Every year at the NFL spring meetings, the league’s Competition Committee presents rules proposals and bylaw changes to team owners. When the meetings start in Phoenix next week, one of the recommendations will eliminate perhaps the most famous — or infamous — play reversal in Patriots history.
In a conference call on Thursday, Rams coach and committee member Jeff Fisher announced that Playing Rule Proposal No. 3 “basically changes our tuck rule so that it is a fumble of the player loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body.”
In other words, the very call that made the fumble forced by Oakland’s Charles Woodson on Tom Brady in the 2001 divisional playoff an incomplete pass, thus letting the Patriots maintain possession. What happened next is New England lore: Brady completed a pass to David Patten to put the Patriots in field goal range, Adam Vinatieri converted the game-tying kick, and then had the game-winning kick in overtime. Wins in the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl XXXVI followed.
Fisher continued with the proposal: “Obviously, if the passer loses control of the ball as the arm is moving forward, it will still be an incomplete pass, but we now say if in the passing motion he attempts to bring the ball back to his body, even if he completes the tuck, and loses the ball in an attempt to bring the ball back to his body, it will be a fumble.
“The officials on the field now are ruling that it is a fumble and the plays are going to review. We are going to change this to clean this up and eliminate the tuck rule, so to speak.”
After the Competition Committee announcement, the Raiders official Twitter page posted, “Tuck Rule? It’s been 11 years, 1 month and 23 days…but who’s counting?” along with a photo of the play.