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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

14 Oct 2010

Walkthrough: Clear Communication

by Mike Tanier

At 49ers Headquarters

Coach Singletary: Alex and David, I am glad both of you are here. Obviously, there's been a lot of drama lately about our quarterback situation, with me yelling at Alex on the sideline and sending both of you into the huddle by mistake at one point. I have done some thinking, and I have come to a decision. David, you are my starter. Alex, you're benched.

David Carr: Yes!!!

Alex Smith: That's a bad decision, coach. Put me back in there, and I will show you that I deserve to be the starter!

Singletary: Very good, Alex. I was just testing you. I knew if you had anything in you, you would have something to say about your benching. That proves you are a worthy starter.

Smith: I'm glad that's settled.

Carr: Wait a minute. I think you just made a bad decision, coach. Give me the starting job, and I will prove that I deserve it more than he does! See? I just proved that I have the mettle to be a starter by speaking up about my demotion, just like he did. By your logic, you are forced to start me.

Singletary: You make a compelling case, David. You're the starter.

Smith: That's not fair! He knew it was just a test. He's just trying to play the system.

Carr: Oh really? Coach, what makes you think that Alex didn't know it was a test in the first place? Maybe he only spoke up about his benching because he knew you were waiting for him to speak up about his benching.

Singletary: I hadn't considered that. Alex, did you object to being benched because you didn't want to be benched, or because you thought I wanted to hear you say that you didn't want to be benched?

Smith: I didn't want to be benched!

Carr: But that's not the reason why you spoke up. You just spoke up to try to keep your job, right?

Smith: Of course not! I mean, of course! I mean ...

Spot the Mistake

The Chargers are really trying to improve their special teams. They have been signing new personnel like Quinton Teal, cutting youngsters who make coverage mistakes, and using starters on the kick and punt teams. Sometimes, all of that personnel turnover can cause more harm than good, particularly on special teams, where new players get few practice reps to master their assignments and mesh with teammates.

Figure 1: Chargers Blocked Punt

Figure 1 shows the first of the Raiders' two blocked punts against the Chargers. The Chargers' lineup on this play: Randy McMichael (81), Kevin Burnett (99), Antwan Applewhite (90), Ethan Albright (64), Mike Tolbert (35), Kris Wilson (88), and Legedu Naanee (11). Jacob Hester (22) is the personal protector, and Mike Scifres (4) is the punter. The gunners, not shown, are Teal and C.J. Spillman, who was released on Monday. Four of the players on punt coverage are starters, but three come with extenuating circumstances: Applewhite starts in place of injured Shawne Merriman, Naanee replaces holdout Vincent Jackson, and Tolbert earned a promotion when Ryan Mathews was hurt. Tolbert and McMichael are also sometime starters, but it's not unusual for fullbacks and second tight ends to play special teams. It's not like Antonio Gates or Shaun Phillips is being asked to cover punts.

Now, you can probably spot the mistake in the blocking scheme yourself. Here's a hint: When assigned to fan left, fan left, and never follow a defender who is bailing out.

The Chargers' best bet in the weeks to come is not to juggle special teams personnel any more, but to get the current players comfortable in their assignments. That means they will have to devote even more practice reps to special teams. Since the kicking game is about to cost them their season, they probably recognize the urgency.

Burn This Play!

The Vikings had the right idea when they opened up the Monday Night game with a reverse to Randy Moss. Getting Moss an early touch makes sense. So does making the Jets think twice about over-pursuing. It was a tense week. Run a little junk right away and everyone can get loose. It's all fun and games until Brett Favre decides he's an eligible receiver.

Figure 2: Ineligible Favre

Figure 2 shows the first -- and probably last -- pass Moss will ever throw to Favre. The two-tight end, wing-back, empty backfield formation is unique, and it definitely forces the Jets to think pass. Percy Harvin (12) runs the a jet sweep, Moss takes the reverse handoff, then things go awry.

Moss wants to throw to Visanthe Shiancoe (81), but Shiancoe is covered, and as is often the case on option-reverse passes, he's the only eligible receiver running a pattern. Luckily for Moss, one ineligible receiver runs a pattern, and Moss hits Favre racing along the sideline as if they've been practicing that play together all their lives.

