The infamous tuck rule is dead.
The scourge of Oakland was eradicated a dozen years too late for Raiders fans, but the dumbest rule in the NFL is no more. Thanks be to Lombardi.
Of course, the NFL competition committee accompanied a good decision with a dubious one in implementing the crown of the helmet rule, effectively removing the "power" in power runner.
Well, that might be an exaggeration, but the rule is just another in a string that lead to the NFL turning into a powder puff league.
Without the tuck rule, we need another one or few to rail against. The likelihood these rules actually get fixed is about the same as achieving cold fusion this year, but let's complain anyway.
The Calvin Johnson Rule
The following is an excerpt from the NFL rulebook, (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1):
If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.
In theory, this is a good rule. After all, we can't very well allow a catch if the player drops the ball as soon as he hits the ground diving. But there should be a limit.
Of course, the most famous example of the rule is Calvin Johnson's nullified touchdown against the Bears in 2010 that cost the Lions the game.
Johnson catches the ball, takes two steps, palms it with one hand, falls to the ground on purpose, eats a ham sandwich, calls his mother and files his taxes before he finally hits the ground and lets the ball fall out of his hand.
The play was so bad that the long-standing rule was instantly nicknamed the "Calvin Johnson rule."
The Calvin Johnson rule just cost Mike Williams a beautiful one-handed TD grab.— Tom Mantzouranis (@themantz) December 16, 2012
I'm sorry, the Calvin Johnson rule is stupid.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 20, 2011
So Calvin Johnson's TD doesn't count? Does he have to carry the ball to the sideline with him? Does he have to take it home? Horrible rule— Ben Mankiewicz (@BenMank77) September 12, 2010
That just happened to be the most egregious example. The rule is invoked any time a catch is made and the tip of the ball just happens to touch the ground.
This rule need not be so rigid. Referees make plenty of judgment calls as it is, but they should be given leeway to allow a catch if it looks like a catch.
Why is it that teams cannot field a muffed punt and advance the football?
The rule states that players cannot advance a muffed kick—on kickoffs and punts alike—because the receiving team has not attained possession. But...why?
Sure, receiving teams are in a vulnerable position on punts—if the ball happens to touch a blocker on a weird bounce, it's a fumble—but all is fair in love, war and football. Well, unless you are the Packers in Seattle.
Crank up the pressure on return men another notch and make kicks more exciting. Heck, why not go the XFL route and make every punt live?
Okay, that might be too far.
Nonetheless, this is an ancient rule that can go away without issue. It's not a contrived rule designed to make sure the quarterback doesn't get dirty or players don't sully the shield.
If returners are still protected by other rules preventing contact before the catch and allowing fair catches, there should be no safety issue.
No Fun League
Perhaps the worst rule in the land is the reason the NFL is sometimes called the No Fun League: excessive celebration.
Sure, there should be some rule in place that prevents a player from going streaking after scoring a go-ahead touchdown. But must we strip all the emotion out of a celebratory moment?
There have been some darn good celebrations in years past. Perhaps most notably, Chad Johnson and the memorable moments he provided in his heyday with the Bengals.
The NFL strives to cater to as wide an audience as possible. This means Roger Goodell must protect the shield, even if it comes at the expense of emotion, it seems.
Professional sports are a serious business involving billions of dollars, but sometimes everyone seems to forget these are grown men playing a game. Maybe folks could lighten up a bit.