NFL Reportedly Considering Abandoning Tuck Rule

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2013

Over a decade after entering the national lexicon during the 2002 AFC playoffs, the "tuck rule" may finally be near extinction. According to Field Yates of ESPN Boston, the NFL will vote on abolishing the rule as part of many changes the league is considering during the upcoming owners meetings.

Here is a breakdown of what the altered rule would entail, via Yates:

Under the proposed rule change, a quarterback who loses control of the football when bringing it back to his body after a pump fake will be deemed to have fumbled. Under the current rule, such a play would result in an incompletion.

For comparative purposes, here is the exact wording of the tuck rule, via Rule 8, Section 1 of the NFL’s rulebook:

If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, the passer loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body, it is a forward pass. If the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.

The league will vote on whether to adopt the rule change—and many others—when the owners convene between Sunday and Wednesday.

Adopted in 1999, the tuck rule most infamously came into play during the 2002 AFC divisional round between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.

Late in the fourth quarter, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was hit from behind by Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, jarring the ball loose. Oakland recovered, and considering the juncture in the game, it looked like Woodson’s play would ultimately clinch an AFC Championship Game berth. The play was overturned on replay, however, and New England ultimately scored later on that drive to tie the game.

The Patriots would go on to win the Super Bowl that season and the rule has lived in infamy ever since. 

In the aftermath of that play, many called for the tuck rule’s abolition, but the owners never made the change. That said, the Raiders’ Twitter feed made it very clear they still haven't forgotten the impact it had on the franchise:

The rule is back in the news thanks in large part to another pretty famous quarterback. During this season’s AFC divisional round, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning fumbled when hit by Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee and Baltimore recovered. Seemingly getting hit in his throwing motion with only one hand on the ball, many viewed Manning’s pass as an obvious “tuck-rule” situation once the play went under the hood.

However, the officials determined the tuck rule did not apply in this instance and awarded the Ravens possession. Baltimore would score on the ensuing drive, tying the game en route to a double-overtime victory.

Whether or not one agrees with the call, Denver’s situation once again opened the league up to scorn regarding the tuck rule’s ambiguity. It is up to the official on the field to determine when the rule applies, and it’s been administered inconsistently and inefficiently since its inception.

With next week’s vote upcoming, it seems like the NFL is finally trying to eliminate that ambiguity from its rulebook once and for all.