I want to poll the comment threads here: How many people knew before this play that the quarterback is an ineligible receiver when he's under center? It's an obscure rule, and I don't think it's the rule at the prep or college level. I was in the press box of an Eagles-Vikings game in 2004 when a similar receiver-to-quarterback event occurred, though that was more of a broken play. There was a lot of confusion in the box, because a lot of us weren't sure about the rule, but the play was called back. Moss was at that game. So was Brad Childress, the Eagles offensive coordinator at the time. Favre wasn't, but you would think that after 20 years, he would know that he cannot catch a pass, cannot run downfield to block, cannot do anything when he's under center -- except hand off and throw.

Let's give Childress the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn't draw up an illegal play: Favre wasn't supposed to run a route or block down the field, he was just supposed to lead block if Moss decided to run. Brett Favre. Lead Blocker on a sweep. First play of the game. Against the Jets. On second thought, let's give Childress the benefit of the doubt and say that he drew up an illegal play instead of sending a 41-year old man on a suicide mission.

On third thought, let's just burn this play!

Back at 49ers Headquarters

Singletary: I have a solution. I will chop the starting job in half. Each of you can quarterback a series. What do you think of that?

Smith: No! That would be horrible for the team. If that's your decision, I would rather if Carr just won the starting job.

Singletary: Very good. In that case, Carr gets the starting job.

Smith: What? I thought that was the Wisdom of Solomon test! By saying I was most willing to give up the job, I was proving that I was most deserving of the job.

Carr: Nope, you just said you were willing to give up the starting job, which no quarterback should ever say.

Singletary: Correct. You are no longer the starting quarterback, though you are worthy to babysit my niece.

Smith: So I am benched?

Singletary: Yes.

Smith: In that case, I object to being benched! Put me back in the lineup, and I will prove what a great job I can do.

Singletary: Very good, you are the starter.

Carr: What? No fair. OK, try this. (Scribbles on paper, hands it to Singletary)

Singletary: (Reads note). Alex, you are benched, and you are not allowed to speak out against your benching.

Carr: Haha! I have you now. If you don't speak out, it proves you lack mettle. But if you do, you are directly disobeying the coach, which is worse than not speaking out! I'm the starter! I'm the starter!

Smith: I object to not being able to speak out against my benching.

Carr: You can't do that!

Smith: Yes I can. I can't speak out against my benching, but I can speak out about not being able to speak out against it. That isn't disobeying anyone, and it certainly shows some mettle. Right, coach?

Singletary: It sure does, starter Alex Smith.

Carr: No! Must ... attempt ... logical ... checkmate ...

Halls of Undrafted Rookies

Max Hall, an undrafted rookie from Brigham Young, earned his first start on Sunday. Hall's stat line (17-of-27, 168 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, four sacks, two fumbles) won't be sent straight to the Hall of Fame, but he did one or two things right. Hall got the football to Larry Fitzgerald seven times and executed a few field-goal drives against a very good defense. Throw in a lot of fumble luck and some Saints mistakes, and he helped the Cardinals to a win.

It's rare for an undrafted rookie to start a game at quarterback. In fact, our editor-in-chief Aaron Schatz found just eight examples in the Football Outsiders database from the last 30 years. In honor of Hall's accomplishments, I decided to rank the best debuts ever by undrafted quarterbacks in their rookie seasons and to examine what circumstances thrust these unknowns into starting roles. I kicked two 1987 replacement players, Erik Kramer and Ken Karcher, off the list. As it turns out, Hall's performance against the Saints falls roughly into line with these other gems:

Matt Moore, 2007 Panthers
19-of-27, 208 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks
13-10 win over the Seahawks

Circumstances: Jake Delhomme got hurt in Week 3. David Carr replaced him. Vinny Testaverde came out of retirement at age 44 to replace him. By Week 15, the 5-8 Panthers had no one else to left.

