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How to Stop the Read-Option? Hit the QB, HARD.

Forget the Tuck Rule or RB Helmet Rule

All I heard the past few months were the changes to the “Tuck Rule” and the penalty on the RB lowering and hitting with the crown of his helmet.  It was all over every sports talk show. While at Jet scamp the NFL referees  came and went over all the rule changes with the team. There’s one (an update in how defenses can follow the rules and how it will be interpreted) that is finally it’s being talked about.  To me it is a real game changer and it’s all to do with the “Read-Option”!

Rules for Hitting QBs

Last year the QB in the read-option had a field day as he was still considered a QB as he ran down the line to pitch, pass, or run.  You may as well have kept him in the practice red shirts the defense couldn’t hit him without the ball.

The rules for hitting quarterbacks are simple:

  • Hitting the QB after a ball leaves his hand is unnecessary roughness – As long as the QB is standing still or moving backwards.

So While there’s hasn’t necessarily been a rule change, the interpretation has evolved to allow defenses to hit the QB when they fake having the ball or are working in an attempt to deceive the defense

A great article from Sam Farmer of the LA Times, outlines this with a quote from the the league’s VP of officiating, Dean Blandino:

“”The key is the posture of the quarterback. You can’t take a free shot at him. But what we’re seeing in some instances is the quarterback hands off and then carries out the fake like he has the ball, and he’s presenting a running posture. In that instance, he’s trying to deceive the defense, trying to draw the defense to him, and he doesn’t have special protection in that situation. He can be hit until enough time has passed where he’s clearly out of the play.”

So What Does This Mean?

As the QB comes down the line and has the ball, he becomes a runner and can be hit.  The big change is as he makes a pitch, if he doesn’t show the defense that he doesn’t have the ball (not carry out a fake) they can now hit him.  The defense last year had to hesitate and that hesitation on whether he had the ball or not made it easy for the QB to never get touched and make toughness not a part of being a QB.  Now defenses will make sure these read-option QBs take a bunch of body blows.  If they drop back and are still a passer, the normal rules are still intact. I’m interested to see how the pistol and read-option stand at the end of a season where a high-paid QB is getting slammed 12-20 times per game. Durability will immediately become an issue, and I suspect that this new fad will fade away as defenses have the capacity to level a franchise QB.

It seems that John Madden thinks the same thing, and was recently quoted as saying:

“Every guy I’ve talked to is going to go after the quarterback,” Madden said, via Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “That’s going to be their answer. If you watch what they did last year, a lot of guys played the quarterback. If he pitches, get off him. If he keeps it, tackle him. Now, they’re just going to go after him whether he pitches or not.”

Players “Get It”

I finally heard a player, Clay Matthews of the Packers, bring this up on Mike and Mike and this is the rule that will have a much bigger effect than the tuck or crown of helmet.  This will even the playing field for defenses that constantly get things taken away from them.  For once I agree with a rule update in the NFL!

49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh weighed in on Matthews’ statement, saying: “[It sounds like they’re] targeting a specific player.”

You can’t have it both ways, Coach. The object of football has always been to hit the QB, and that’s assuming they’re in the backfield. Once the QB becomes a runner, they give up the protections that the NFL has afforded them.

Wondering what stopping the read-option might look like in action? Here’s an example at the High School level. Watch the QB take a pop and imagine if NFL players and their speed doing the same thing.

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