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Hard Count Episode 18-5: Eagles Fans, the National Anthem, and NFL Rule Changes

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Commentary on fan bases, political controversy and the real rule change issue facing the NFL

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of action to be seen as the NFL collectively took to the field for the first batch of regular season games in the 2018 season.

As always, I’ve taken a few topics from around the league which peaked my personal interest and put my thoughts down here for all to see and discuss as you feel.

This week, I’ll be giving my opinions on the Eagles fan base, National Anthem decisions and the what I see as the worst NFL rule change for the 2018 season. Let’s go!

OFFSIDES: Eagles fans boo the champs

When a team wins the Super Bowl, you figure it gives the head coach about a two-three year window of employment barring catastrophic melt-downs or legal trouble.

One could also assume the fan base would be able to feed off the bragging rights from such a historic event for at least the following season, if not longer were the team to challenge for more post-season glory.

Well, in Philadelphia, it seems the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy bought their team and players approximately one half of happiness.

Somehow, just thirty minutes into the regular season while facing a playoff contender on opening night, Eagles fans went from eating horse feces to hurling feces of the mouth at their championship patch wearing athletic club.

Interesting.

I know a few Eagles fans, and I’m proud to say none of them were the booing type, so obviously this isn’t an indictment on all of them. However, it only takes one - or in this case a large crowd of them - to ruin it all for the rest of you.

Maybe fans in Philadelphia aren’t aware, but winning a Super Bowl is hard. Repeating is even harder. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t won even a single playoff game since the team so memorably dominated the Raiders in their only title win thus far.

Word of advice to Eagles fans. Enjoy the win. Enjoy the fact that until at least early next year there is no title as new and shiny as yours. If you’re as unlucky as the Bucs and their fans have been, you’re going to wish you enjoyed these post-glory days if and when the causes for real booing happens.

Ever wonder why players don’t care about the fans more?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

FALSE START: NFL’s policy - or lack thereof - on the National Anthem

This off-season the league drew a hard line in the sand with their policy about protests during the National Anthem. Stand, hide, or be fined.

Well, not surprisingly, about half of the NFL watching public had a problem with it. The other half (approximately) liked it. There was a smaller percentage which simply wanted to watch football and couldn’t care less. I don’t have hard numbers, but my best guess is there’s about a 40-40-20 split among fans who support, deplore, and just don’t care about the protests.

But the NFL made a decision. As unpopular with some as it may have been, they made it. Aaaand, they somewhat quietly decided to retract it just as quickly as the hand-raised vote which first enacted it happened.

Let me sum up the article linked to the tweet Adam Schefter sent out about the reported withdrawal of policy.

Essentially, their decision made a lot of people angry and so they’ve decided to do nothing until they can come up with something which may or may not make everyone happy.

Herein lies the problem for the league. If the split is truly 40-40 among fans who support and don’t support the protests, no single policy is going to make everyone happy.

However, pulling back on this policy is only going to make the real policy - if there is one - a little harder on the public relations staff when the time comes to unveil it.

My gut says the NFL is hoping this whole thing will go away and they can just move on to other business having never taken a stand themselves one way or another.

According to the ESPN article attached to Schefter’s tweet, two players knelt during the pre-season and one sat. If this is the case, then it may be only Nike who is continuing to press the issue at this point, and a resolution of doing nothing may be the course the league chooses to take.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

FREE PLAY: Play through the whistle, unless you’re going to land on the quarterback

This may be dubbed the off-season of rule changes by generations in the future. New rules or clarifications of rules governing catches, fumbles, slides, kickoffs, helmet contact and quarterback hits have all been implemented.

Like many fans, I have a little bit of guilty pleasure when a crap rule is called in favor of my team. So when the Saints were flagged for a defensive player landing on Ryan Fitzpatrick in a legal attempt to sack him, I was happy.

Part of me was sad though too. Not because of that specific play, but because of the rule change it brought up.

A couple have gotten some bad press, but the biggest bad-rule change is the one which deserves the ire of football fans and players everywhere is the one where a defender attempting to sack a quarterback is not allowed to lay his body weight on said quarterback.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel like there’s any place for a defender driving a quarterback into the ground, or a defender not involved in the sack jumping on the quarterback for a little extra ‘oomph’.

But, I also don’t believe it’s reasonable to expect a 300-plus pound man to matrix his body weight and direction of travel mid-tackle so the quarterback doesn’t get extra boo-boos.

Richard Sherman commented earlier this off-season about the rule change regarding the leading of the helmet as problematic because it asks players to do something humanly impossible.

Not true. Many players have successfully altered their tackling patterns to comply with said rule.

Players will have to adjust to this rule as well, but tell a defensive player he can no longer wrap-up and drive through the likes of Cam Newton, and you’re going to end up with more flags or bigger runs for the Panthers’ quarterback.

Not every sack leads to a defender landing on his target of course, but if the intent is to sack the quarterback and the player happens to land on him in the process, so be it.

If the defender drives the quarterback into the ground, flag him. If a third player jumps on the quarterback on the way down, flag him twice. If the defender has upright control and chooses to fall directly on the quarterback, tack on 15, by all means.

And don’t get me wrong, David Onyemata definitely turned his shoulders downward while taking down Fitzpatrick.

But if a guy is simply playing to the whistle and his frame falls on the frame of another NFL player due to pure direction of travel and physics, that’s called football.

Intent is important here and should be taken into consideration by the competition committee.