The Game: Neither the Panthers nor the Seahawks scored in the first three quarters. Moore drove the Panthers 44 yards to set up a 53-yard John Kasay field goal early in the fourth. When the Seahawks tied the game, Moore led a 41-yard field-goal drive. After a Matt Hasselbeck fumble, Moore handed off three times to DeAngelo Williams, who ran for a 35-yard touchdown on the third carry.

The Rest is History: Moore is now trading the starting job back and forth to Jimmy Clausen. The Panthers are still trying to win games by not scoring for three quarters, then hoping Kasay and Williams can save them.

Chad Hutchinson, 2002 Cowboys
12-of-24, 145 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, two sacks
17-14 loss to the Seahawks

Circumstances: Jerry Jones was in full Crazy Emperor mode in 2002. He believed he could make a quarterback out of anyone back then, and he had a particular fetish for former baseball prospects. Hutchinson was the guitar-strumming ex-pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who replaced Quincy Carter, a Jones rehabilitation project gone horribly wrong, in midseason.

The Game: Why are the Seahawks involved in so many of these stories? Hutchinson completed just 3-of-9 passes in the first half, but the Seahawks only took a 7-0 lead late in the first half on a Shaun Alexander touchdown. Hutchinson answered with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway, who appears to hold the record for most touchdown catches from undrafted rookies in their first starts. The Seahawks followed with a 74-yard touchdown drive, but Hutchinson answered again, completing three passes on an Emmitt Smith-heavy drive that ended with a game-tying Smith touchdown. The Seahawks got the ball late in the fourth quarter, and with the help of unnecessary roughness and pass interference penalties by the Cowboys, drove for a short field goal.

The Rest is History: Hutchinson later started a few games for the Bears. According to the Stanford alumni site, he works for a financial consulting firm now.

Doug Johnson, 2000 Falcons
17-of-33, 233 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, four sacks
30-10 loss to the Seahawks

The Circumstances: A frustrated Dan Reeves demoted Chris Chandler to third string for the 3-10 Falcons. Danny Kanell flunked an earlier test as the starter, so Reeves turned to Johnson, who, like Hutchinson, had tried his hand at baseball (he was a career .215 hitter in the rookie leagues) before returning to football.

The Game: Jon Kitna led the Seahawks (these guys again?) down the field after the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Johnson threw a pick-six to make the score 14-0. Johnson finally got the Falcons on the board late in the second quarter with a 64-yard field goal drive, but a 71-yard Kitna pass to Darrell Jackson set up a short Ricky Watters touchdown. A Johnson interception to start the second half set up a Seahawks field goal. A Johnson strip-sack set up another field goal. Finally, it was 30-3, and Johnson was allowed to compile some stats, throwing a 19-yard touchdown to Reggie Kelly.

The Rest is History: Johnson earned another start before Chandler returned to finish the season. The Falcons drafted Michael Vick, but Johnson hung around for a few more years, going 1-7 as a starter in 2003.

Jon Kitna, 1997 Seahawks
23-of-37, 283 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, two sacks
22-21 win over the Raiders

Circumstances: Warren Moon had cracked ribs. The Seahawks were 6-8. Head coach Dennis Erickson was on the hot seat. Kitna was a local hero (raised in Tacoma, attended Central Washington University) who had starred in the World League. Why not give him a look?

Game: Kitna threw his two interceptions early, and the Raiders built a 21-3 lead on a rainy day in Oakland. Kitna got hot in the second half, completing 16-of-22 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown to Joey Galloway. The Seahawks stopped the Raiders on fourth-and-1 from the Seahawks 17-yard line in the fourth quarter, and Kitna threw six straight completions to set up a game-winning field goal.

The Rest is History: Moon started the next game and stayed in Seattle for one more year. Erickson also held on for one more year. Kitna went on to start for the Seahawks, Bengals, and Lions. He's now in Dallas.

Brad Goebel, 1991 Eagles
9-of-20, 62 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, one sack
14-13 loss to the Buccaneers

The Circumstances: Randall Cunningham got knocked out for the season in the opener. Jim McMahon took over but also got hurt. The Eagles coaxed former Jets backup Pat Ryan out of retirement, but Ryan could barely throw a football 25 feet. The Eagles had the best defense in the NFL, and if only they could find somebody to complete a few passes ...

