clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Highlighting the need to be proactive on rule changes: Josh Allen, Taylor Decker, and a larger NFL issue

The NFL needs to change some rules this offseason

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Monday, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Bills dominated this game from start to finish, which is reflected in the final score of Bills 31, Steelers 17.

You may be wondering why I’m mentioning this game. This is a Jets website, so why talk about two teams that aren’t the Jets? Well, because something rather unfair happened in that game that could potentially happen to the Jets, or to any other team in the NFL. In this case, it happened to the Steelers.

On the first play, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen runs for the first down before coming to basically a full stop. 99 times out of 100 when a quarterback does this they are giving themselves up with a slide. For defenders, this marks a good time to basically stop trying to hit the quarterback, because if you hit him and he does slide, then a 15-yard penalty will be assessed. In the first clip, the defenders do just that and seem to stop pursuing Allen. However, Allen doesn’t slide. He instead runs another 40 yards for a touchdown that put the Bills up 21 - 0. 21 - 0 is a huge deficit to come back from, and the Steelers never did.

Later in the game Allen runs again, which is shown in the second clip. This time he slides, and the defender, perhaps learning from the earlier decision that his team made that led to a chunk play touchdown, continues to pursue, with his momentum carrying him into Allen, who is then hit on the slide and gets an extra 15 yards for the Bills on the personal foul.

Those two plays together paint a perfect picture of a play that the NFL needs to legislate. How are defenders supposed to accurately ascertain whether a player is going to slide and to make the appropriate decisions around what to do (tackle or don’t tackle) unless the NFL is going to teach them to read minds like X-Men’s Jean Grey?

So, why am I talking about this game on a Jets site? Because this game marks the perfect time to talk about the fake slide and how an NFL team needs to follow it. These plays didn’t decide this game, so talking about it now cannot be dismissed as an emotional overreaction. But down the line this will eventually decide a game (and as a Jets fan I’ve basically been programmed to expect it to be against the Jets at a critical point). And when it does? Ooooooh, buddy is the reaction going to be loud and negative, regardless of the team that it goes against.

As an example of the kind of outrage that waiting too long to legislate a rule can lead to, we can look at a similar situation with the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys just a few weeks ago.

On this play, the Lions threw what they believed to be the game winning touchdown. The issue? The referees thought a different lineman declared eligible and incorrectly threw a flag that took the conversion off the board. Why is this relevant? Because the Baltimore Ravens had previously proposed a rule designed to prevent this exact thing from happening back in 2016 as described by Darin Gaant of ProFootballTalk.

The Ravens are either tired of being on the wrong end of ineligible receiver penalties, or owner Steve Bisciotti has a stake in a pinnie manufacturing company.

Among the goofier of the rules changes proposed for next week’s owners meeting is one submitted by Baltimore to clarify the eligible receiver rule.

The Ravens proposal would require an ineligible player (numbers 50-79 and 90-99) who goes into the game as an eligible receiver to “wear a jersey vest matching the team uniform, with an appropriate number for his eligible or ineligible status that has not already been assigned to another teammate.”

This rule was not passed, but, in hindsight, this simple rule change would have been proactive, and it would have prevented the Lions play from being incorrectly called years later. If that exact rule were proposed again this offseason, after the Lions play drew national media attention, then I’m skeptical that it would be described as “goofy” like Gaant said at that time, because at its core the rule was intended to address an underlying issue.

In general, I think rules need to be more proactive, like what the Ravens tried to do with the ineligible receiver. In the instance of the fake slide, this Josh Allen fake slide seemingly had little bearing on a game that the Bills would likely have won anyway. However, who is to say a similar play doesn’t decide a championship game or even a Super Bowl in the years to come? Or if a play like that were to keep the Jets from ending their playoff drought, which is a relevant note given that the Jets play the Bills twice a year as an in-division opponent? Are those really the types of outcomes anyone wants to be plausible? One wherein the defender has to stand on a podium after a play that costs his team the game and say “I thought he was going to slide. My other option is to take the penalty and that wasn’t going to help us either.”

Long story short, the fake slide hasn’t been a major issue yet, but it could very quickly become one within a copycat league. In general, the NFL needs to be better about catching these issues before they become magnified, as was the case with the ineligible receiver for Detroit, and I think this is one of those issues. As a fan, I just hope the NFL learns from the Detroit lesson and nips in the bud plays that are legal but not within the intention of the rules, rather than waiting for the outrage to commence.

Poll

Should the NFL do something about the fake slide?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    No, let it go
    (19 votes)
  • 90%
    Yes, outlaw it
    (174 votes)
193 votes total Vote Now