With preseason in the books it's time to talk about the critical rule change of 2015. I am of course talking about allowing linebackers to wear numbers in the 40s. I wanted to give it some time and not rush to judgement since, as an old person, I hate change in any form. I have finally gotten to the point that I accept wide receivers wearing numbers in the teens (as long as they came into the league after the rule change. Editorial note - Reggie Wayne you look ridiculous in #15, like a 50 year old wearing a sideways hat trying to look like a teenager).
To make a fully informed decision, I charted and graded every single play by linebackers in every preseason game (<- I didn't do that). I finally had to break the 40's down into 4 separate groups:
-I have decided that I'm ok with linebackers wearing 46-49. Those are tight end numbers and linebackers are to defensive linemen as tight ends are to offensive linemen. Plus most long snappers wear those numbers and while they may just be ornamental o-linemen, they are o-lineman. I once saw a long snapper block someone.
-I will grudgingly accept linebackers wearing 44 and 45. 44 is a fullback number, even better than a tight end (in this vein, I would be fine with a special exemption for 1 or 2 linebackers to wear #32. see Curtis, Mike). 45 is an Archie Griffin number. No bias, despite being from Ohio I'm not really an OSU fan and not necessarily a huge Archie Griffin fan. He's just the only guy I can ever think of when I see #45. And let's be honest, he won 2 Heismans 40 years ago, he owns that number for at least another 10-12 years.
-41 to 43 are safety numbers. A linebacker cannot under any circumstances wear these numbers. You're telling the league that you're a runner not a hitter and that if you're in a collision of any kind you will curl up in the fetal position (and most likely shed a tear).
-40 is the number of a 38-year old relief pitcher with a 6.57 era and 3 ex-wives. If Dick Butkus himself told me that he wanted to wear #40 I would cut him on the spot (plus he's about 80 years old).