The NFL’s relaxation of its long-held jersey number classification standard has been all the rage on social media, where photoshop jobs have flourished and piqued the imagination of those who dream of a wilder aesthetic reality.
Don’t count Tom Brady as one of those losing themselves in a freer football future.
Brady took to Instagram on Thursday to voice his very strong issue with the league’s numbering change, which allows any defensive back to wear 1-49, and any linebacker to wear 1-59 and 90-99, among other possibilities. Brady posted the graphic explaining the approved rule change to his Instagram story, adding the caption “good luck trying to block the right people now!!!! Going to make for a lot of bad football.”
Brady is doubling down hard.
…wonder how he really feels. pic.twitter.com/vcOIGzw2f8
Brady has a bit of a point when it comes to identifying which position a defender is playing before the snap. In Brady’s understanding of football as he and everyone has known it for decades, a linebacker would wear between the 40-59, or a number in the 90s. Finding such a number would help identify that the defender in the slot is indeed a linebacker, but now, that defender could wear 3, or 17, or 29 if he wanted to, adding some confusion to the process for the master of pre-snap reads and subsequent decision making.
There’s also the pre-snap personnel-matching process that could get thrown into a tizzy. In a world in which we often rely on simple numerical terminology to identify how many and which types skilled position players break the huddle, we often identified them first by running back, then by tight end before leaving the rest to receivers. The running backs would be somewhere between 20-49, while tight ends could be in the 40s or the 80s.
This rule change allows any of those players (plus receivers) to wear numbers ranging between 1-49 and 80-89. So much for picking out the tight ends by their few numerical options to figure out how to match the personnel defensively.
What is a quick-fire decision before every snap — occasionally leading to defensive players running on and off the field in the last moments before both sides have lined up to snap the ball — will see even less margin for error, leaving little time for a coach in a booth or on a sideline to scan a roster to determine who No. 9 is in the huddle.
Is he a running back? A tight end? A receiver? Are they going with a heavy package, but all of the single digits (or teens, or 20s, etc.) make it look like it could be a five-receiver set? When did Tight End Y suddenly wear No. 7? Why are we in a 4-3 when they’re in the spread? Quick, get a sub in there!
Confusion could reign. But if we’re being realistic, these coaches will prepare accordingly. They’ll watch enough tape to know which playmakers wear what numbers, and they’ll seldom be caught by surprise if they’re worth their weight.
As for Brady – who dramatically doubled down by adding the league might as well allow linemen to wear single digits, or just remove numbers altogether — perhaps the man who has cheated Father Time to this point should keep his age-defying streak going by embracing change instead of resisting it. Sure, it’s tough to stay hip with the latest pop culture trends and technology changes, but Brady has done a pretty solid job of that so far.
Crossing over to Team Washed because of jersey numbers would just be anticlimactic.
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