Chris Petersen had been thinking about changing the way he taught his players to tackle for a while. A conversation with Michael Lose, a former player at Boise State who had taken up rugby as a way to scratch his post-football contact sport itch, enlightened Petersen to the relatively low number of rugby players suffering concussions.
Then, last summer, the Seattle Seahawks released a video detailing how the club had moved to a rugby-style tackling technique. “A couple weeks later,” Petersen told the Seattle Times, “Pete Carroll and the Seahawks come out with their tackling video and it was like, ‘We’ve been right!’”
Now Petersen and his staff are leading the charge in teaching other coaching staffs how to tackle.
“We are fully committed to this,” Petersen said. “It’s the right thing to do. But the really neat thing about this whole thing is, not only is it the right thing to do because it’s the safe thing to do, it’s a better way of tackling.”
That new way of tackling takes the head completely out of the play. Instead of using the head as a weapon, Washington coaches teach their players to place their head at the side or behind a ballcarrier and drive through his thighs.
The way they see it, rugby tackling is an adapt-or-die moment in football's future.
“Let’s just open our eyes: The game’s already changed. They’re changing the rules and it’s going to change even more. So let’s just be in front of it. Let’s do it the right way. To me, we don’t have a choice.”