Will the NFL ban pushing ‘rugby style’ short-yardage plays?

There’s been a lot of discussion recently surrounding the possibility of the NFL banning rugby-style driving on short plays, of regularly lining up one or two players behind the quarterback to push him forward on sneaky plays.

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

“I think the league will look at this and I’d be surprised if they don’t make a trade,” Blandino said. “This is just a tactic that is not an aesthetically pleasing move, and I think the competition committee will review it.

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

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

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

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

“Third and fourth and 1 are big plays in football games,” Cowherd said. “You don’t want to do those automatics. Quarterback breakout is fine. He’s an individual, often a star player, trying to find a little crack between center and left guard. [or] center and right guard, and they don’t always hit them. Lots of fourth-and-one quarterback tricks don’t work.

“This is a bunch of guys pushing the quarterback forward. It’s pure tonnage. There’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about it. It’s not creative. It’s not smart, and this is a TV show… The NFL is looking at a mess potential, an optical disaster for a TV show, the #1 TV show in America, before it hits en masse. It’s the right move. Nobody’s messing with Philly… 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 its 41 sneaky QB attempts into first downs or touchdowns, the most conversions and attempts by a wide margin, in the 2022 season. No other offense has earned 20 first downs on QB passes in a single season in the past 15 years, according to CBS Sports.

Hurts also had six of his first 10 rushing attempts in the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss via QB breakout, including the first and last touchdowns of the game.

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

“[Outlawing it] in sneakers it’s easy,” added Blandino. “The field stuff, you just put the tape together, show it to the refs and just start calling it. That’s the key. To desensitize him, you have to throw flags. I don’t think it’s a big problem.” affair.”

There were an NFL-record 308 sneaky QBs called by the league’s 32 teams this season, with teams averaging a first-down conversion on 83% of them, according to Pro Football Focus.

New Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton, speaking after Blandino’s comments, said he will return to this play in every game next season, when necessary, if the league doesn’t ban the rule.

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

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