Here are two rules that need to go
I dreamed a dream but times gone by …
If they don't change some rules I'm gonna cry…
Sorry, I broke into a song from Les Miserables, but I'm really miserable about the tuck rule in the NFL and it's time for it to go.
Ditto for the rule regarding coaches throwing the challenge flag when they are not allowed to challenge.
Eliminate them both. Now.
I have said since I left the league office in 2009 that the tuck rule is illogical.
I have also said that the intent of the rule change to not allow a team to challenge if they foul to prevent a snap was a good one. However, that has morphed into something illogical as well.
The tuck rule call came into play three different times Sunday — Chicago-Detroit, Baltimore-Cincinnati and Houston-Indianapolis — and in all three instances, the plays were ruled fumbles on the field and overturned to an incomplete pass in replay.
By rule, all three reversals were the right call. It's the rule that's wrong. Here's my point: If it looks like a fumble, and if it feels like a fumble, it ought to be a fumble.
This rule became infamous back in the 2001 AFC divisional playoff game between New England and Oakland when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was ruled to have fumbled late in the game and it was recovered by the Raiders. After a replay review, the call was reversed to an incomplete pass and the Patriots not only held on to win the game, but also the Super Bowl.
I had to do several interviews following that game and even though I defended the rule then — because it was and still is the rule — I think the rule should be changed. And I know Oakland fans may despise me now for saying that.
But, in my opinion, a philosophical decision has to be made. Are you going to protect the offense so much that you'll rule an incomplete pass even though it's perfectly clear that the quarterback is not attempting to pass the ball when the ball comes loose?
As far as the challenge flag ruling goes, a play happened in the Green Bay-Minnesota game Sunday that nearly cost the Packers a touchdown that tied the game late in the fourth quarter.
It's time to look at that rule as well. You shouldn't penalize a team twice when a coach makes a mistake and throws the challenge flag before a review is initiated, which is what happened in the Detroit-Houston game on Thanksgiving Day.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag when Houston's Justin Forsett scored on an 81-yard touchdown where Forsett was clearly down. Schwartz didn't have to throw the flag because all scores are looked at by the replay official, who either confirms the ruling or initiates the review.
But Schwartz did before the review was initiated, and therefore by rule, the referees were not allowed to review the play.
The rule shouldn't depend on whether a review is initiated before or after the challenge flag is thrown to determine whether or not the play gets reviewed. The NFL knows this is a bad rule, which is why they told their referees that if a coach throws a challenge flag to do everything within their power to get the review then.
If a team fouls to prevent the next snap, I get it. But if it's the coach throwing a challenge flag, penalize him, but still review the play. You are penalizing the coach for throwing the flag, the team for not allowing the play to be reviewed.
The premise of replay is to get the call right on the field. And they did in the Packers-Vikings game on Sunday, only because the replay was initiated before Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag.
We'll get to that play in a moment, but let's first to tuck rule play that happened in the Chicago-Detroit game.
The Situation: Detroit had the ball, third-and-1 at the Chicago 26-yard line with 6:00 left in the first quarter. There was no score.
The Play: Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford attempted to pass but was sacked, then fumbled and it was recovered by Chicago's Henry Melton. After a review, the call was reversed, the referee saying it was a tuck play and the pass was ruled incomplete with the Lions retaining possession.
My Take: Stafford was clearly bringing the ball back down towards his body in an attempt to become a runner. The ball comes out before it gets to the body, and even though it's obviously clear that Stafford was not attempting to pass the ball, the rule made it an incomplete pass.
Here's the coach's challenge play that happened in the Packers-Vikings game
The Situation: Green Bay had the ball, first down and goal at the Minnesota 8-yard line with 2:15 left in the third quarter. Minnesota led 27-17.
The Play: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed a short pass to James Jones who dove for the end zone, then fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Minnesota. A replay was initiated and after a review, it was ruled that the ball crossed the plane before James fumbled it. Green Bay was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw a challenge flag after the review had already been initiated.
My Take: It's a complicated play, because the ruling on the field was a fumble recovered by the Vikings in the end zone for a touchback. The very first replay that was shown was enough to convince the replay official to stop the game and initiate a review. After he buzzed the referee, McCarthy threw the challenge flag, which created the 15-yard penalty. But since the review was initiated first, referee Mike Carey went under the hood and saw that Jones' knee was down and it wasn't a fumble. He also saw that the tip of the ball had broken the plane, just before Jones' knee hit the ground, so therefore, he ruled touchdown. The interesting part of this was that Carey had to make two separate decisions: 1. was it a fumble (no) and 2. was it a touchdown (yes).
So different now from what it seemed…
The NFL (at least for now) has killed the dream I dreamed.