NFL Owners, Please Drop the Dumbest Rule In the Book

Dale Perth | Updated Mar 15, 2013


Usually stories focus on personalities, especially players, because that’s generally what people like to read about. Today is not a usual day because the focus of this article is one of the worst adaptations in any sport anywhere — unless you’re a Major League Baseball fan and you hate the Designated Hitter, but that’s for another time.

There is word the NFL Rules Committee has recommended to the league’s team owners that the “tuck rule” be eliminated, to which I say, “GOOD!” Lose it… the sooner, the better. Strike it from the rule book. Take it out back, shoot it and bury it deep in the ground. Then nuke it from space, just to be sure.

It was a bad idea when the NFL introduced it in 1999, and it ruined what had been an amazing contest: the AFC divisional playoff between the Patriots and the Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002, where it decided the fate of a game — and helped to create a dynasty.

When Tom Brady pump-faked that pass and Charles Woodson knocked the ball out of his hands, it should have been a fumble and that’s how it was ruled on the field. Video replay overturned the call to an incomplete pass, setting off a firestorm of controversy (the referee, Walt Coleman, even botched his explanation when the call was reversed). It also enabled New England to keep their drive alive. That call should be seen as a contributing factor to the Patriots’ victory that day; two weeks later, they won the first of their three Super Bowls in the decade.

I’m not a fan of any NFL team or player but even if I was, the issue boils down to this: dumb rule is dumb, and poorly written too. It’s tough for the officials, even with the benefit of video replay, to determine the forward motion of a quarterback’s arm, as well as whether the ball is “secured.” That’s what happened when the tuck rule in another playoff game went against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 playoffs. The officials ruled Peyton Manning did not secure the ball properly despite his throwing motion being similar to Brady’s. The fumble gave new life to the Baltimore Ravens, who also went on to win Super Bowl XLVII.

Given all that confusion, the most reasonable position on the issue is best summed up in a comment posted by “mdm389”: “How this (rule) hasn’t been (removed) already is beyond me. If the QB loses possession of the football, it should be a fumble regardless of what direction his arm is moving. If it’s knocked out of his hand, it’s a fumble. Simple.”

Yes, let’s keep it simple and punt the rule from the book. Do it, NFL owners, during your meetings next Sunday through Wednesday. Life is already hard enough for the zebras — and the fans, and the bettors.

UPDATE: NFL owners voted on Wednesday to eliminate the tuck rule.