The NFL passed a new rule yesterday that will broaden the jersey number options for nearly every position. Defensive backs, receivers, running backs, and linebackers can all wear single-digit jerseys now. Only quarterbacks and offensive line remain unchanged in terms of what numbers they can pick.
It really just means players can by and large wear the same number they had in college, if they so choose. It is neat to think about Ezekiel Elliott galloping down the sideline at AT&T Stadium in the same No. 15 he wore while at Ohio State. This won't really impact anything other than jersey sales and our own enjoyment.
Unless you ask Tom Brady. Brady posted on his Instagram story today criticizing the decision and claiming it will lead to bad football because it will be harder to know who to block.
So this is a little confusing. Here's my best guess. Brady is saying that offensive linemen use numbers to identify which player they're responsible for blocking. Letting a defensive lineman wear No. 51 (only an offensive line/linebacker number in the past), for example, will lead to mix-ups on the interior.
Never before has Brady sounded like an old man playing football, which he essentially is in terms of NFL years. Yeah, I get how that can lead to some mistakes in the early going. But linemen are extremely intelligent players. They have to be in order to grasp the complexities of the schemes they execute and adjust seamlessly on the fly, as they do on every down in a typical game. I rather doubt that number changes are going to lead to enough mistakes that we notice and decry the decision as leading to "bad football."
If wonky numbers are enough to confuse a team's offensive line, they should probably get a new offensive line.
UPDATE: Brady really doesn't like it and doubled down in a second post.