The NFL should have switched to the rugby wrap tackle a long time ago. It's equally as epic, requires more refined technique, and when done correctly, safer.
In his televised announcement this past week football's top health and safety guy dropped a bomb that will change the game forever. My reaction was less shock and awe at the admission and more "it's about time and it makes practical sense." And, it doesn't need to hurt the viewing or playing pleasure of America's game we all love. As a lifelong rugger I'm biased on this issue, but it doesn't mean my conviction is less powerful.
I'm going to stay out of the debate on whether and / or how the NFL knowingly suppressed injury data relevant to accurate reporting on this issue, and instead focus on my expertise -- tackling! As a former All-American fullback I've got a few of these under my belt.
I'll take on any naysayer who claims the rugby tackle is less entertaining, less to ogle over, slower-paced, or any other negative outcome. It's the opposite! The "wrap" tackle as used on the rugby field pits a lone defender against a power runner at top speed and creates the same thrilling moment of high flying suspension (maybe more!) as a "collision" tackle (my term).
The key difference in the two tackles is that the wrap maneuver changes the skill from a rigid impact to the head, shoulders, and skeletal structure to a fluid collision that turns and gives way into the direction of the offensive speed. It relies on the naturally anatomy of the human waist bend. The power in this skill is generated from wrapping the offensive player and allowing his or her forward motion to develop the tackle. The defensive player turns the shoulder into the tackle as he or she wraps (see photo). The landing can be rough and tumble, no doubt. But the ground impact is more consistent and keeps the head and neck more protected.
Pete Carroll pioneered this tackling shift as Seahawks' Head Coach years ago but only a few folks seriously followed suit. But now the hype around concussions and research on their link to CTE have left the door ajar for an overhaul in this skill for the football field. I don't see any other way forward if we're going to continue with football as America's favorite sport and protect the athletes we so dearly love as heroes.