By Asher U., 7th Grade, Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation

Anyone watching professional football games recently may have noticed a pattern of excessive penalty calls. Penalties, also known as flags, are called when a player commits a foul or breaks a rule of the game. It seems that the National Football League referees are calling more flags this season than ever before, slowing down the game and leaving fans wondering why.  

During week six of the 2019 NFL season, there were 188 penalties throughout the course of 14 games, while in week six of the 2009 NFL season there were only 166 penalties throughout the course of 14 games, according to the NFL Penalty Tracker

Different theories explain the increased number of penalty calls in the NFL. According to Jack C., a seventh grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School, “I think the referees are being pickier, but maybe the players are being more aggressive.” With more aggressiveness on the field, referees have no choice but to make additional calls in order to adhere to the rules and maintain a sense of control.  

Brody L., a KSDS seventh grader and sports enthusiast, agrees with Jack. Brody also attributes the increased penalty calls or flags on players being more aggressive. In terms of the effects these calls have on fans, Jack says, “The team has to get more yards, which can make the game more stressful. The game is not really entertaining anymore.” The game is constantly slowed down by referees making calls, which gets boring and frustrating for fans.

Last year, after a missed call that changed the result of a game and prevented the New Orleans Saints from playing in the Super Bowl, the NFL revised a rule, making pass interference calls and non-calls challengeable. Challenging a play is when the coach disagrees with the call that the referee made and wants the play to be watched again to try in an attempt to reverse the call on the field.

As a result, some fans think that NFL coaches are challenging this too much, even though calls are rarely reversed. The referees have too much control of the game and the NFL wants the teams to regain control to avoid incidents like the missed pass interference call. Pass interference is when the target of the pass or the defender of the pass physically interferes to make the pass uncatchable. 

Both Jack and Brody agree that coaches should be permitted to challenge more calls; however, the two disagree about which calls those should be. “Coaches should be able to challenge roughing the passer,” Jack says, referring to when a defender hits the quarterback illegally or after he throws the pass. Brody maintains that “intentional grounding should be challengeable.” Intentional grounding denotes when the quarterback throws a pass where there is no target in the area, while under pressure, in an effort to avoid losing yardage if tackled away from the line of scrimmage, where the play began. 

Overall, NFL football is undergoing a transition of sorts, and many fans are not happy. The number of penalty calls has significantly increased in recent years, leading to added disruptions to the game. While the reasons for these changes are unclear, the effects are not. 

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