If you are even a casual NFL fan, you know quite well that the NFL's new officiating focus on taunting has been met with more vitriol than perhaps any rule alteration from the last 10 years. Going into the year, the league said the refs would be stricter about calling taunting penalties, but attempted to dissuade those worried that such penalties would drastically alter the outcome of games. Through two weeks, that has not been true and literally everybody hates it.
For example: the Tennessee Titans were down seven points to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field with eight minutes to go this past Sunday. Ryan Tannehill heaved up a deep ball to AJ Brown, a throw perfectly defended by defensive back D.J. Reed. It was a huge play in a huge moment, and Reed was amped about his play. When he got up, he looked down at Brown's prone figure and appeared to yell incoherently, caught up in the joy of his success.
It inspired an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
That's a huge call in an important moment! It's one thing if the NFL was cracking down on touchdown celebrations and any penalties called would be enforced on the XP or kickoff. It's another thing entirely if the Titans are gifted a crucial first down because a defensive back got marginally too excited about an incompletion.
The rest of the calls from Sunday are equally egregious. Ari Meirov put together a compilation and it is cringe-worthy.
One of the many cries about these penalties that circled the Internet this week was "Who asked for this??" I present to you an answer.
John Mara probably represents one percent of one percent of the NFL audience with that opinion on showboating during games, but because he is on the competition committee, he got his way.
It's just ridiculous and makes the games far less enjoyable to watch. There's nothing I can say here that is a new or unique take on it. It just sucks.
I will say, though, that the NFL and the referees have been open to negotiation when it comes to making certain calls. The early parts of the last couple seasons have featured a similar sort of emphasis that led to a rainfall of flags that slowed down the game and pissed everyone off; ticky-tacky pass interference and holding calls both come to mind as "points of emphasis" that the leagued backed off of as the season went on.
So all hope is not yet lost. Past controversies have shown that the people in charge are willing to adjust to what the teams and fans are saying, and you can bet teams are even more upset about these free yards getting handed out than we are. Hopefully that change comes soon.