Scandals, a horrible new rule, and other highlights from the first quarter of the NFL season

LEAKED EMAILS essentially ending his career, Gruden has been removed from the Buccaneer’s Ring of Honor after winning a Superbowl with them in 2003. Ethan Miller / Getty

Lucas Rapeepat | Head Editor

October 15, 2021

With a quarter of the regular football season in the books, the longest season of all time certainly has not disappointed. Multiple scandals, a plethora of surprising performances, and some controversial rule changes have kept the NFL in the spotlight as arguably the most important professional sports organization in the United States. 

Terrible Head Coach Leaks:

Play callers Jon Gruden and Urban Meyer of the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively have recently come under fire, with the former out of a job and the latter soon to join him. Gruden resigned after multiple reports revealed his usage of derogatory language in numerous instances in the past decade. The initial leak was an email that showed a racial description of the NFL Player’s Association director. From there, more and more homophobic, sexist, and every other kind of discriminatory evidence was uncovered until it was evident that he was not going to be keeping his position much longer. This came as a shock to many, as the charismatic leader was only in the 4th year of his ten-year, 100 million dollar deal. “I could not believe the news when I heard it,” senior Chase Geyer said. “It seems like Gruden covered all the bases in minority groups that you should not be insulting. The Raiders are done.” Though Meyer’s situation is far tamer than Gruden’s, his job security is not much higher. The formerly successful collegiate coach has not won a game in the NFL yet. After his 5th straight loss, he was filmed at an Ohio restaurant getting a little too friendly with a very young woman, missing the team flight after a difficult loss. With his team and fanbase having lost respect and faith in him, Meyer will need to add a few numbers to the win column to avoid an early exit.

The Taunting Rule:
In recent years, the NFL has updated its rules in order to make the league safer and fairer, take the stricter Roughing the Passer rule, for example. Yet in reaction to the most recent change, the harsher enforcement of the taunting penalty, the fanbase and players are unanimously in agreement: it’s terrible. The new rule sucks away the impact of massive moments and fun out of the game, as small celebrations can be flagged with potentially game-changing penalties. 11 taunting calls were made in just the first two weeks of the season, with ten total in the 2020 season and only eight in 2019. It will be interesting to see how long the NFL will ignore the constant and united criticism of this new edict that minimizes the special moments of football. “It really takes away from the spirit of the game,” junior Brian Luzar said. “The best times for fans are watching their players get all hyped after scoring a great touchdown or making a big hit. There is no way they keep this rule for long.”

TYREEK HILL’S iconic peace sign celebration will be flagged as taunting this year. Steve Winters / Getty

The Best Division:

Arguably the best division last year, the NFC West’s four teams, the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Arizona Cardinals, improved on paper. They are all playoff contenders, but the Seahawks’ chances take a hit with the injury to superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. The Cardinals are the only unbeaten team in the NFL at 5-0, and their recent acquisitions, such as Deandre Hopkins and J.J. Watt, compliment in-house studs like Kyler Murray and edge rusher Chandler Jones. Trading disappointment Jared Goff and a set of picks for consistently stellar Matthew Stafford was an upgrade that seems to have worked out for the Rams. The dynamic offense and monster defense dealt Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champions their only loss of the season thus far. Two years removed from a Superbowl defeat, San Francisco’s injury-plagued 2020 covered up how talented their team still is. Whoever emerges from the bloodbath between four star-studded lineups will be a major favorite for the NFC title, and the battle between them will be intense.

Rookie Quarterbacks:

First-year signal callers have mostly struggled to start off the year, a significant decline in what appeared to be a strong quarterback class. Lauded first overall pick Trevor Lawrence, widely classified as one of the greatest prospects of all time, has not had an easy ride in Duval County, Jacksonville, with the Jaguars lacking a win on the season. Number two pick Zach Wilson must perform in the worst situation possible, with little to no offensive talent to assist him. Set up to fail, Wilson is on pace to surpass a Peyton Manning record–the most interceptions thrown in a rookie season. Yet others have found some limited success. Justin Fields was finally given the starting job after incumbent Andy Dalton was injured, and he has performed decently. Against the Raiders last week, he played a nearly mistake-free game and appears to be gaining confidence the more snaps he receives. Patriots youngster Mac Jones has the fortune to play under one of the greatest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick, relying mostly on short dink passes when straying from the run game. There will come a time when he is forced to throw the deep ball more often, but the current approach is working for now. Finally, electric prospect Trey Lance received his first start of the year after an injury to Jimmy Garropolo. His first taste of professional action showcased impressive mobility along with some inaccuracy, though his team fell to the unbeaten Cardinals in a low-scoring bout.

The MVP Race:

As of now, fourth-year quarterback Josh Allen is first in line to win the Most Valuable Player award. With the Bills sitting on top of the AFC hierarchy at 4-1, Allen has contributed 15 passing and rushing touchdowns, heading a steamrolling offense on a top Super-Bowl contender. Though their first month of play pitted them against pretty soft matchups, a dominant 38-20 victory against the Chiefs silenced those who don’t believe in his talent as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. Naturally, there are some other contenders for the award, which has essentially become the best quarterback designation. Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers has looked poised and unstoppable, with the team currently holding the number one seed in the conference. In his return from injury, Dak Prescott has been slinging the ball to absolutely annihilate his early-season opponents. Kyler Murray’s ability on the ground and in the air is a major factor in the Cardinal’s unbeaten season, the last team in the league without a record marred by a loss. Finally, dark horse Lamar Jackson is in line to put up even better numbers than his 2019 MVP season. He is leading the Ravens to some of the most electrifying wins of the year with his improved passing ability, proving that he is arguably the most fun player to watch in recent history. “People can’t call him [Lamar] a running back anymore,” Geyer said. 

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