San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman sees the NFL on pace for the highest-scoring season in league history, and he thinks he knows why: the movement over the past few years limiting physical contact with quarterbacks.
“This is what the league wanted. They want record passing numbers,” Sherman told reporters Thursday. “You’ve got an average quarterback; the average quarterback’s passer rating is like 92 and that used to be Hall of Fame numbers.
“And now it’s not Hall of Fame numbers, that’s the average quarterback.”
Sherman’s assessment of the huge numbers is accurate. In addition to points scored, the league is tracking toward shattering season records for overall touchdowns, passing yards, completions and completion percentage. Remarkably, four passers — Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and Ben Roethlisberger — are currently on pace to conquer Peyton Manning’s single-season mark of 5,477 passing yards.
Sherman, 30, blames the league for leaning too much toward favoring the offense and overprotection of its quarterbacks.
“You can’t touch him (the quarterback). You can’t tackle him. You can’t hit him high, can’t hit him low,” Sherman continued. “You can’t knock him down to the ground hard … all that. You can’t hit a receiver too high, you can’t hit him low, you can’t push him. You can barely press him.
“It’s making it really difficult on teams to combat it because every rule in the book is designed to make sure you don’t get them stopped.”
The NFL owners approved a new helmet rule in March, making it a penalty if a player lowers his head to “initiate and make contact with his helmet” against any part of an opponent’s body. In addition, other rules prohibiting defenders from falling on quarterbacks and driving their weight into the ground when tacking opposing passers have been panned by several defensive players and league critics.
Sherman had tweeted during the preseason and proclaimed the NFL “will be flag football soon” because of its player-safety mandates. Earlier this week, the eighth-year vet derisively suggested to reporters that perhaps the league should demand that quarterbacks actually wear flags on the field.
When posed with Sherman’s comments, Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh downplayed the effects of NFL rule changes on sparking more scoring.
“To attribute it to rules, I don’t know,” Saleh said. “I don’t know if I want to attribute (it) to that. I don’t know if it’s offenses being more creative.
“I know the quarterback play is getting a lot better, the skill set is a lot better and there’s a lot of creativity in the league right now so it’s a challenge, for sure, especially with some of the stuff that’s shown up.”
The four-time Pro Bowler Sherman declared an opposing view on Thursday.
“They’re just trying to make it impossible for guys to play defense,” Sherman said. “It’s an interesting league we play in.”