The Game: The Eagles took a 13-0 lead on a pair of field goals and a Seth Joyner touchdown return after Wes Hopkins and Reggie White strip-sacked Testaverde. But the Eagles' game plan consisted exclusively of handoffs and dump passes. Heath Sherman carried the ball 35 times in the game, but by the fourth quarter he was going nowhere. Chris Chandler relieved Testaverde, and he led two touchdown drives in the final four minutes, one set up by a bad snap on a punt. "This is the worst, man," Joyner said after the game. "This is the worst by far. I've been associated with football since I've been nine years old, and I've never been associated with a loss this bad."

The Rest is History: Rich Kotite immediately named Goebel the starter for the next game, then backtracked the next day. How familiar. Goebel did make one more start before McMahon returned. By the end of the season, Jeff Kemp was the Eagles starter, and the team finished 10-6 and wondering what would have happened if they had won one of Ryan or Goebel's starts. Goebel appears to be doing quite well these days as a ranch and resort realtor.

Mike Loyd, 1980 Cardinals
0-of-9, zero yards, several sacks
31-7 loss to the Redskins

The Circumstances: Jim Hart had cracked ribs. For some reason, Loyd and fellow rookie Rusty Lisch were the only backups for the 36-year-old Hart on the roster. Without a full-court research press, I could find out very little about Loyd's college career; the fact that pro-football-reference.com lists him with three colleges (Kansas, Missouri Southern, and Tulsa) suggests there's quite a story there.

The Game: The Cardinals didn't complete a pass until there was 3:39 to play in the third quarter. By then, Lisch had replaced Loyd, and he managed to complete what was described as a "four foot" pass to a fullback. Loyd replaced Hart one week before his lone start, completing 4-of-15 passes for 44 yards and an interception in a 17-3 loss to the Eagles.

The Rest is History: The Cardinals drafted Neil Lomax the next year, giving them a worthy heir to Hart. Loyd is now a high school football coach in Florida. He doesn't appear to be related to Mike Loyd Junior, a controversial college basketball player.

In Summary: Notice how many of the guys on this list were "old" rookies. Kitna played in the World League, Hutchinson and Johnson spent time in the minors, and Hall had a missionary stint. It stands to reason that these guys were more emotionally prepared to start than the typical low-tier rookie because of their age and (in several cases) experience in another professional setting.

The real takeaway is that only Kitna had a serious NFL career (Erik Kramer too, if you count the strike guys). Not only are you lacking other starters on the list, but you don't even have quality backups besides Moore, who is playing his way out of the "quality backup" category. Hall is a long shot to be anything more than a guy who hangs around for a few news cycles.

By the way, the Cardinals face the Seahawks in two weeks. Ken Whisenhunt should have waited until then to give Hall the start. Kitna, Galloway, Chandler, and Testaverde should have been invited to witness the event. There were some weird synchronicities on that list.

Eleven Hours Later, at 49ers Headquarters

Singletary: Alex, you are my starter.

Carr: (Half asleep). I object. Something, something ... best man for the job.

Singletary: In that case, it's you.

Smith: (Eyes bloodshot). No, coach, yada, yada ... prove myself.

Crowd outside: We want Carr! We want Carr!

Carr: : Hear that, coach? They are calling for me!

Smith: No, they are yelling, "We Want Carbs! We Want Carbs!" They've been living off a California diet of organic produce for too long, and they are demanding macaroni and cheese.

Carr: That's a lie. They want me!

Smith: Coach, if you pick David just because the fans like him better, I will object like I have never objected before, and you will be forced to start me.

Singletary: I am getting confused.

Steve Young: Gentlemen, what seems to be the problem?

Singletary: Oh Steve, I am glad you are here. I want my starting quarterback to have the pluck to speak up for himself when he is benched, but every time I bench one of these guys, he speaks up for himself, and I am forced to give him the starting job.

