Kevin Stefanski on Rashard Higgins’ fumble-touchback: “Our rule is to not reach the ball out”


The worst rule in football reared its ugly heard on Sunday in Kansas City, stinging the Browns on a play that looked like it was going to be a touchdown for Cleveland but ended up being a touchback for the Chiefs.

After the game, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about the play.

“I will never ever doubt Rashard Higgins’ effort or our guys’ effort,” Stefanski told reporters after the game. “Our rule there is not to reach the ball out when it is first and goal, and he knows that. Again, [I] appreciate his effort. He battled like he always does, but we have to fight that urge because it is such a big loss if it does end up being a touchback.”

Stefanski is right. And the Browns’ internal rule is accurate, given the nonsensical NFL rule that would have given Cleveland possession at the spot of the fumble if it had gone out of bounds at the one-inch line but that gave the Chiefs possession on their own 20 because the ball went into, and out of, the end zone.

The biggest problem with the rule is this: It penalizes effort. Yes, there’s a chance that a fumble into the end zone will be recovered by the defense. If it is, then the defense should get the ball. If it isn’t recovered before it goes out of play, the rule should be no different than it is if the ball goes out of bounds in the 100 yards of green.

51 responses to “Kevin Stefanski on Rashard Higgins’ fumble-touchback: “Our rule is to not reach the ball out”

  1. Defensive effort? Your defense has let them get down into the red zone! Recover the ball and it’s yours… ALL PLAYS NEED TO BE REVIEWABLE! Especially targeting!

  2. Maybe it is a non sensical rule, but it is objective. Both teams have to play by it, so at least it is fair. Good players make plays but smart players make better plays.

  3. Uh what? Don’t reach for a score in the playoffs? He literally could have said anything else as an answer. But chose this? Dag Higgins.

  4. The ball went out of bounds in the defenders’ end zone, not in the “100 yards of green”. If you don’t want to lose possession, then don’t fumble the ball out of bounds in the end zone. Everyone knows this rule, and clearly it’s being coached. He wasn’t penalized for effort. He took a risk, knowing the risk, and he lost. The defense was rewarded for a great play (although it was a penalty that should be reviewable).

  5. “ switchplayer317 says:
    January 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm
    So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.”

    He should have been “rewarded” with a flag for his blatant leading with his helmet and hitting Higgins helmet to helmet.

  6. “So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.”

    I get both sides, but change of possession is an awfully big reward. I think pushing the offense back to the 20 yd line, or inflicting a 15 yd penalty from the spot of the fumble would sufficiently penalize the O & reward good D. Chiefs were the better team today, so this isn’t just sour grapes from a Browns fan. Only reason we were still in it was because Mahomes wasn’t. That said, still believe for the ball to change hands, the defense should have to recover in bounds.

  7. I would disagree about it being the worst rule although I can understand why many may not like it. To defend the rule I would say that the endzone is special and unlike that other 100 yards of green. That’s where you go to put points on the board so that zone is special, and only the worthy may enter to take the points. But, just as it can give you glory it can also take it away if you breach it not meeting the full and proper conditions. If you dare try to enter, then you better be ready and prepared to do so correctly, or there will be consequences. Approach at your own risk, for this special zone has traps and defenses to prevent you from taking its glory away.

  8. Honestly penalties are ready so skewed by design in the offenses favor do we really need to change another one? It’s amazing that defenses are ever successful at all in this league with how biased the game is against them.

  9. I kind of like the suggestion Romo or Nantz had and that it would stay with the Offense, but go out to the 20 yard line.

  10. It’s a shame the refs missed the helmet to helmet! A tough break for the Brownies. They will be back!

  11. It should result in loss of down & placed on 20 yard line. Offense retains ball. The penalty here is just so wacky that it makes the NFL 50 yard pass interference penalty look mild. If changed as suggested, The Defense is rewarded greatly for the play, the offense is penalized significantly, but unless it was made on a 4th down, no change of possession occurs. If on the 4th down, the ball goes to the 20 & defense takes over.

  12. Would have been great if they had enforced all of the rules at that point……considering the textbook definition of a hit to the WR head with the crown of the helmet.

  13. Um, that picture is a penalty. He defended has CLEARLY lowered his head and is leading with the crown of his helmet.

  14. Here in Cleveland we are just happy they put up a good fight. They way overplayed our expectations. We were hoping for .500 and they made it to the second round of the playoffs. Our day will come. It just wasn’t today. In Baker we trust. That kid can ball.

  15. If you’re going to mention the defensive effort, it’s only fair to mention that he left his feet and lead with the crown of his helmet. I’m not a Browns fan and didn’t have a big preference on who won, but that was a missed call that would have nullified the touchback.

  16. I don’t get the hate on the rule. Its always been the rule, everyone knows the rule, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it works against you, and you either love it or hate it depending on which team you’re rooting for.

    If you fumble, its always 50/50 something bad is going to happen, so why should it be any different in the end zone.

  17. switchplayer317 says:
    January 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm
    So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.

    Yea…the defense gets the turnover. Also, the ref looks the other way on the helmet to helmet hit.

  18. I agree Mike. I have felt the same way for years. It is the only place on the field you lose the possession to a fumble that is never recovered by the defense. Heck, Even if you have to bring it back some yards, it would still make more sense than the lame rule they have in place now.

