Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bill Polian's influence on the change in the game

In my mind the 2003 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts has to be one of the greatest games in Pats history. It is also the game that I believe indirectly changed football today. This was a game that the Pats shut down Peyton Manning and his high powered offense.

The defensive backs hit the receivers hard throughout this game. They were in their face at the line of scrimmage and when they caught the ball the hits kept coming. I actually remember a hit by Rodney Harrison hitting Marvin Harrison which caused a fumble. Ty Law had 3 interceptions in this game and Peyton Manning looked totally confused. Up to this game Peyton Manning had been lighting it up in the playoffs against the Broncos and the Chiefs. This style of defense was aggressive and was the trademark of the New England Patriots dynasty.

After the game I started to hear complaints from the Colts about how the Patriots were making hits that were illegal . Bill Polian was front and center complaining about the Pats. To me looking for excuses is bad sportsmanship. The Colts needed to look at themselves and admit the better team won that Sunday.

Instead Bill Polian and Tony Dungy made sure with the competition committee that the "10 yard rule of defensive holding" would become a point of emphasis moving forward. You could still hit a receiver at the line of scrimmage and you had 10 yards to stop hitting him. The problem here is that defensive backs since this emphasis have become less aggressive at the line and in the field of play. In my opinion this emphasis has changed how defenses defend the pass. To me they are more worried about the flag than hitting the receiver.

The result has been more wide open offenses like the Colts being even more effective. If you look at the teams in the Super Bowl they are both led by their offenses. What happened to the dominant defenses? Right now they do not exist.

Has this "point of emphasis" benefited Peyton Manning and the Colts? In my opinion they have and it has changed football as we know it. It used to be "defense wins championships". Now it is the best offense wins championships. The Patriots changed their makeup I think for the worse when they decided to become a passing team in the 2007 season. The Pats to me thought "if we can't beat them we might as well join them. " The team that won 3 Lombardi trophies is not built around defense anymore. It has been built around offense.

It all goes back to an AFC Championship game when a general manager decided his team was cheated out of a victory. He was going to make sure the rules were going to change. Bill Polian and the rest of the competition committee certainly changed football forever. My question though is the game better now? I certainly don't think so.

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