Young: Really? That's what it has come to around here? I mean, didn't you have a whole training camp with these two? Hasn't Alex Smith been here for six years? The only thing separating these guys right now is which one acts the most like a tough guy when you try to bench him? That's the sum total of your coaching acumen at this point?

Singletary: Yup.

Young: (Sigh) OK. Alex, do you not agree that you wouldn't accept being benched if you didn't think you weren't the second most qualified quarterback on the roster. Yes or no?

Smith: Wow. That is the clearest communication I have heard from this franchise in six years. No Steve, I don't.

Young: Very good. David, you're the starter.

Carr: : Yes!

Smith: What?

Young: How do you think I got Joe Montana to leave town? Peace out, fellas.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 14 Oct 2010

64 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2010, 5:22am by jinhui


by PatsFan :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 12:40pm

I knew the rule because I recall the Colts getting burned on a related rule in a playoff game vs. NE (in Foxboro in either 2003 or 2004). They were trying the "Manning walks around behind the line and do a direct snap to a back" play. Except at one point Manning went under center before continuing his walkaround and that changed his status such that him moving at the snap was a penalty.

by Bobman :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:09pm


Holy cow, I was heading toward "you're full of crap" mode when you mentioned Manning briefly being under center--then it hit me. I remember that! Didn't remember the rule itself--probably because I was trying to block the whole game from my memory--but you're right.

(mumbling) stupid rule then... stupid rule now... mumble grumble gripe....

Regarding Tanier's comments above, they cannot block downfield either when under center? Logical from a health standpoint of course, but I don't see the point otherwise. If an NFL QB lines up under center then runs an option pitch, he cannot take out a defender? Not that it happens often, of course, but that's a key part of that play. Colts ran it in the late 80s with an NCAA option QB pitching to Dickerson.

Rhetoricial question: what happens if the QB is on a keeper, breaks through the first line of defense, but is confronted by a safety, then laterals to a teammate and takes out the safety? (perhaps I've been watching too much youth football....)

by Travis :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:09pm

The QB blocking downfield on a run is fine. He just can't block/run downfield before a pass is thrown.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:15pm

Right, because as an ineligible receiver he'd be an ineligible receiver downfield at the time of the pass if he crossed the LOS before the pass was thrown.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:16pm

And people say the rules are slanted towards the offense.


by Shattenjager :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:15pm

I knew the rule and could not figure out why, but I remember that now that you say it, so maybe that's why I knew it too.

by Todd S. :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 4:07pm

Exactly what Shattenjager said.

by nat :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:30pm

I knew the rule, probably because of that game. Here's a question, though. Once a QB goes under center, is there something he can do to become an eligible receiver again? Is it enough to move back from the line and come to a set position for a second? Or does the under-center rule last for the whole play regardless of what he does?

by Travis :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:36pm

It's enough to move back from the line and come to a set position for a second.

Rule 8-1-6-e: A player who takes his stance behind center as a T-formation quarterback is not an eligible receiver unless, before the ball is snapped, he legally moves to a position at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage or on the end of the line, and is stationary in that position for at least one second before the snap.

by nat :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 7:57pm

Zowie! I tried googling Rule "8-1-6-e" NFL, and all I got was a link back here. What's your source?

by PatsFan :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 9:09am

Probably a copy of the actual rule book (as opposed to the heavily abridged and dumbed-down "Digest of Rules" on the NFL website).

by nat :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 12:11pm

On paper?!? Egads! How primative!

by PatsFan :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 12:27pm

Well, the rulebook also exists in PDF form, but you have to be credentialed media to download it from a media-only website the NFL runs. Or find it pirated on the intertubes somewhere :)

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 1:28pm

You can find the 2006 version legitimately. It was linked to on FO.

by Eddo :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 9:46am

Do not ask questions! Travis just knows!

by Smose (not verified) :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 11:22am

The "T Formation" is the quarterback with THREE backs behind the QB, in a line parallel to the LOS. Can't remember the last time I've seen ANYONE run the T, even at the college level. The Vikes certainly weren't in the T on that play.

by Eddo :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 11:49am

That's correct. However, "T Formation Quarterback" refers to any QB lined up directly under center. Since the T Formation popularized this technique, it has been associated with the positioning.

