Another inane application of the tuck rule this weekend has led the league's former vice president of officiating to change his mind about the controversial ruling.
Current FOX analyst Mike Pereira wrote in an online column that the time has come to change the rule, which was most famously applied in a 2002 playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. It came to attention again this week when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel(notes) was ruled to have thrown an incomplete pass while bringing the ball back into his side.
"I think it's time to change this rule. A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball. If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be fumble.
"I would support a rule change, although it took me a long time to get to this point."
It actually didn't take Pereira long to come to his senses. He worked for the NFL until last year. His job wasn't to judge the rules, but to judge the application of them. There was never any reason for him to concern himself with whether a rule was just or not, so long as the officials on the field were interpreting them correctly. Now that he's out and working for FOX, Pereira didn't take long to realize that the tuck rule is the stupidest one on the books.
If it looks like a fumble, it's a fumble. This looks like a fumble:
If you'll allow me to indulge in some conspiracy theory here, I always figured the NFL didn't change the tuck rule after the Brady/Woodson snow incident because doing so would have fed the belief that the rule was flawed. Keeping it in the books allows the league to act like we, the ones who believed it was a fumble, were wrong.
Perhaps Pereira's words will get the NFL to get rid of a rule that never should have been on the books in the first place. I'm not holding my breath, though. The league is nothing if not stubborn. The NFL won't want the egg on its face by admitting the rule was wrong, nor will it like the implication that the Patriots' 2002 Super Bowl win is somehow tainted.
- Mike Pereira