Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, is one of the most recognized players in the NFL, no doubt in part owing to his numerous endorsement deals.
Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, is one of the most recognized players in the NFL, no doubt in part owing to his numerous endorsement deals. Rick Stewart/Getty Images
NFL star quarterbacks like Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning spend their days dodging hits and sacks from 300-pound defensive linemen. But off the field, many quarterbacks star in their own hits — in commercials. By promoting sports drinks, credit cards and electronics, among other things, quarterbacks are also endorsing the NFL, which the league recognizes and wants to continue.
So the league is going further than ever to protect quarterbacks from their fellow players.
Take Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. He is one of the most prolific marketers the NFL has ever seen, says Paul Swangard, who teaches sports marketing at the University of Oregon. Swangard says the NFL builds its success on players like Manning being everywhere — playing and pitching.
"The NFL understands ... protecting him as a player while he is out on the field gives them a way to reinforce what he is doing in those ads," says Swangard. "He does no service to that effort if he is sitting on the sidelines wearing crutches or trying to figure out how to count from A to Z."
Safeguarding Its Assets
This season, roughing-the-passer calls were on the rise, for the first time in three years.
Some credit the increase to a new rule nicknamed the "Brady Rule." Last season, a hit on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's knee ended his season. Now referees can call a penalty if a defensive player hits a quarterbacks' knee.
But is the NFL going too far in protecting quarterbacks? After all, this is football.
Staying In The Game
Troy Aikman is a former quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and a Fox Sports broadcaster.
"If the rules had been in place when I was playing," he says, "I believe that my career would have been extended three to four years."
But Aikman says that one thing hasn't changed since his playing days. Referees follow the letter of the law on penalties, without looking at intention, he says. And that's not always good.
"It is relatively easy ... to determine whether or not a blow to a quarterback was deemed excessive or incidental," says Aikman. "So I'm discouraged that there have been a number of games that are influenced — not that the outcomes are in question — but a number of games influenced based on the protection of the quarterback."
The NFL declined to comment for this story but says it reviews every penalty call of every game.
Aikman says the new rules will help keep quarterbacks in the league and in your commercials.
"I think we are going to see them playing much longer than [in] years past," he says.
And for a league that likes its stars front and center, that's the best offense.