HomeSportsWill NFL outlaw 'rugby-style' push on short-yardage plays?

Will NFL outlaw ‘rugby-style’ push on short-yardage plays?

There has been a lot of discussion recently surrounding the NFL potentially outlawing the rugby-style push on short-yardage plays — of regularly lining up a player or two behind the quarterback to push him forward on sneaks.

FOX Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino recently shared that he fully expects the league to outlaw such plays in the near future.

“I think the league is going to look at this, and I’d be shocked if they don’t make a change,” Blandino said. “This is just a tactic that is not an aesthetically pleasing play, and I think the competition committee is going to take a look at it.

“It amounts to a rugby scrum. The NFL wants to showcase the athleticism and skill of our athletes. This is just not a skillful play.”

While it may not be up to Blandino’s standards, the tactic was on full display in Super Bowl LVII

Jalen Hurts got a few helping hands on his two-yard touchdown run to pull Philadelphia within two points late in the fourth quarter.

Colin Cowherd explained why he is in favor of potential changes to QB sneak rule, more affectionately known as the on the “tush push” on Friday’s “The Herd,” saying that the play “is too automatic.”

“Third- and fourth-and-1 are huge plays in football games,” Cowherd said. “You do not want to make those automatics. Quarterback sneak is fine. That’s an individual — often a star player — trying to find a little crevice between center and left guard [or] center and right guard, and they don’t always make them. A lot of fourth-and-1 quarterback sneaks don’t work. 

“This is a bunch of guys pushing the quarterback forward. It’s just pure tonnage. There’s nothing aesthetically pleasing. It’s not creative. It’s not clever, and this is a television show. … The NFL is seeing a potential mess, an optic mess for a TV program — No. 1 TV program in America — before it arrives in mass. It’s the right move. Nobody’s picking on Philadelphia. … The Eagles found a loophole in the ‘tax system,’ and now it’s time for the NFL to close the loophole.”

Philadelphia converted 37 of their 41 QB sneak attempts into first downs or touchdowns, the most conversions and attempts by a wide margin, in the 2022 season. No other offense has picked up 20 first downs on QB sneaks in a single season across the last 15 years, per CBS Sports.

Hurts also picked up six of his 10 rushing first downs in the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss via the QB sneak, including the game’s first and last touchdowns.

Pushing a ball carrier forward has been legal in the NFL since 2005 and in college football since 2013. However, is appears as though the 2022 Eagles were the first team to both fully capitalize on and reap the benefits of the rule.

“[Outlawing it] on sneaks is easy,” Blandino added. “The downfield stuff, you just put the tape together, show it to the officials and you just start calling it. That’s the key. To desensitize it, you’ve got to throw flags. I don’t think it will be a major issue.”

There were an NFL record 308 QB sneaks called by the league’s 32 teams this season, and teams averaged a first-down conversion on 83% of them, per Pro Football Focus.

Newly minted Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton spoke out in the aftermath of Blandino’s comments, saying that he will revert to this play every game next season, when necessary, if the league doesn’t outlaw the rule.

The NFL’s competition committee will meet at the NFL Scouting Combine at the end of February, and this rule is expected to be a topic on the docket.

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