The NFL is putting an emphasis on taunting penalties in an effort to get it out of the game. Officials are now calling these penalties at a relatively high rate and in a sometimes arbitrary-seeming way. This effort by the league is drawing a load of critic from all corners of the football world. Former Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro offensive lineman Tony Boselli is the latest to jump on the league for their stance on this issue and their new taunting rules.
The NFL is cracking down on taunting, and it’s effecting games
The NFL competition committee decided this offseason that getting taunting out of the game is essential. To this end, the league is directing officials to throw 15-yard penalty flags on any player that celebrates in a way the referee deems to be taunting.
Often with these league mandates, flags fly like wild in the preseason to send the message. However, usually once the real games get underway, the reins loosen a bit.
This was not the case with taunting fouls.
Officials have called 11 taunting penalties through two weeks, per the Washington Post, with eight coming in Week 2 alone.
There have been several cut-and-dry examples of trash-talking after a big play. But, refs have also called some of these fouls on players after simply spinning a ball or celebrating while looking in the opponent’s direction.
These taunting penalties have kept drives alive or negated big plays, affecting the outcome of the game. This is where so many fans, players, and media members have a problem with the new rules.
Tony Boselli doesn’t understand where the outcry over taunting rules was ahead of the crackdown
On a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, three-time All-Pro left tackle and current radio broadcaster Tony Boselli joined the host to talk about the state of the league.
The pair started by discussing the new taunting rules, though. Patrick asked the question, “why now?” and Boselli agreed completely with DP’s assessment that the timing and implementation of the rules don’t make much sense:
I must have missed the national crisis of taunting going on in the NFL where there was an outrage and op-eds being written and people just protesting in the streets because NFL players were talking smack and getting in each other’s faces.Tony Boselli on NFL taunting rules
Boselli continued by saying he understands when the league tries to make the game safer, as impossible as it is. However, he also says “some of these ancillary things they focus on” don’t make sense. The tackle worries that addressing these things that fans or players don’t ask for are bad for the game.
Boselli also shared stories of trash talk from his playing days
Tony Boselli knows what he is talking about as a five-time Pro Bowl left tackle. The former USC Trojan was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft, making him the first-ever selection of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.
He was among the best offensive lineman in the game for seven seasons (91 games) until injuries forced his retirement. Even with an all-too-brief career, Boselli is one of the best Jaguars of all time and one of the best eligible football players not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When discussing taunting with Patrick, the Colorado native said it has always been part of the game and that, as a lineman, it might be easier to get away with it because of the close quarters.
He also shared that the best trash-talker of his era was Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame defensive lineman John Randle:
The one that comes top of mind is John Randle. He’s got his face painted up, he’s chatting up the whole time. He used to go read the program and the bios of guys and start running his mouth and talking, calling people out. And the problem with John was, he could back it up. He’d be beating ya up physically and mentally. He had the whole game.Tony Boselli on John Randle
The NFL says they are addressing taunting rules to avoid the possible escalation that could come from it.
In taking away a part of the game that has been around seemingly forever, though, and affecting the outcome of games in the process, the league completely missed the boat on this one. That is what Boselli and many other current and former players are saying as well.