The tuck rule is the most infamous rule in all of sports, and it must be completely eliminated from the NFL rulebook before the credibility of the NFL is damaged further.
Created in 1999, the tuck rule infamously reared its ugly head during the 2002 NFL playoffs when the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots squared off in a AFC divisional playoff game and singlehandedly jump-started a new NFL dynasty.
Quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and was clearly stripped of the football, but the officials (not replacements, mind you) ruled the fumble an incomplete pass, allowing the Patriots to then march onward toward a Super Bowl victory.
Why was the fumble ruled an incomplete pass? Thanks to NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2, of course.
Let's examine the most idiotic rule in all of sports more closely.
What Is the Tuck Rule?
As Mark Maske of The Washington Post details, the exact tuck rule is defined in the official NFL rulebook as:
NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
In essence, a throwing motion is started by a quarterback when he raises his hand and moves the ball forward. That throwing motion is continued until the ball is literally "tucked" back against his body, making him a runner similar to any other NFL player holding a football.
The kicker here is that if the quarterback loses the ball at any point after starting the throwing motion, but before it is tucked back against his body, it is simply an incomplete pass.
It's a black and white call for the officials but an infuriating one for players, coaches and fans. It has altered the complexion of many games, yet the NFL competition committee has failed to revise the rule despite the advent of impressive new replay technology.
Why Tuck Rule Must Be Eliminated
The tuck rule is idiotic because any player who fumbles the football should actually have it count as a fumble.
Quarterbacks are already ridiculously overprotected by the NFL, especially below the waist, but there is no need to protect them from turnovers as well. If a quarterback loses a football because he is hit by a defender, it shouldn't matter where he had the football when he lost it.
There is absolutely no reason that, if a quarterback elects to start a pass, stops and begins to run away but has not tucked the ball into his body, he should not be considered a runner and eligible to fumble.
It's one thing if a quarterback loses a ball while clearly throwing a pass, but it's another issue entirely in the aforementioned scenario.
Outside of actually changing the outcome of NFL games, the tuck rule makes the officiating crew's job more difficult and takes enjoyment out of the game for fans. There are a plethora of rules that have angered some fans recently, and we all know the issues referees have been going through.
The tuck rule came up again on Week 6's Thursday Night Football between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. It didn't have a major outcome on the game considering the Steelers lost, but it was an ugly reminder that the ludicrous rule is still in existence.
As seen in the video above (h/t thebiglead.com), Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger clearly loses the ball, but alas, he had started the throwing motion, so after review the play was simply ruled an incomplete pass.
The rule is a disservice to fans and players and continues to be a thorn in the side of both. The integrity and credibility of the NFL has taken quite a hit in the past year, and this stupid rule being enforced under a national spotlight has done nothing but bring up the issue once more.
It's time for the NFL to get serious about dropping the tuck rule.