The NFL Competition Committee has some tough decisions ahead of them as they look at a myriad of proposals for the upcoming 2016 NFL season, and while they debate the possible changes, there is one in particular which stings with fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Kansas City Chiefs have placed the following proposal to the league to be changed in the 2016 league year:
11. By Kansas City; to amend Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2 (Legal Forward Pass) to prohibit
quarterbacks from falling to the ground, getting up, and throwing a forward pass.
Well, that seems pretty straight forward, but the proposal gets more specific in regards to how the rule will change, and possibly impact, the game.
Effect: Quarterbacks are prohibited from falling to the ground, getting up, and throwing a forward pass.
Reason: When defenders see a Quarterback lying on the ground, there is a natural instinct to "let up," particularly in light of recent player safety points of emphasis. The Quarterback is incentivized to "play dead" without officially giving himself up, which puts the defenders in a precarious position. Sometimes simply touching the player down isn't an option, as the defender needs to get to the Quarterback quickly. That situation leads to player safety issues. If the Quarterback knows he can't throw a forward pass after being in that situation (i.e., on the ground while possessing the ball), then he can stay on the ground long enough to have the play be blown dead. If he chooses to get up, he can always run with it (or even lateral to another player who can pass the ball.
If you are like me, you read this potential rule change and you can only think of one thing.
This play in the Steelers loss to the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs still stinks to the high heavens. Credit to Peyton Manning, he knows the rules and how to manipulate him. The king of going into the fetal position when defenders were anywhere near him, Manning gave himself up but when realized he wasn't touched stood up and completed a pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
Before going any further, it should be noted the Broncos did not score on this possession, but it certainly flipped the field. The Steelers went from pinning the Broncos deep in their own territory, to being pinned in their own territory, all because of this play which wasn't against the rules.
In the above list of reasons why the rule change will impact the game, one huge factor is left out. When watching this play again, what you can't see is the defensive backs peering into the backfield and seeing Manning go down. Their immediate reaction is to stop, assuming the play is over. I know some will throw out the old school line, "You play till the whistle blows..." but you can't fault the defensive backs for pausing. In fact, you can even see Sanders stop his route, until he sees Manning stand up prepared to throw a forward pass.
The NFL is holding player safety as paramount when it comes to issues the league faces moving forward, and safety of the quarterback tops the list. I ask everyone who watched that playoff game between Pittsburgh and Denver to think about this:
What would the league had done if James Harrison were to have hit Manning hard when he was on the ground, even though he hadn't been touched?
Clearly, Harrison most likely would have been penalized and potentially fined for the hit, putting defenders in a lose-lose situation. Of all the potential rules changes the Competition Committee has to decide on, this proposed rule seems to make the most sense, and that isn't me crying over spilled milk from the play above. The NFL should ultimately try to make the game as seamless as possible, and for once, making a play easier for defenders to diagnose.