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A Way To Make a Difficult Call Easier For Everyone

NEW YORK - JULY 27:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions from the media after reinstating Michael Vick on a conditional basis on July 27, 2009 at the InterContinental Hotel in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
greg pitschSenior Analyst ISeptember 13, 2009

    Although I am not a true Forty-Niners fan, I do support them on a weekly basis, I felt un-eased with a call that was made before the end of the first half in today's game against the Arizona Cardinals.  There was an attempted pass by Shaun Hill that was ruled as a fumble.  This seems to always infuriate the fans of the team who was stripped of the ball.  I really feel that this wasn't a fumble, seeing how the ball traveled six full yards in the air before dropping to the turf.  How is this not an incomplete pass?

    Please do not feel the need to explain the rule to me, or even think I am making a joke out of the judgement that was used by the Referee.  It was the right call according the rule book, but at what point is an empty hand not able to pass the ball with momentum?  Had the intended, or any Niners Receiver caught this short pass, would it have been added to the stats as a pass with a completion, or a fumble that was recoverd?  Maybe the League should seriously look into changing the "Empty hand Rule," or at least modify it a bit.

    I would like to share my idea on how I would amend this rule:

  • If the QB is able to get the ball to continue in the intended direction and it can cross the Line of Scrimmage in flight, it should be ruled as an incomplete pass.
  • If the ball doesn't cross the line of scrimmage, or goes to either side, it will be a live ball, ruled as a fumble.
  • However, if it is ruled as an incomplete pass it will more than likely add a lot more intentional grounding calls, since this "Empty Hand Rule" usually occurs while the QB is in the pocket.

    I am just surprised that they don't make an amendment to use the Line of Scrimmage as the basis of this call.  Being that the ablility to change a call based on momentum of the QB's arm is not as definate.  I am sure that the change in the direction of the throwing hand makes this the most inconsistant ruling, even after the replay, which is used to overturn only if there is "indisputible video evidence."

    By making the Line of Scrimmage an additional way to make the correct call, it would reduce the guess-work of whether or not we need to break out the physics books, and calculators.  I also like how this rule is hypocritical to the definition as to when a play can be challanged, does the Referee not base his initial ruling with his judgement? 

    In the event that the National Football League Rules Committee looks over this ludicrous definition of a fumble, I would like them to consider my opinion.

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