Two of the biggest stars in the NFL playoffs went down last weekend due to a tackling technique known as the hip drop tackle. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard both missed time in their Divisional Round games because of these brutal takedowns. Mahomes came back, and the Chiefs moved on to the AFC Championship Game. Pollard did not, and not only did the Cowboys go home, but Pollard suffered a broken leg ahead of his free-agent offseason. These tackles will continue to hurt players unless the NFL steps in and bans them now.
The NFL needs to make hip-drop tackles illegal before the Championship Round
A hip drop tackle is a tackling technique where a tackler wraps up a player from behind or the side and leaves their feet while dropping their hips to the ground. The result is that a tackler hauls down a runner with all their body weight, pulling them to the ground. Examples can be seen in the Twitter embed above from NFL predictive analyst Warren Sharp.
What often happens at the end of hip drop tackles is that the tackler comes crashing down with all their body weight on the back of a runner’s legs, pinning them to the ground while the runner is still moving forward. This is how injuries happen.
It is how Patrick Mahomes got a high ankle sprain after a hip drop tackle by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Arden Key and how Tony Pollard ended up with both a high ankle sprain and a broken leg after 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward performed a textbook hip drop tackle.
These types of tackles are just as dangerous to player safety as horse-collar tackles, which the league banned in 2005.
The NFL should ban these types of tackles now, ahead of the Championship Round and Super Bowl. Is that harsh? Sure. Will it result in penalties that could affect the outcomes of games? It could.
All that said, it is better to ban it now than risk seriously hurting and losing crucial players in the last three NFL games of the season.
Making on-the-fly rule changes, though, is not something the NFL generally does. It’s much more likely the competition committee reviews and possibly bans hip-drop tackles in the offseason.
The NRL in Australia has banned these tackles
The NFL isn’t the only league that has dealt with the scourge of hip-drop tackles. This type of takedown became a major problem in the National Rugby League in Australia and New Zealand.
When hip-drop tackles became prevalent in the NRL, the league took steps to ban them. They identified the problem, defined a new rule, and came out with a video of offending tackles where the tackler drops all their weight on a runner’s legs from behind, pinning them underneath.
Now, in the NRL, hip drop tackles are penalized on the field and can also result in suspension for particularly egregious violations.
The NFL must follow suit as soon as possible. Yes, the league has taken away numerous types of hits from defenders, from headshots to horse-collar tackles, in previous years, but these are all in the name of safety.
And in addition to safety, hip drop tackles are hurting the competitive balance of the sport.
Tony Pollard went out in a tied game, and the Cowboys offense fell apart after that. Patrick Mahomes will be far less than 100% in the AFC Championship Game due to this type of tackle, and the game will be worse for it.
Roger Goodell and company need to get these tackles out of the NFL ASAP, or these types of injuries will only increase, and the game quality and player safety quality will only decrease.