Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Tuck Rule" - Rhymes With "Suck Rule"

Last Thursday, the infamous "Tuck Rule" turned 10 years old. I doubt many football fans said: "And thank god that one is still in the rulebook!"

The "Tuck Rule" is to the NFL, as herpes is to a Hefner pool party.

What the "Tuck Rule" does, is take an otherwise obvious and easy to call play in the game of football and twists logic, common sense, and a sense of fairness into a hopelessly knotted ball of legalese.

Once upon a time, we let NFL referees use their plain judgement to make calls. Not all of them were correct. Such is life, and sports.

Since the advance of better and more television, the public demand to get every call "right" has been un-relenting. It's a fool's errand. The biggest modern snipe hunt in history.

Just last week, we saw the limits of technology and the NFL's sense of humility. Not only did Bill Leavy go under the hood to refute on a whim what 1080 lines of precise slow-mo resolution at 60 frames per second had told all of America - that Greg Jennings had fumbled the football - but the league then backed him up later in the week by saying he had made the right call.


This is the NFL world we now live in. A world where what you see and know, may not be considered fact. And Roger Goodell's minions have no problem telling you that you are stupid for thinking so.

So back to the Tuck Rule game. Enjoy this excellent re-cap from NFL Films (by way of ESPN) and then if you like respond to a few emailers to my in-box below.

Personally, I am all for melting down the rulebook to make things more simple and less "codified." I would even be for a rule change that says any "pass" that does not go past the line of scrimmage is considered a fumble.

But don't count on the league going with LESS replay, or a SMALLER rulebook. The NFL is a bureaucracy just like any other. And bureaucrats almost never advocate limiting their power or scope of influence.

TUCK RULE EMAILS from this week...

Hello Czabe,

I have been a devoted listener to the morning show and The Sports Reporters since about 05. I have heard you argue about the NFL's replay system with Scott and the guys, and with Andy in the afternoons. I have always been somewhat on the fence about it, but this weekend totally pushed me into your corner. 

This whole "down by contact" thing is part of where the problem lies. It's not so much the idea of replay, but it's rules that replay tries to uphold. The NFL rulebook is so contrived and full of overcomplicated rulings and scenarios that it's almost laughable. I heard you guys mention the "Tuck Rule" yesterday on the local show, and that's a prime example. 

All that said, I like your idea about reviewing only scoring plays and turnovers because I do think some form of replay can be useful. I just think that the root of the problem is with the NFL's ridiculous rulebook.

Great job as always, keep it up!
Keith Barnes



Try this rule change that will eliminate the need for many instant replay reviews and coaches challenges in the NFL. In addition, it will remove a few distasteful plays used by the offense that lead to the officials stopping play for a lengthy discussion. The rule change I propose is \"Any ball that hits the ground behind the line of scrimmage is a live ball.\" Think about the all the plays that would no longer require a reviewed and invoke other obscure rules buried deep in the rules book. Was the quarterback\'s arm going forward when the ball was knocked out of his hand? Does not matter LIVE BALL recovered by the defense -- the tuck rule goes away -- intentional grounding leads to a live ball. I think the upside to this rule change is boundless and will mark a new era of keeping the game clock rolling without changing fundamental approach to the game.

Rico Leone 


Name:: Ken
Subject:: Tuck Rule Game

FYI, The Tuck Rule was called in the 1st game of the 2001 season btw the Partiots & the NY Jets. The fumble by Vinny Testaverde (and recovered by Pats) was changed to an incomplete pass due to the Tuck Rule.

So in the playoff game later that season against the Raiders, Bill Belichick was pretty certain the referees would call the same thing.

Also, ironically, the Patriots were robbed of a superbowl appearance during the 1976 playoffs by a controversial roughing the QB on Ken Stable on a 4th down. After the Tuck game was over, on a cold snowy day in Foxboro, the score board read "Revenge is best served cold." How poetic!


  1. Czabe needs to stop writing on this blog. Just exemplifies how he's not the least bit funny. Solly is the only legit funny man on the show.

  2. You can't have it both ways Czabe. If the rules were less "codified" and more open to interpretation you'd end up with the other end of the spectrum (see NBA) that you criticize even more! Interpretation opens the door to opinion and that opens the door to questions about games being rigged or "influenced" from the outside (more than they currently are).

  3. Czabe,If I remember correctly you had a hard time getting a complete NFL rulebook in the first place. The whole system is a joke, in the Bronco/Steelers playoff game Fox couldn't challenge the lateral turned fumble because an official had blown it dead. Get rid of the booth, the red flags and the challenges. Make the replay booth official the head official for the crew. He watches the replays like everyone in America, and if he sees something in he standard time between plays buzz the field and change the call. Simple without making the game 4 hours long.