As PFT noted in August, the NFL changed the officiating procedures for how to treat a ball carrier who gives himself up, meaning this year, a quarterback who dives head-first should be treated the same way as a quarterback who slides feet-first. That change got little attention, but it was a major difference, as Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel found out the hard way on Sunday.
On third-and-goal at the Chargers’ 1-yard line, Driskel rolled out to his right, looked for an open receiver, and then saw he had room to run and ran toward the end zone, where he dove forward and stuck the ball over the goal line. The official on the field ruled touchdown.
But on replay, it was determined that Driskel had given himself up on the play, and he was down before crossing the goal line, just as he would have been if he had gone into a feet-first slide. NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron said in his weekly officiating video that the rules were applied correctly, and a quarterback who dives into the end zone isn’t going to get a touchdown under those circumstances.
“The ruling on the field is a touchdown,” Riveron said. “We communicate with the referee and he does affirm the fact that this quarterback dives and therefore gives himself up, and any time a player gives himself up by diving, sliding or any other attempt to give himself up — and this includes diving for the goal line and/or the line to gain — once you dive and give yourself up and any body part other than the hand or foot touches the ground, even though you are not touched by an opponent, you are deemed down and the play is over.”
Adding additional protections to keep quarterbacks from getting hurt is fine, but when the rules change so that a quarterback who’s trying to run for a touchdown is “protected” from doing so, that’s something else. The NFL should re-think this rule. A dive toward the goal line should be treated as a player trying to score, not a player giving himself up.