  19. This is a bad rule. If the qb throws incomplete througgh the endzone the ball isnt given to the defense at the 20. Bottom line is that the Browns left other plays on the field too, unfortunately, this one stings more.

  20. Let’s not forget the rule for helmet to helmet contact that was ignored to create the fumble.

  21. Just about every rule favors the offense. I’m ok with a rule favoring the defense. Defensive players are making an effort that deserves to be rewarded too, and it’s not easy to force fumbles.

  22. It’s a fundamental rule of the game. Here’s an idea, don’t fumble out of the end zone.

  23. Sorenson is a big play guy and made a huge play but he should have been called for leading with his head or helmet to helmet contact.

    Higgins, on his previous catch, spun the ball at the feet of the defender. He was fortunate not to get a penalty for taunting.

    I miss the Barry Sanders model of letting a big play stand on itself and not grandstanding.

    Teams, coaches and players that win consistently put a priority on ball security.

  24. I would hope the NFL brass has enough sense to change this ridiculous rule. Some things just don’t make sense and this is one of them.

  25. switchplayer317
    Not sure what you mean. What effort are you referring to?
    In this case the “effort” (which was actually an illegal hit btw) was to stop the player from scoring. Which he did. But that reward should have been like any other place on the field. Ball being spotted as out of bounds where last progress was made by the offensive player.

  26. switchplayer317 says:
    January 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm
    So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.

    82 142 Rate This

    Not in this case, since it was a helmet to helmet effort.

  27. switchplayer317 says:
    January 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm
    So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.

    I’m assuming by “Defensive effort” you are referring to the play in which the defender led with the crown of his helmet and launched himself like a missile into the ball carriers helmet?

  28. Tuck rule-esque. Called properly on the field, it IS the rule, albeit a dumb one, but he has to no better, and seems his coach teaches exactly that. 4th and goal, sure, but it would’ve been 1st and goal at the 2-3 yard line, play smarter.

    And get rid of the rule in the off-season NFL, it’s dumb.

  29. So you’re blaming one player’s actions. Great coaching. Nothing like hanging out one specific player to cover up a couple of questionable play calls. He’s the same clown he was at Radnor. This team has peaked

  30. I think the bigger problem is the helmet to helmet hit not being reviewable. If Higgins doesn’t get speared in the head, he probably holds on to the ball. That should have been a personal foul and the Browns should have the ball at the point of the foul. Plus half the distance.

  31. It doesn’t penalize effort. It penalizes sloppiness. The end-zone is the ultimate ‘take care of the football’ spot on the field, and it still blows my mind how many players unnecessarily forget that (Higgins, Desean Jackson drops ball before goal line, etc).

  32. The rule needs to change. If no one recovers it in the endzone should be the offense ball at the point of the fumble or at 10 or 20 yard line with the offense keeping possession.

  33. The biggest problem with the rule is this: It penalizes effort.

    Since when does Fumbling = Effort?

    Fumbling is one of the most severe mistakes in football.

    The rule penalizes a mistake, not effort.

  34. The rule isn’t the problem and not sure why people are harping on it considering the fumble happened due to an illegal use of the helmet hit that the officials missed because they couldn’t keep up with the play. Personal foul penalties should be reviewable like they are in college. A face mask, horse collar or helmet to helmet aren’t “opinion rules” so no reason they shouldn’t be reviewable.

  35. “So no reward for the defensive effort? Come on man.”

    The reward was a no-call for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

    Mahomes was concussed on a far less egregious tackle that had negligible helmet to helmet contact.

    NFL is NOT concerned with player saftey. Just an illusion.

  36. I think the rule should stand as is. If they allow for spot of fumble then every single time someone gets close to the goal line they’ll reach out and fumble unless they have monster big hands.It will then open a can of worms on “did it cross the goal line before the ball was coming out of of his hand?”.

  37. It’s strange that some “defend” this rule, missing the obvious that defenses aren’t “rewarded” if the ball happens by chance to go OOB at the 1/2 yard line or back to the 5 yard line, but if by chance it skips forward into the end zone it magically becomes a turnover. That sort of arbitrary result is the epitome of a bad choice of rules. So why can’t we all embrace the super easy (barely an inconvenience) rule adjustment that would fix the issue: all forward fumbles by the offense that go out of bounds before being recovered by either side are returned to the spot of the fumble and retained by the offense. So, no more advancing the ball on the forward fumble OOB, and now the turnover rule for fumbles into the EZ OOB isn’t needed. Done and done!

  38. Its not a bad rule: why bail out an offensive player for a risky play? Hold onto the football.

    Defensive pass interference is the worst rule, and its not even close. 15 yards and an automatic 1st down is plenty; shouldn’t be a spot foul.

  39. Bring all red-zone out-of-bound fumbles back to the 20. No more awarding the ball to the defense if they don’t recover. No more awarding the ball to the offense on the 1-inch line if they don’t recover.

  40. Conversely, a kicker booming a kickoff out of the end zone is fine, but a kick going out at the one yard line is a penalty all the way out to the 45 for the receiving team.

    Which brings up the REAL worst rule in the NFL: a kick returner standing with one foot out of bounds turning a valid kick into an illegal one.

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