In short, a "T Formation Quarterback" does not have to have his offense lined up in a T Formation behind him.

by Scott C :: Sun, 10/17/2010 - 12:15am

My High School ran it, called it "Rambo Formation". Scored lots of rushing TD's and 2 point conversions from that formation.

by JimZipCode :: Thu, 10/21/2010 - 1:50am

I knew the rule because of a scene from the movie Second String, with Gil Bellows as the QB (and the lovely Teri Polo as his GF).

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:51pm

Actually, the QB pass eligible rule was discussed a lot in Philly during the Randall Cunningham era. There'd always be some drunk guy on WIP at 11 PM on a Tuesday night who'd wonder why Buddy Ryan (Rex's dad) or Richie the K would never try it.

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 7:39pm

I knew the rule too, but it was because of a Bears game. I don't even remember the full circumstances, other than Grossman was involved.

by Jonadan :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 12:59pm

I assume Shiancoe's the one running the route to the middle of the field in the burn-the-play, but his number's not given on the diagram so I'm not completely sure?

by Travis :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:07pm

The rule on quarterback eligibility when under center was changed between the 1944 and 1945 seasons, mainly to reduce the impact of trick plays in which the ball was snapped through the quarterback's legs to someone in the backfield. [The T-formation was still relatively new.]

Probably the most famous example of a play nullified by the rule was Bobby Layne's touchdown in the 1953 NFL Championship Game.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:22pm

For example http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/forwardpass (with the caveat that it's part of the digest, not the official rules):

A forward pass may be touched or caught by any eligible receiver. All members of the defensive team are eligible. Eligible receivers on the offensive team are players on either end of line (other than center, guard, or tackle) or players at least one yard behind the line at the snap. A T-formation quarterback is not eligible to receive a forward pass during a play from scrimmage.

Exception: T-formation quarterback becomes eligible if pass is previously touched by an eligible receiver.

by TomC :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 7:52pm

I was sure this couldn't be the case because of my crystal clear memory of the Payton-to-McMahon TD pass in the 1985 Bears win over the Redskins. Thanks to the glory of youtube, I was able to prove my memory wrong --- McMahon was in the shotgun for that play.

by Eddo :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 8:47pm

That's immediately what I thought of as well! But, as circumstance would have it, I had watched the '85 Bears DVD earlier that afternoon, and noticed McMahon was in shotgun for that play.

by Marko :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 2:07am

I remember that play and that game against the Redskins very well. Without looking at YouTube or looking at a DVD, I remember that McMahon was in shotgun and made a great diving catch for the TD.

That game had some other memorable plays, too, such as Willie Gault's 99 yard-kickoff return for a TD early in the second quarter after the Bears had fallen behind 10-0. That play was important not only because it was a TD, but because the Redskins kickoff man, Jeff Hayes, was injured on the play as he made a futile attempt to tackle Gault. Hayes also was the Redskins punter, but since he was injured, Joe Theismann was forced to take over punting duties as the emergency punter. Which resulted in the other very memorable play later in the second quarter: Joe Theismann's one-yard punt. By halftime, the Bears had turned their 10-0 deficit into a 31-10 lead on their way to a 45-10 shellacking of the Redskins. Good times.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:17pm

I find it difficult to believe that Mike Singletary would speak 30 sentences and none of them end with an exclamation point.

by Marko :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:20pm

I knew the rule because I have seen it called several times before, although I don't remember the specific instances.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:21pm

Two thoughts on the 49ers skit: firstly, that it is probably an overestimate of the depth of the thought process. Secondly, if Carr was given the chance to speak he'd probably just hold on to it until something bad happened.

by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 1:35pm

I knew the rule. FO readers are probably atypcial, though.

by zlionsfan :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 1:42am

agreed ... either that, or every single FO reader who knew the rule is posting and most of the rest remain silent.

