By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Among the many things that have become crystal clear in the 21st century is the simple fact that the Oakland Raiders and everybody associated with the organization will never, ever, ever get over the anguish and anger that stems from the famed Tuck Rule Game.

Numerous parties have made it quite obvious in the days, weeks, months and decades that followed that fateful January 2002 night in Foxboro that the rage burning from that rule being applied would never subside. Despite the fact that, well, the Raiders did have numerous chances to make one play and still win the game that night, seemingly all of the blame still gets put squarely on The Tuck Rule.

But if there ever were one person who is uniquely qualified to be exceptionally miffed about this moment in sports history, it would of course be Jon Gruden. He was the head coach that evening, and he was feeling pretty good about the job he was doing in Oakland. After inheriting a 4-12 team, Gruden got the Raiders to .500 for two years before leading them to back-to-back AFC West titles. With his Raiders looking to be on the verge of victory in Foxboro that night, a trip to the Pittsburgh for the AFC title game would have seemingly given Gruden some real job security.

But instead, referee Walt Coleman applied the rule after a replay review, the Patriots kept possession, Tom Brady drove the Patriots another 14 yards, Adam Vinatieri hit an impossible 45-yard kick in the snow to tie the game, and then the Patriots drove 60 yards in overtime for the game-winning score.

A month later, the Raiders traded Gruden to Tampa Bay.

Gruden would of course get his revenge rather quickly, leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory over — who else? — the Oakland Raiders just one year later. Yet despite that happy ending and the sweet revenge, Gruden in 2018 is still mad about the Tuck Rule.

“That’s probably a big reason I’m never going to be a fan of instant replay,” Gruden told Peter King.  “Instant replay was [meant] to correct an obvious wrong. I don’t know how they worded it. But they shouldn’t have overturned that play. That’s a complete joke.”

For the record, the rule was worded like this: “When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.” It was fairly straightforward, and given the fact that the rule had been applied numerous times in NFL games, its existence was not exactly a mystery when it popped up in that moment. TV color commentator Phil Simms basically had it pegged before the final ruling came down.

RELATED: Five Things Raiders Should Be More Worried About Than The Tuck Rule

Brady began to throw the ball, decided against it (because the Raiders knew what was coming), and just after reeling in his throw, the quarterback was hit by Charles Woodson. The rule was properly applied. You could argue that it’s not a great rule if you want, but you couldn’t really argue that it was improperly applied.

Nevertheless, Gruden doesn’t like it. And with the rule getting voted out of the NFL in 2013, Gruden saw that development as a vindication for feeling robbed for so long.

“Where’s the tuck rule today, Peter? It’s not even in the game,” Gruden told King. “When you overturn a play for a rule like that, that’s no way to lose a game. Especially a playoff game. It is what it is, as they say today.”

Gruden’s not altogether wrong here. The Tuck Rule was not the world’s greatest rule. The Patriots benefited from its existence, and it cost the Raiders a huge turnover.

However, it didn’t cost the Raiders more than that. Oakland’s defense and team-wide focus went into the toilet after that rule was applied, thus allowing the Patriots to complete an incredible comeback victory. (Watch Oakland’s “effort” on this 20-yard catch-and-run by J.R. Redmond and try to come up with a word other than “pathetic” to describe it. Oakland did not cover Jermaine Wiggins on a third-and-5 later in the drive, and then didn’t cover David Patten on a fourth-and-4 a few players later.)

Given that the man who was head coach that night still can’t quite help but feel very wronged by the application of a rule, it’s easy to see how and why that team collapsed the way it did in that moment.

Unfortunately, the Raiders and Patriots will not meet during the 2018 regular season. But from a spectacle standpoint, we all have to hope that Gruden’s first year back in the league leads to him and his Raiders taking a mid-January trip to Foxboro. A little bit of snow, Brady under center, Gruden and Bill Belichick on the sidelines? The mere idea ought to give the football world something to root for this season.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments (4)
  1. George Kosich says:

    It was clear that the Raiders would be denied a victory that night and that the Cheatriots must win. The Raiders were robbed by the NFL who has always hated them. Raiders’ were denied a Super Bowl and the Cheatriots were handed one. (please google: organized crime in the NFL from a San Diego newspaper – it says it all!) Not just Raider fans but anyone with integrity should be permanently OUTRAGED at this miscarriage of sports justice! it was pure ROBBERY and deserves universal moral condemnation! Why go to any games when the FIX is in? Over the years three Cheatriot Super Bowl “victories” deserve scrutiny and suspicion! The Cheatriots have had great coaches and a great system over the years. Players were very disciplined and assuming they didn’t cheat in every game (who knows?) they deserved SOME of their success. However, ONGOING CHEATING over the years, the Tuck Rule Scandal, organized crime in the NFL, Kraft’s relationship with his close friend and house guest, Goodell, etc.leaves much, much doubt and many, many questions. What about the way the Raiders’ move to Vegas was handled by the Cowboy’s owner and other NFL BILLIONAIRES? What’s their relationship with “Vegas People?” And who are these Vegas People? Does one need to spell it out for you???

  2. Steven Vincent says:

    As far as the tuck rule goes, you should stop your whining. Woodson swung at the ball and missed (because Brady pulled it down) and clocked Brady in the facemask with a right cross. Brady didnt drop the ball until the punch landed. The Patriots should have been awarded 15 yards and a first down.
    The call the refs made was the correct call according to the rule book if no punch was landed and went against the Patriots earlier that season when
    playing the Jets. The refs missed the real call and that was to the benefit of the Raiders, not the Patriots. The proper call on the play would have been to award the Patriots 15 yards and a 1st down for a blow to the head of a quarterback. Contrast that to the phantom roughing the passer call on the Pats Ray Hamilton at the end of the AFCCG in 1976 that put the Raiders in the superbowl over the Pats. That was undeniably a bad call by the ref. So not only was the tuck rule call nothing to cry about but the Raiders should not have their superbowl win in 1976 so they still owe the Patriots.

  3. Wade Anderson says:

    Walt Coleman came out of the replay booth and said “the quarterback’s arm was moving forward…” No mention of any tuck rule in the on-field replay. The NFL PR people dug this up when people started going nuts about Coleman’s overturn. The ball was NOT moving forward, the ball was in both hands (ie tucked, as the rule reads), at the VERY least the replay was inconclusive and the call on the field should have stood.

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