NFL Looking Into Getting Rid of Tuck Rule, Allowing Review If Coaches Toss Challenge Flag on Turnovers

Tom BradyThe tuck rule could disappear from NFL games if owners approve a proposal from the competition committee to dump it.

The owners, who meet next week in Phoenix, also will consider a change to instant replay rules allowing for a video review even when a coach makes an illegal challenge.

Under the tuck rule, if a passer is in the act of bringing the ball down into his body rather than throwing it and loses control, it is ruled an incomplete pass. The proposal under consideration would make it a fumble.

Competition Committee co-chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, noted the controversial history of the tuck rule Thursday. He said the change has full support from on-field officials, particularly now that all turnovers are automatically reviewed.

“What is happening is a great majority of these plays are appropriately called fumbles,” McKay said on a conference call. “Then officials go into replay and look at it, and under the rule if the tuck had not been completed, [the call] has to be reversed from … a fumble. They think they can call it and can understand when a passer has lost control of the ball, so we felt more comfortable proposing the rule.”

The rule was among the NFL’s most obscure until it became infamous during the 2001 playoffs in New England, when Tom Brady apparently lost a fumble late in a game against Oakland. Initially ruled a fumble, it was reversed under the tuck rule. The Patriots kept the ball and eventually beat the Raiders.

Replay also plays a key role in another potential rule change.

Last Thanksgiving, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz challenged what officials ruled was an 81-yard scoring run by Houston’s Justin Forsett. Because all scoring plays are reviewed, Schwartz was not allowed to throw the red flag, and by doing so he negated use of replay. Forsett clearly had been down by contact earlier in the run, but the touchdown stood, and the Texans went on to win in overtime.

McKay called the way the rule stood “an anomaly.”

The proposal will ensure the play is reviewed and the right call is made, but the coach making the illegal challenge will draw a 15-yard penalty. Forbidden challenges occur when a team is out of timeouts, has used up its challenges, in the final two minutes of a half, in overtime, or on scoring plays or turnovers.

Should a coach challenge in the final two minutes of halves or in overtime, he will lose a timeout as well as have his team penalized 15 yards.

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