Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Changing the Tuck rule

There was a Tuck Rule incident in the Ravens-Chief game wildcard weekend. You can see the play in this long highlights package on NFL.com, at about 5:10 into the video.

Mike Pereira was the NFL's Vice President of Officiating between 2004 and 2009. Fox Sports made one of the all-time great network announcing hires when they tabbed him to provide commentary on officiating and rules interpretations. He writes that the Tuck Rule was correctly applied in this case. But the interesting part is what he goes on to say:

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 a fumble. I would support a rule change, although it took me a long time to get to this point.
I guess it's been a long journey for all of us, with the Tuck Rule. I wish he had written more about how & why his thinking evolved on this rule: what he used to think, what changed for him. That would be interesting.

For me, the Tuck Rule illustrates a bad tendency of the NFL, to try to take all judgment out of the hands of officials and legislate every conceivable situation. The impulse is misguided, because (a) it is impossible to list every situation, (b) you move the game even further from the fans by adding arcane rules that are un-intuitive and difficult to understand, and (c) you wind up dis-empowering the officials on the field. It's not possible to remove the element of judgment from sports officiating, and when you try you produce refs who are unused to exercising good judgment.

Make the rules more intuitive, give the refs the authority to exercise their judgment to keep play moving along, and fire the refs who are bad at it.


  1. "and fire the refs who are bad at it" is, I think, the key phrase there. There are a lot of bad refs in the league [Jeff Triplette and Hochuleez (for his terrible call in that Chargers/Broncos game) come to mind, but there are others], but the NFL won't get rid of them for some reason.

  2. Good points JZC.

    Hochuli is still a good ref. We all have to admit mistakes will happen.


  3. Agree that Guns Hochuli is still a good ref overall, one brain lock notwithstanding. Agree also that Jeff "stop me before I maim again" Triplette could disappear from the NFL without leaving a ripple.

  4. I think one of the biggest issues with bad reffing is that they still haven't made refs full time NFL employees. That needs to change.

  5. Don't know if I agree. I think it helps NFL refs if they are men of substance. Guns Hochuli is a lawyer, right? College basketball refs often have real jobs too. I remember one of them was a school's athletic director in real life.

    What the hell are they supposed to do Mon thru Fri? Refereeing is just not a full time job.


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