As Mr. Tanier suggests, it is legal in NCAA play:

(Rule 7-3-3) When the ball is snapped, the following Team A players are eligible [receivers]:
a. Each player who is in an end position on his scrimmage line and who is wearing a number other than 50 through 79 (A.R. 7-3-3-I).
b. Each player who is legally positioned as a back wearing a number other than 50 through 79.
c. A player wearing a number other than 50 through 79 in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap from between the snapper’s legs.

by PirateFreedom (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:02pm

I had no idea Favre was ineligible, I've seen QB's split wide, I've seen QBs catch their own batted passes, I've seen countless backs come out and catch passes.

I knew the 5 lineman were ineligible and when a lineman number went to TE they had to tell the ref and i think the PA would announce it but that was all I knew about players being ineligible

by Eddo :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:57pm

The only reason he was ineligible is because he took a snap from under center.

QBs split wide don't even receive the snap, so it's totally different.

A QB catching his own pass generally happens because a defender deflected the throw; at that point in time, everyone is an eligible receiver.

Backs catching passes are irrelevant, as they don't receive the snap.

by Thok :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:13pm

Has Carr ever said anything about wanting the starting job?

by T. Diddy :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:41pm

I didn't recognize that the play was illegal as it happened, but I remembered the rule as soon as I saw that a flag had been thrown.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 2:52pm

1991 makes me sad...

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 3:35pm

That's the first NFL season that I really remember - it's really depressing when your earliest memories of NFL fandom are of rooting for a team coached by Rich Kotite. Although I suffered much more during the 94 season, possibly because I was older and more in tune with what a catastrophic collapse had occurred (as opposed to the opportunity missed in 91).

by Theo :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 3:32pm

With so many drops, who will give the 49ers ANY chance?
See this drop. It's big. Real big.
Guy watching the game...

by Jeff Feagles is God (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 4:42pm

I knew the rule. A more interesting rule: the fair catch kick. Probably should be done more often.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 5:08pm

It's pretty rare to be able to catch a fair kick anywhere close to FG range. Even punter backed up in his own end zone can usually manage to get the ball out to the 40 yard line, which would still make for a 50 yard free kick attempt.

In addition, unless you manage to get the fair catch with no time left in a half, the fair catch kick is essentially just kicking a slightly shorter, unblockable FG on first down.

The Packers actually did get this perfect storm of circumstances to happen two years at the end of a first half, at home against the Lions. Well, sort of, as the Packers took the fair catch on their own 41. Mason Crosby just missed short on what would have been an NFL record 69 yard attempt.

Here's a video I found:


by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 5:19pm

Neil Rackers tried one from 68 yards against the Giants in 2008 too, but completely duffed it. It apparently hasn't been done successfully since 1968.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 5:33pm

Yeah, I came across a video of that while looking for this one. About 2 minutes of setup to kick a worm burner that nearly bounced off of one of the up men on the return team, or whatever you call the team defending/receiving the free kick.

by JP (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 8:11pm

I thought the Patriots did it a few years ago with Flutie, or was that something different?

by Felden (not verified) :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 8:31pm

That was a drop-kick. The OTHER obscure kicking rule.

by nat :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 8:32pm

That was a drop kick extra point.

There's not much point to drop kicking any more, now that they require you to be behind the line of scrimmage. But it was sweet anyway.

by tuluse :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 9:07pm

The Saints might want to start thinking about letting their punter drop kick short field goals.

by Joe T. :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 2:42pm

I think it was more common when the ball was rounder, but now that the ball is more pointed it makes it much more difficult.

by coboney :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 9:11pm

I do believe Flutie was a dropkick

Edit: Well thats what I get for opening an article and taking forever to read it. Getting snarthed 3 times.

by Spielman :: Tue, 10/19/2010 - 12:11pm

never mind. Already covered below.

by Pat Swinnegan :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 2:12am

Very cool video... Crosby is only about a yard or two shy, and the accuracy was dead-on perfect. You always hear about guys hitting from 60+ yards in warm-ups, and this just goes to show again how perfectly these guys can kick sometimes when they're under zero pressure.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 9:51am

Yep ... Crosby was kicking into the wind in what look like cold conditions so it should be possible. Anyone who Seabass' 64-yard miss back in 2007 clatter halfway up the upright knows the distance is possible ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuzrVYgRhAI&feature=related

I'd imagine that before the goalposts moved to the back of the endzone in 1974 it was considered a little more of a good idea (i.e. 10 yards shorter).

