Before Week One of the 2013 regular season, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh successfully applied the Jedi Mind Trick to the Packers, complaining publicly about hits applied to running quarterbacks after handing the ball off on a read-option play — and then dialing up pass after pass from Colin Kaepernick as part of a 412-yard day.
At the time, NFL V.P. of officiating made the league’s position clear. “He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play,” Dean Blandino said. “The quarterback makes the pitch, he’s still a runner — he can be hit like a runner until he’s clearly out of the play.”
Now that the 2013 season has ended, the NFL is exploring the question of whether more protection should be applied to quarterbacks who have relinquished the ball to a tailback.
“There have been discussions on if the quarterback should get more protection on option plays,” an unnamed source familiar with the league’s discussions recently told Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
Discussions may not translate into action; “I’m not sure if you’ll see anything happen there,” the source added.
Quarterbacks can’t have it both ways. By pretending to still have the ball, the quarterback makes himself live bait. The goal is to draw the defense away from the guy who actually has possession, and one of the risks is that it will work too well.
That mindset applies regardless of whether the quarterback pretends he still has the ball and runs the other way or, as Brett Favre used to do, executes a goofy, empty-handed jump pass. In those cases, the offense can’t embrace the benefit of pulling off a fake without accepting the risk that the defense may fall for it a bit too thoroughly.