Former Philadelphia Eagle Troy Vincent did an interview with Joe Donahue at Birds Nest Media. Vincent is currently serving as the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, and I thought this answer about the recently-banned hip drop tackle was pretty interesting (wind it back to 21:26, YouTube’s embed sucks) –

“The hip drop was berthed out of what we called the ‘hawk tackle.’ You go back a decade, and we were a league and a sport that was battling head injuries. How do you get the head out of the game? You’ll never get it completely out of the game, but how do you minimize, or how do you remove the unnecessary risk? In Seattle, Coach (Pete) Carroll introduced this hawk tackle, that’s kind of getting the body and the head behind the ball carrier, which is tough, it’s difficult. I was always taught, most of us in our era, get your head across the bow, bite the ball, so on and so forth. Watching the evolution of this tackle over the last three years… (there’s a) 25 to 20 time injury rate. As a steward of the game, you could no longer ignore it because it was showing up at the collegiate level, the high school level, and more and more every weekend at our level… If you think about the old Roy Williams’ horse collar, all of the mechanics – grabbing the name plate, pulling down – the hip drop tackle looks very similar, there’s just no grabbing of the nameplate. It’s grabbing around the waist area, swiveling, then unweighting the defender – and that’s important, you need those three elements – but the unweighting of the body on the back of the leg of the runner. Grab, swivel, unweight. …When he unweights, when he drops that ass, or that butt on the back of the leg, it’s tearing the leg up, tearing knees up, high ankle sprains, breaking foots. It’s causing significant damage… this was something that was an evolution of the hawk tackle that has caused serious, serious injuries to the players.”

Vincent notes that guys like B Dawk, Trotter, and Hugh Douglas never used the hip drop tackle. What he’s basically saying is that when this “hawk tackle” was introduced, to reduce head trauma and concussions, a side effect is that players started to wrap, swivel, and drop instead. The hip drop tackle more or less evolved from a technique that was introduced, somewhat ironically, to prevent injury.

So what is the hawk tackle?

I watched a 20-minute Seahawks video and the most simple way of explaining it is that they asked their defensive players to focus on the hips and wrap with the arms while keeping their head to the side. Like this:

They wanted players to do this instead of spearing, lowering the helmet, leading with the crown – those kinds of things. It’s what you see in rugby. Rugby players don’t wear helmets, so they tackle with their head to the side instead.

What Vincent is saying is that players took the hawk tackle and developed the hip drop as a spin off, maybe intentionally or maybe accidentally. Either way, it stems from the wrapping of the waist and side positioning of the head.

It’s interesting because it makes you think back to the days of Dawkins, and Trot, and Reggie White and Seth Joyner and try to remember if you ever saw a hip drop tackle back then. It was a completely different game, of course, but it’s quirky to think that the NFL’s latest safety measure spun off the bastardization of a previous safety measure.

Here’s the full interview from Birds Nest Media.