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 4:47pm

FWIW Raiders-Broncos game today. Seabass took kickoff after 3rd touchdown. Put it through the uprights for a would-be 80yd FG. Admittedly Mile High thin air and wind behind but just as a point of reference.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 10:11pm

See this post by commenter Travis for more on the FCK rule and instances when it's happened. Linehan being permitted to take back declining the penalty (opportunity passed up #4) still annoys me.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 9:17am

I remember #18 on that list (IND vs. NE in 1984).

It was hilarious. The play-by-play announcer (Charlie Jones) was right on the ball. He knew exactly what was going on.

But the NE players were clueless. They couldn't get it through their heads that they had to stay behind the line 10 yards from the kicker until the ball was kicked. The ref had to explain it to them a bunch of times.

Even though I am a Pats fan I was rooting for Allegre to make the kick because it would have been so cool.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 12:57pm

My first pro football game was #9. I was only a kid in 1968, and my parents gave my brother and me the family tickets for that game. (I think my dad had to work that Sunday and my mom didn't feel like going.) The Bears winning at the end just gave me one more reason to hate them. I didn't know the FCK rule was still in effect.

by Vesuvius Hambone :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 3:58am

I kept yelling at the television that Favre was a back and therefore eligible. But I was incorrect. But then I said that the referee was also confused because on a completed pass it should be illegal touching and not illegal downfield. But now I look at the NFL rules digest and see that the penalty is the same -- 5 yards -- and there is no more loss of down on an illegal touch like Wikipedia told me there was.

And when I first watched, I thought it was sneaky of Favre to throw a half-ass block and then really be there to catch the pass. Now, well, I have no idea what that was supposed to be, because it certainly wasn't an effective block.

by Bad Doctor :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 3:36pm

The Brad Goebel game ... man, that takes me back. Man, those postgame interviews were as close to locker room civil war as it gets ... if Buddy Ryan were still coach, no doubt the defense would have seceded from the rest of the team.

Tanier, I'm surprised you didn't include the Heath Sherman The Rest is History -- after that game (35 carries for 89 yards), Sherman spent the better part of his time with the Eagles relegated to short yardage back duty ... thereby solidifying his place in Eagles history as "One Yard Heath."

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 5:02am

It's either that Applewhite completely blew his assignment and #25 (Rock Cartwright?) came through unblocked (leading to the blocked punt), or;

That Mike Scifres (#4) is the punter, yet #5 is on the field.

Scifres is actually #5; #4 is JT O'Sullivan, who at this point wouldn't surprise me to be seen on the field for the Chargers 'Very Special' Teams.

by BGNoMore (not verified) :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 8:56pm

I know the rule because I'm really, really old. There was a time when computers were housed in airport hangars, people read things called newspapers, and I was young. Also, the shotgun was relatively rare, and on the odd occasion the QB caught a pass all observers would rise up and yell, in unison, "but the QB is not eligible!!" before being reminded of the obscure rule that made the QB eligible in the barely-used shotgun formation.

Finally, I come to a point. Most of the comments here express surprise that quarterbacks are only ineligible if under center, when not that long ago (really, it wasn't that long ago), most people were surprised the quarterback was ever eligible. The rule hasn't changed; the People's general lack of understanding of the rules hasn't changed; what has changed is the proliferation of the shotgun, and the People's perception of "normal".

I long for the day when "hard-core football fans", to say nothing of paid analysts, have a grasp of the basic rules of the sport of which they profess expertise.

by 49er Faithful (not verified) :: Mon, 10/18/2010 - 7:50pm

Make fun while you can you piece of shyet... niners will give ya the bizness... this who this is outrageous you guys are haters and no nothing about anything

by Dean :: Tue, 10/19/2010 - 9:50am

You didn't follow the template.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/20/2010 - 6:14am

Nailed the spelling and grammar requirements, though.