There is a legitimate gripe that officials are putting too much focus on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski with regards to offensive pass interference. Gronk has been flagged for six offensive pass interference penalties, with five of them being accepted and one of them being offset by defensive pass interference.
Gronkowski has more offensive pass interference flags than 30 other teams and he'd be tied for second (Washington) on his own.
But if anyone deserves to complain, it's Gronkowski.
Agree https://t.co/E3aWNGE548— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) December 1, 2015
And he's ready to complain.
The rule being violated is absolutely absurd. Offensive pass interference is called when officials believe a receiver is blocking a defender, or generating contact without looking for the ball, more than one yard down the field prior to a pass.
The exact rule Gronkowski is flagged for breaking:
"Acts that are pass interference include, but are not limited to...Initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass."
The problem with the rule is that defenders are allowed to maintain contact with receivers from the snap and through five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. So if a defender engages with Gronkowski...what is he supposed to do?
Well, the correct answer is that Gronkowski shouldn't be flagged because the rule states that the offensive player has to initiate the contact in order be called for offensive pass interference. The fact that Gronkowski is trying to break away from defender initiated contact means that the flags shouldn't be thrown for Gronkowski. They shouldn't be thrown at all.
Defender engages Gronk. Only supposed to be interference if Gronk engages. pic.twitter.com/k3qTG048bS— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) November 30, 2015
Now there's a serious difference between disengaging from contact and pushing off. Gronkowski has been guilty of full arm extensions in the past that knock the defenders away and that would count as initiating contact of his own, even if a defender is clinging to him. The issue is that Gronkowski is bigger than his defenders so when he legally tries to disengage, defenders still get knocked back and officials are flag-happy and will call a penalty.
Gronkowski has been doing a fine job in recent weeks of making sure his disengagement falls within the legal range. Officials need to realize that just because Gronkowski is shedding his backpacking defenders, he's still following the rules. And yes, they're clearly targeting him.