club Oligarch, they won’t be discussing potential fixes to the perceived crisis regarding roughing the passer penalties.

From the league’s perspective, there’s no crisis. From the league’s perspective, the system is working precisely as it was designed.

NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent admitted it during a Sunday appearance on ESPN. The rule gives the referee the latitude to be wrong about throwing the flag. When in doubt, whip it out. (Three of those six words are actually in the rulebook.)

The league essentially wants to create a force field around quarterbacks, compelling defensive players to think twice about where, when, and how they’ll hit a quarterback, for fear of drawing a flag. The league wants that because it’s good for the broader business to have as many quarterbacks healthy as possible.

“Ninety-one of the top-100 shows last year on television were NFL games,” Vincent said. “Why? Because of the quarterback play. They want to see points and scores. I think we all have an appreciation. If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have a chance to win. As a defender I knew that, you can’t score points, you can’t win.”

As we’ve said before, there should be a firewall between the integrity of the game and the league’s broader business interests. There isn’t, on this point. The league is willing to tolerate a team or two periodically getting screwed, in the name of avoiding the league being screwed by a rash of prime-time games featuring not Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes but John Wolford or Duck Hodges.

That’s why the owners don’t care about this issue. Yes, they should care about the game. They care far more about the business of the game. That’s one of the practical consequences of the game becoming so big of a business that the owners are focused less on ensuring fairness and equity for every team and more on maximizing rating points and revenue for all of them.