Two years ago, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lobbied for greater protections for mobile quarterbacks, complaints that ultimately served as a verbal rope-a-dope for a Week One game against the Packers, whose defense Colin Kaepernick then shredded with his arm. The league thereafter considered changing the rules to provide more protection for running quarterbacks, but the rules didn’t change.
Last night, current Ravens coach John Harbaugh had the unchanged rules applied against his team improperly.
Clean or dirty, the hit from Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford didn’t violate the current rules. A quarterback remains subject to being hit like a runner (e.g., at or below the knees) until he is “clearly out of the play,” as NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino previously has said.
Bradford had just given the ball to running back Darren Sproles via a zone-read-style handoff, which is the type of action from which the quarterback often emerges with the football — either to run with it or to throw it. So he wasn’t clearly out of the play, even though he did indeed give the ball to Sproles.
If a team is going to try to confuse defenders regarding who actually has the ball, defenders shouldn’t be punished for guessing wrong. And, as Suggs said last night, if a team with a quarterback who has had two torn ACLs in the same knee is going to run the read option, any blame for the quarterback getting hit legally should rest with the coach who put the quarterback in that position. We’ll add this p.s. to the point: Blame also should go to the coach who opted to give a defender like Suggs a free run at the quarterback.