After Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained about New England’s ineligible eligible receiver gimmick.
“It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before,” Harbaugh said.
But someone has indeed done it. This season. In a fairly high-profile game.
Alabama-LSU. November 8. First play of overtime. Here’s the video.
An ineligible offensive lineman lined up in the slot. An eligible receiver lined up as the left tackle. LSU put a defender on the ineligible man in the slot, who stepped back from the line at the snap and put his hands up, calling for a ball that by rule he couldn’t touch. On the other side of the field, the left tackle ran past the defensive end, whose initial inclination was to rush the passer but who then realized that the man who was supposed to be blocking him had sprinted past him.
It’s likely not a coincidence, as surmised by Peter King of TheMMQB.com.
“Belichick and [Alabama coach Nick] Saban are very close,” King writes. “There is no doubt in my mind, based on the duplication of the play, that the Patriots got this play from Alabama. And good for them. It’s perfectly legal, despite Baltimore’s protestations to the contrary, and though officiating czar Dean Blandino told me Sunday the league is going to examine the play (actually, the Patriots completed three passes, for 11, 14 and 16 yards on the three plays they ran), what rule can the NFL change?”
On Sunday, PFT reported that the league would look into whether the Ravens were properly notified by the officials that Patriots running back Shane Vereen had reported as ineligible. Based on Blandino’s comments to King, it appears the NFL preliminarily has concluded that the Ravens weren’t treated unfairly.
“The whole issue with Baltimore is they felt they weren’t given enough time [to match up],” Blandino told King. “We will review the three plays, but it appears from a mechanical standpoint that the announcement was made properly, the defense was notified, and the proper mechanics were executed.’’
And so it appears that it was a valid play, that it wasn’t unprecedented, and that at a time when Harbaugh may have spent some time picking the brain of a college football coach who happens to be his brother, Belichick picked the brain (or simply pilfered the playbook) of a different college coach.