Greeson: Roughing the passer questions in a powerful NFL

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) runs against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson (20) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


The NFL product is hard to beat. Ask the TV ratings folks.

But the desires for those numbers come at what cost? The importance of protecting QBs has led to two high-profile -- and totally bogus -- roughing the passer calls over the weekend.

One -- the laughably bad call against Grady Jarrett for form-tackling Tom Brady that allowed the Bucs to run out the clock in a 21-15 win over Atlanta -- had a direct impact.

The other -- an even worse call in which Chris Jones recovered a fumble midair and landed on Derek Carr to get the ubiquitous and universal roughing the passer flag -- did not in the Chiefs' rally last night.

We've accepted that it's OK that almost all of us can quote the starting defensive front seven for the Steel Curtain in the late 1970s, but next to none of us really know what a catch is when they go super slow-mo on reviewed calls. And that includes the refs and the officiating experts in the booths.

(Side question: This side of weatherpersons, who on TV gets this much leeway on correct predictions than the rules expert that the TV analysts call in when we have to decide if it was or was not a catch? Discuss.)

And yes, maybe after we all watched the awful video of Tua Tagovailoa, the league said, "Guys, do we want Andy Dalton vs. Cooper Rush as a high-profile matchup come Week 8? Then protect these dudes."

But it's got to still be football, at least a little bit, too, right?

Let's look at the NFL power poll five weeks into the season.

1. Philadelphia (5-0). Hard not to like everything about that offense right now. Jalen Hurts is playing within himself. AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert -- who have 28, 28 and 24 catches through five games, respectively -- is as good a WR1-WR2-TE1 as there is in the league right now. And that group's strength is its deep and balanced O-line.

2. Buffalo (4-1). Josh Allen is really good at this football thing, and how about this week 6 slate with Bills-Chiefs and Cowboys-Eagles next week? Yes please. And let's try not to have the referees be the Tuesday morning story again please.

3. Kansas City (4-1). I'm all for the analytics of the modern game. I am for going for as many fourth downs as possible -- and even looking at as many as one onside kicks a game -- because possession has long since trumped position in terms of value in the modern NFL. But I am still a little fuzzy on the going-for-two trend that is pretty much being summed up by Jim Nantz or Joe Buck saying, "Well the analytics folks say it's the right play?"

I can see that with where the Falcons were Sunday. Atlanta down two TDs on the road to a superior opponent. They went for two and got it and made the score 21-15 with four-plus minutes left, which increased the pressure on the Bucs. Monday night, though, when the Raiders did it, I completely disagree with that, and again, just saying, "The analytics folks say it's the right move" is lazy and kind of insulting, to be honest.

Las Vegas, on the road against an inferior opponent, scored with four-plus minutes left and made it 30-29. They went for two -- with the best kicker in the NFL not named Justin Tucker -- and missed. What's the upside here? You get it, and you motivate Patrick Mahomes to drive the field. You miss, and you give the Chiefs a grand chance to run out the clock. You kick for the tie, and maybe you get the Chiefs in a position of unknown. A position of cautiously playing to win but knowing they do not want to make a big mistake and lose in regulation either. But that's how Josh McDaniels is 1-4 with a really good roster.

4. Dallas (4-1). Too high? Maybe. But how many other teams in this league could lose their starting QB and rely on a defense and running game to go 4-0 since his Week 1 injury?

5. Minnesota (4-1). Vikings over Giants for the final spot? Yea, I think so. Vikings have a great WR tandem in Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen to break the surprising tie. Also, it allows us to share this stat: The top five of NFL salary earnings -- money made from NFL contracts only -- of active players is not that surprising. Tom Brady is No. 1 with $332.9 million in 23 seasons. He's followed by Aaron Rodgers ($305 million in 18 seasons), Matt Stafford ($300 million in 14 seasons), Matt Ryan ($291 million in 15 seasons) and Russell Wilson ($238 million in 11 seasons.) Next on the list is Kirk Cousins, yes, that Kirk Cousins, who, in his 11th season has made $201,669,486 playing football, according to sportrac.com.

And that's the opposite of a passer roughing it friends.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.