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The Refeee Tucked It Up

The Refeee Tucked It Up

Here is the third-quarter play from the NFL Gamebook:

3-5-DEN 7 (9:25) 16-J.Plummer to DEN 0 for -7 yards. FUMBLES, and recovers at DEN 0. 16-J.Plummer tackled in End Zone, SAFETY (32-A.Jimoh). Play Challenged by DEN and REVERSED. 16-J.Plummer pass incomplete to 80-R.Smith.

Here is what happened. On third and five from his own seven, Jake Plummer went back to pass. He took a short drop back to about the one. The right-hander pumped and didn’t throw. No defender was anywhere close to making contact with him. As the ball started to come down, he sort of tried to get control of it with his left hand. He failed to do so, making contact with the ball only briefly with his left hand if at all The ball came out of his right hand and, solely from the momentum provided by his arm, the ball bounced into the end zone. With no defender anywhere near him still, Plummer ran back and recovered the ball while still on his feet. Before he could look for anyone to throw to or try to run, the Redskins’ Ade Jimoh tackled him in the end zone. The official in the end zone signaled a safety.

Mike Shanahan brought out the red flag. Referee Peter Morelli reviewed the play on the sideline, came back out, conferred with other officials, and then went back under the hood to review again. He then turned on the microphone and stated:
After reviewing the play, the quarterback’s arm was going forward, it is a tuck. Incomplete pass, fourth down.
The relevant word here, of course, is “tuck”, shorthand for the Tuck Rule. It became famous a few years back when the Patriots’ stayed alive in their first Super Bowl run after it was applied after what everyone thought was a game-ending fumble by Tom Brady that the Raiders had recovered. The officials, after a replay review, said that the applicable rule was Rule 3 (“Definitions”), Section 21 (“Pass and Passer”), Article 2, Note 2 of the official NFL rules. That rule states the following:
When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if a player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
Also of relevance in Sunday’s game is what immediately follows in the rule book, which is Note 3::
If the player loses possession of the ball while attempting to recock his arm, it is a fumble.Don’t forget that, it becomes critical later on here.

In this particular case, Morelli also applied Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2 to this play and ruled it an incomplete pass.

He was wrong.

First of all, does anyone else find Morelli’s explanation for the reversal curious? Here it is again:
After reviewing the play, the quarterback’s arm was going forward, it is a tuck. Incomplete pass, fourth down.
He had to go under the hood twice to figure that out? If all that was required was that the quarterback’s arm be moving forward at some point during the play, why go to replay at all? Plummer was in the clear, he wasn’t surrounded by defenders, there was no dispute that his arm was moving forward at some point during the play. If no official was watching the quarterback, which is hard to believe, then it should have taken Morelli about six seconds under the hood to determine that Plummer’s arm went forward. End of review.

But Morelli did not do so, he had to review further. That’s because the rules do not make a quarterback immune from fumbling if he moves his arm forward and any point during the play. No, that’s not the case, otherwise there would be no need for Note 2, the key phrase being, “even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.”

His arm needs to be moving forward and something else needs to happen after that for the Tuck Rule to be applicable.

So, here’s the nut of the issue:

Exactly at what point in time was Plummer “attempting” to tuck the ball back toward his body?

If the words “attempting to tuck the ball toward his body” mean anything, and words in rulebooks are supposed to mean specific things, Morelli has to recognize something to indicate that Plummer was “attempting” to tuck the ball away. You can watch the play again and again (and, sorry, we won’t put up video of the play here. We respect copyrights here and we don’t illegally post videos here despite what other sites may choose to do. And we have that policy in spite of the fact that this network is owned by the entity that broadcasts the games. We don’t have their permission, we don’t do it.) and you can’t find a time where you can say that Plummer was attempting to tuck the ball away. You may find a point in time where he’s thinking, “Shoot, I’d better get this thing tucked away,” but the rule says nothing about intent or thought, it says “attempting”. It just didn’t happen.

I could look at that replay, in fact, and think just as well that Plummer is attempting to recock his arm by bringing his left hand towards the ball. That would bring Note 3 from above into play, meaning that it’s a fumble.

So, Morelli looked at the video and, based on his supposition that Plummer moved his left hand towards the ball in an attempt to tuck and not to recock or just to desperately flail at a ball that he knew was about to come out of his hands, reversed the call on the field.

Such a judgment may have been acceptable had the ruling on the field not been a fumble and safety. The standard for reversing a call on the field is supposed to be “indisputable visual evidence”. That’s visual evidence. Not getting inside the quarterback’s head and drawing a conclusion about what he was trying to do.

The reversal, therefore, was not a proper one.

One other complaint about the reversal; it was a sloppy one. There was 9:22 left on the third-quarter clock when ball slipped out of Plummer’s hand and hit the ground. When Denver punted, there was 9:15 left. The clock should have stopped as soon as the ball hit the ground on the “incompletion”. So the chase for the ball and Jimoh’s tackle took time off the clock, but they didn’t exist because the pass was incomplete. They should have reset the clock to around 9:22. It was the finishing sloppy touch on a very sloppy call.

By the way, don’t bring up this section of the NFL Rules Digest from NFL.com under “Protecting the Passer”:
When a passer is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional movement forward of his arm starts a forward pass. If a defensive player contacts the passer or the ball after forward movement begins, and the ball leaves the passer’s hand, a forward pass is ruled, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player
First of all, it’s just a digest of the rules, not the actual rules. Second, this only applies when a defensive player contacts the quarterback and that clearly did not happen.

Finally, there is no conspiracy theory being posited here. I don’t think that anyone is out to get anyone or that somehow the league wanted the Redskins to lose. Frankly, I think that anyone who believes that things are somehow fixed or that grudges are carried out in any systematic fashion and still watches the games is a moron. I just think that Morelli made a human mistake, one that cost the Redskins two points and, possibly the football game.

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201