Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/30/12
This is Part 2 of a four part series titled “1998 Manning versus 2012 Luck.” To read Part 1, use this link.
The NFL is forever changing. When it first originated, the forward pass was as widely used as it is today. The effectiveness of Vince Lombardi’s power sweep run package was as unstoppable as it comes. Then, Walter Peyton and O.J. Simpson were dazzling defenses with their overall agility and speed in the open field. In the 80’s, John Riggins power between the tackles could not be stopped. The 90’s saw all of these styles and more, as Marshall Faulk showed not only could he run the football, but he could catch it and go.
But it wasn’t just effective running backs. Terrifying defenses like the Steel Curtain, the ’85 Bears, and the Purple People Eaters, were making it damn near impossible for opposing quarterbacks and receivers to hook up. Pittsburgh corner Mel Blount had to be one of the most feared DB’s in all of football. He became a full-time starter for the Steelers’ secondary in 1972 and didn’t allow a touchdown. He perfected the bump-and-run pass defense. Blount would end his career in 1983 with 57 interceptions, 736 return yards, and two touchdowns. But those numbers will not be what he is remembered for. He will, however, be remembered for the Mel Blount Rule.
The Mel Blount Rule prohibits a defensive player from hindering or “jamming” a receiver more than five yards down the field, changing the way teams would play forever. The NFL believed and still believes to this day that the passing game leads to higher ratings; as fans would much rather watch the ball travel through the air then on the ground. This rule devalued the running game, and led to running backs not being as important to an offense today. Thus, making quarterbacks and wide receivers appreciate in value. Even the way the offensive line has to be formed today, is because of this rule. A lineman’s main job today is to protect the quarterback. As of 2010, the top average salaries by position are as follows: quarterback, defensive end, offensive linemen.
But it goes further than that, since 2010, more emphasis has been put on protecting players, especially the wide receiver and quarterbacks when it comes to blows to the head or a “defenseless” receiver. If a defensive player does some how get in the backfield he cannot even tap the quarterback’s head without drawing a 15 yard personal foul penalty. Same goes with a “defenseless” receiver, I am using quotes around the word “defenseless” because I believe every wide receiver is defenseless when he is going for a pass, seeing how he is not paying full attention to the defender coming his way. Either way, it has altered how a team’s secondary has to defend a pass and tackle a receiver, giving the offense a huge advantage.
Peyton Manning had the Mel Blount Rule to help him, he did not have the defenseless receiver rule and the hit to the helmet rule that the quarterback has in 2012. There was a reason Dan Marino’s 5,084 passing yards in a single season wasn’t broken until 28 years later. In 2011, three quarterbacks threw for over 5,000 yards (Brees, Brady, Stafford.)  Eli Manning was close, having 4,933 yards. Brees would set the new single season passing record, where as Brady would break Marino’s mark as well. Peyton’s highest total was 4,700 yards in 2010, when the quarterback protection and defenseless wide receiver rules were implemented and eventually expanded in 2011.
Look at rookie quarterbacks in 2011. I am not undermining Cam Newton or Andy Dalton’s ability, but Newton finished 10th in passing yards and Dalton finished 16th, with both of them making it to the Pro Bowl. Dan Marino and Vince Young are the only other rookie QBs to make the Pro Bowl since 1970. In Manning’s rookie year, he threw a league-high 28 interceptions. Dalton threw 13, Newton threw 17. Maybe Newton and Dalton will be better than Manning, only time will tell, but changes in the rules from 1998 to 2011, definitely has made it easier to transition from college to the pros.
Andrew Luck had better college numbers than Dalton and Newton. Luck had more passing touchdowns and neither Dalton nor Newton threw for over 3,000 yards and neither had a completion percentage above 70. Dalton did have a top-ten defense with the Bengals and Newton had a stout receiver in Steve Smith and a good running game in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The rule changes should lead in to an easier transition for Andrew Luck in to his 2012 rookie season than Peyton Manning had in 1998. Everyone is thinking RGIII is set to have a better year statistically because of a better Washington Redskin team, but don’t count out Luck. If anyone is smart enough to learn and take advantage of a rule book that is already in his favor, it’s Andrew Luck.

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