Since most of the chatter yesterday that didn’t have to do with John Skelton centered on Donte Whitner’s fine and subsequent name-change protest, I figured it might be a good idea to see what 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thinks of this whole “defenseless receivers” thing. Fangio isn’t much for sugarcoating, and he was his usual honest self today.
Here’s the question I asked that got him rolling:
With the increased emphasis on protecting defenseless receivers, do you think that could change the way offenses attack you or anybody in terms of taking more chances over the middle, sending guys up in the air, that kind of thing?
It sounds ridiculous, but maybe Fangio has a point. If a quarterback isn’t pressured but throws a pass that puts a receiver in harm’s way, maybe he should be the one getting docked $21,000, not a guy like Whitner. We all know the NFL would never do such a thing, but in a league that’s so geared toward offense it’s fun to hear the perspective of a defensive guy — especially one as forthright as Fangio, who sounded like a coach who’s frustrated. He feels like the 49ers are teaching the correct fundamentals, but the officials don’t pay close enough attention.
“We’ve just got to learn and we have to hit correctly. Don’t lead with the helmet, stay off their head,” he said. “The part that’s hard about it all is the league has instructed the officials to err on the side of caution, so they’re going to throw the flag no matter what. Ultimately, what is a great play by the defender, because it’s such a great hit but it’s a clean hit, a lot of times the flag’s being thrown because it just looks that way. I would wish they would do a better job on that.”
Fangio doesn’t think the officials should require outside help to determine what hits are illegal and which simply seem too rough at first glance.
“I don’t know if you have to review (those hits). The officials need to err on the correct side, not on the safe side. Because if it is an illegal hit, the guy will get fined on Monday or Tuesday. If you miss it as an official, that doesn’t mean that it’s over and done with,” said Fangio.
In the case of Whitner’s hit on Rams receiver Chris Givens on the end zone, Fangio thinks both the officials and the league got it wrong.
“The angles I’ve seen so far look like a good play. Did not lead with his head, looked to me like he jolted the guy pretty good in the shoulder with his shoulder, and the guy’s head snapped because of the impact of the hit, which made it look like an illegal hit and so they threw the flag,” Fangio said.
So does that mean Fangio stands with Whitner’s decision to drop the “W” from his last name and become Donte Hitner?
“He did not consult me before he made that decision,” Fangio said. “I’d tell him to rethink it, because I do know if you change your name there’s some funds you have to come up with for jerseys, for one thing. Whatever.”