A Kansas City defender makes a feeble attempt to tackle Cowboys receiver Miles Austin during a game on Oct. 11. This shouldn't be surprising, since nobody practices tackling in the NFL.
We live in an age of high-octane offensive football. The rules are designed to protect QBs and punish DBs. Passing plays and formations have become breathtakingly complex. Receivers are bigger, stronger and faster than they’ve ever been. But there’s another reason why offenses rule the day in the NFL now, and it’s because the tackling stinks.
While the Cowboys are 5-2 now, you Dallas folks remember all too well that poor tackling has cost your team dearly this year. All you have to do is go back in your memory bank and remember that time Brandon Marshall caught the ball and eluded FIVE Dallas defenders to take it to the house. Or, on the flipside, consider Kansas City’s feeble attempts to bring down Miles Austin before he broke loose for his little coming-out party three weeks ago. Bad tackling is endemic in the league right now. And according to this article from the Associated Press, the reason most teams stink at tackling is because they don’t practice it.
Here’s a quote from our own Wade Phillips:
"We teach tackling fundamentals," Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "But there's no reason to tackle our own guys."
See, that’s funny, because I always considered actual tackling a key tackling fundamental. Wade isn’t alone here, of course. Most NFL coaches are loathe to allow full tackling in practice, because it increases the likelihood of injury. And practicing full tackling during the week would exhaust any team leading up to a game, and debilitate them over the course of an entire season.
So those are all good excuses. But the fact remains: if you don’t ever practice tackling, chances are you’re going to end up sucking at it.
NFL bylaws forbid teams from bringing in random people to serve as human tackling dummies in practice. You’d have to use your own practice squad players if you wanted to do it. But practice squad players aren’t THAT precious. Sure, some rise up and become solid players, but most are waiver wire fodder.
That’s why I suggest every team, including the Cowboys, reserve one practice squad spot, every year, for one guy to serve as tackling bait. We’ll call him Norman. Just sign Norman out of the UFL, give him some money, and then let your players take turns in the middle of the week tearing poor Norman to pieces. Actually, he doesn’t have to be a UFL player. Sign a Biggest Loser contestant. They’re fat, and soft, and not as dangerous upon impact. That way, you get to simulate REAL tackling without the high injury risk. Plus, you could haze Norman as well. That would be fun.
Something has to be done, because while tackling your own guys may be dumb, NOT doing so can make you look awfully stupid come Sunday afternoon.