The NFL has never answered the questions I have regarding this call. In fact, I've never even heard them asked.
On Jan. 19, 2002, NFL referee Walt Coleman watched this play over and over in slow motion. If he rules it a fumble, the game is over and New England fans go home. If he rules it an incomplete pass, the Patriots' ship still appears sunk.
The Patriots would need to sustain a drive with their young quarterback just to give their no-name kicker a shot at a long field goal in the worst weather imaginable.
This call won't affect the outcome of the game and surely won't be the turning point in two NFL franchises.
Well, Mr. Coleman, that young quarterback was Tom Brady, the kicker Adam Vinatieri, and he kicked it through twice that game.
These players were destined to be great—but should not have been in this game.
The NFL has never answered to the specifics of this call. They have supported Walt Coleman for making the right call but have never made their case based on the specific facts of the replay.
Before these questions, let's establish what exactly the "tuck rule" is all about.
By rule, a quarterback's throwing motion begins when he raises the ball in his hand and begins to move his arm forward. That motion does not end until the quarterback tucks the ball back against his body, making him a runner. If the ball comes loose any time in between, it's an incomplete pass—not a fumble.
Let's begin by stating that the play was ruled a fumble.
By the league's replay rules, there must be irrefutable evidence to overturn a call on the field.
From the replays available to Coleman on the field, the ball had come all the way down to Brady's chest—as close as any quarterback will ever hold the ball to his body. The ball could not have gotten any lower.
Look at the photo above. That is the exact position by which Brady stands in the pocket to this day. In fact, from that photo you cannot tell he ever made a throwing motion.
Secondly, how can it be a pass if the ball is in his opposite hand? The next two-handed pass will be the first two-handed pass ever attempted in NFL history. I've seen Brett Favre and Tony Romo throw a left-handed ball, but never a both-handed ball.
And finally, the ball was never intended to be a pass. It was a very gentle pass fake at best. If Walt Coleman was ever on fence as to what call to make at least use a grain of common sense.
What gripes me as much as anything is that this is not like the Ed Hochuli call. This is unlike calls made on a split-second judgment. It was a calculated decision after seeing numerous replays!
I hate that the NFL sends a culprit over to a replay booth next to the stands in a hostile environment to decide a team's fate. Steelers fans remember the blown replay that nearly advanced the Colts several years ago. It happens all the time.
The NFL needs to have a booth away from the field and fans specifically to review plays. The game would move faster, and most importantly, I believe they could more effectively avoid blown calls. Unfortunately, blown calls create revenue as well, and without the tuck rule a dynasty may never have begun.
After the game, I swore I would never watch football again. I didn't keep my end of the deal, but I did rip off the arm of my dorm room couch. I paid back the school for the damages and on some level feel like the NFL needs to do the same.
Raider Nation still deserves an apology.