Initially, when I had heard that the Buccaneers were trying to cause a fumble when the Giants were in “victory formation,” I thought it was a tad bush league. Here’s what happened:
After giving it some more thought, I really don’t have a problem with it. The job of the an NFL coach is to use up every last percentage of winning probability possible. That’s all Greg Schiano was doing here. After all, that very play has worked for him 4 times in the last 5 years as the head coach at Rutgers. Of course he’s going to try it in the pros.
The argument that “You don’t do that in this league,” in my opinion, is nonsense. Why not “THIS” league? What’s so sacred in this league that it shouldn’t happen here, but it’s OK in any other league? We’re talking about a league here that had one team recording another team’s hand signals and using that footage to make adjustments at halftime. We’re talking about a league that had a team with a bounty system in place. It’s a league where all 32 teams put in countless hours intensely scouting over 1000 prospects every year, and draft about 8 of them. Every little competitive advantage that can be gained… will be gained. That’s just how it is, and frankly, it’s a little surprising more teams don’t try to knock the ball loose when the opposing team is in victory formation.
Want to eliminate that play? Make it a rule. When a punt returner wants to field a punt and guarantee that he won’t be hit, he waves his hand over his head. By doing so, he also waives the right to advance the ball once he fields it, and the play is blown dead after the fair catch. If the NFL wants to eliminate what the Buccaneers did on Sunday, they can make a rule in which the QB gives a clear signal that he plans on taking a knee at the snap. If the defense contacts any member of the offense, it’s a penalty. If the offense does anything other than kneel down, it’s a penalty on them. Until then, that play is fair game.