BOSTON (CBS) — You may have missed the news Thursday that NFL is considering the elimination of the tuck rule, meaning quarterbacks who fumble while bringing the ball back to their body after a pump fake or pass attempt will no longer keep possession of the football.
Again, you may have missed it because you have a lot going on in your life. But the Oakland Raiders sure didn’t miss it.
The Raiders’ official Twitter account sent out the following tweet upon hearing the news of the rule change proposal:
As if that wasn’t sad enough, former Oakland safety Charles Woodson, who famously knocked the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands on that fateful night in Foxboro in January 2002, told ESPN’s Jason Wilde, “‘Bout damn time.”
The rest of the sports world responded with … crickets. Because only the Oakland Raiders are still upset about the tuck rule.
It makes sense on some level. The team lost a Super Bowl the following season in 2002 and is 49-111 since 2003, so there hasn’t exactly been an abundance of positive memories to help wash away the pain of the “Snow Bowl.” And yes, the rule itself is rather weird, as it sort of makes sense in theory but is almost impossible to make sense of in practice. Frankly, any team that had a huge playoff win taken away based on a random rule that nobody knew ahead of time would have the right to be upset.
But only for so long. At the decade mark, it’s time to give it up.
Plus — and this is the part of the tuck rule history that always seems to gone overlooked — I’m not entirely sure that referee Walt Coleman was aware of the tuck rule when he awarded possession to the Patriots. When the referee emerged from under the hood, he addressed the crowd and said, “After reviewing the play, the quarterback’s arm was going forward. It is an incomplete pass.”
Coleman didn’t say Brady was tucking the ball back to his body after a forward passing movement. He onlysaid his arm was moving forward and it was an incomplete pass. If anything, I think the tuck rule only saved Coleman after the fact in that it justified his call. But his initial announcement on the field didn’t mention any tucking of any kind, and I’m not sure the existence of Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2 was the deciding factor.
In fact, while Coleman did say the word “tuck” to a pool reporter after the game, I’m still not convinced he knew the exact rule.
“When I got over to the replay monitor and looked at it, [it] was obvious that his arm was coming forward,” Coleman said that night. “He was trying to tuck the ball and they just knocked it out of his hand. His hand was coming forward, which makes it an incomplete pass.”
Maybe Coleman knew the rule, but it seems based on what he said that he saw an incomplete pass.
But more than that — much more than that — is the part that the fine fans of the Oakland Raiders have conveniently erased from their memory banks:
Brady-to-David Patten, gain of 14 yards
Brady, incomplete to Troy Brown
Brady, incomplete to Jermaine Wiggins
Brady, 1-yard run
Adam Vinatieri, 45-yard kick off a sheet of snow, through driving snow, for one of the most impossible kicks in football history
They also like to forget this sequence:
Patrick Pass 24-yard kick return to the 34-yard lineBrady-to-J.R. Redmond for 1 yard
Brady-to-Redmond, who breaks two tackles, for a 20-yard gain
Brady-to-Wiggins for 3 yards
Brady-to-Redmond, gain of 2
Brady-to-Wiggins on third-and-5, gain of 7
Brady-to-Wiggins, gain of 4
Redmond up the middle, no gain
Brady-to-Brown, gain of 1
Brady-to-Patten on fourth-and-4 for a gain of 5
Antowain Smith up the middle for 4 yards
Smith up the middle for 1 yard
Smith off right tackle, gain of 7 yards on third-and5
Smith up the middle, no gain
Brady up the middle, 2 yards
Vinatieri 23-yard field goal, game over
Noticeably absent from that sequence of 20 plays? That would be the tuck rule.
The tuck rule did not kick a 45-yard field goal in the snow. The tuck rule did not allow the Patriots to complete a 7-yard pass on third-and-5 and another 5-yard pass on a fourth-and-4. The tuck rule did not fail to cover the kickoff in overtime. The tuck rule didn’t let Antowain Smith temporarily look like Jim Brown on a third-and-5 run.
Yet, immediately after the game, then-Raiders coach Jon Gruden complained about the tuck rule. “It was obvious. I thought it was a fumble,” Gruden said.
In the heat of the moment, just minutes after losing a gut-wrenching game, it’d be wrong to criticize a coach for a comment.
But again, it’s been, as the Raiders have so nicely pointed out for us, more than 11 years.
Had there been no tuck rule, yes, you would have won the game. But there was a tuck rule, and you had 20 plays to make one play to win the game. You didn’t. The Patriots made several. They won.
It’s time, Oakland, to be like Tom Brady on that snowy Foxboro night and just … let go.