For the past few years, some coaches have complained to the league that officials extend protections to quarterbacks well beyond the limits spelled out in the rules.
When quarterbacks decide to run the ball — and specifically once they cross the line of scrimmage — they lose all protections, other than those that apply to any other player who would be trying to advance the ball (specifically, no horse-collar tackles, and no forceful contact with the helmet).
The problem has been that, sometimes, officials still regard those quarterbacks as behind-the-line passers. As a result, defensive players do, too.
It’s been happening for several years. And multiple quarterbacks take advantage of it. From a sideline stutter step that gets the defensive player to pull up before the quarterback darts forward for another five or 10 years to catching a defensive back flat-footed with a fake slide before bowling him over to the 2019 AFC championship game during which Tennessee defenders seemed to be caught in slow motion by their reluctance to hit Patrick Mahomes the way they would hit a running back, quarterbacks have gotten de facto kid-glove treatment.
That’s supposedly ending this year, we’re told. Supposedly. As one source recently remarked, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
So will we. When certain players have so many added protections when they are behind the line of scrimmage, how can the officials be expected to flip the switch on the fly?
We’ll see if they can. And we’ll see if that results in quarterbacks opting when running along the sideline to get out of bounds more quickly or to throw the ball away in lieu of running.