I love the smell of a head coach napalming officials in the morning, However, when the coach’s complaints miss the mark, it’s not very satisfying at all. (And it could get expensive for the coach.)
On Sunday, Panthers coach Matt Rhule groused after the loss to the Browns that quarterback Jacoby Brissett should have been flagged for intentional grounding given the manner in which he executed the clock-stopping spike that set up the game-winning 58-yard field goal.
I saw Rhule’s quotes. I looked at the rulebook. I talked to people who know more than I do about interpreting and applying the rulebook than I do. (It’s a low bar.)
The key language appears under Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1, Items 3:
“Stopping Clock. A player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.”
Also relevant is Item 4:
“Item 4. Delayed Spike. A passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him, even though he is under no pressure from defensive rusher(s).”
Along the way, I realized a fairly important fact. I had yet to watch the play. So I did.
Brissett immediately began a continuous throwing motion to spike the ball. He spiked it quickly. Also, while not moving his left foot, he took a big step backward with his right foot. It made the play look odd and unconventional. But it complied with Item 3.
Also, Item 4 (which some have been quoting) doesn’t apply. There was no delay in the passing action for strategic purposes. There was no delay at all.
The simplest explanation is that Rhule is feeling the heat. That’s skewing his perspective, for good reason. He needs to win enough games to remain employed. Last year, he started 3-0 and eventually had to wonder whether his buyout would save him. (It did.) This year has a distinct up-or-out vibe for Rhule.
UPDATE 10:42 a.m. ET, 9/13/22: Forget all of that and read this. The end-zone angle reveals a quick but clear fake spike from Brissett. The Browns should have been penalized.