The NFL’s VP of officiating talked about the rules regarding hitting a read option quarterback recently and this is being treated as though it is some sort of change.
In an officiating video distrubted to the media, NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said the following:
"When the quarterback puts the ball in the running back’s belly, the referee doesn’t know who has the football, the defender doesn’t know who has the football, so if it’s a bang-bang split second, than yes, he can hit the quarterback. But if the quarterback has clearly handed off the football, and he’s standing still, of fading backwards, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted, and that doesn’t matter if it’s a read-option quarterback or a classic drop-back quarterback. If they’re standing still or fading backward after the ball has left their hand, they cannot be unnecessarily contacted.”
This does not represent a change. According to Mike Shanahan this ruling and interpretation are at least a decade old.
“There's not [anything new] but I think they had to clarify because in the past nobody has run any type of option in the National Football League,” he said on Friday. “But about 10 years ago, 12 years ago there was talk after the quarterback handed the ball off, if he faked it, could he be hit. The answer was he could. So any time you carry out a fake with the quarterback you are susceptible to taking a shot. So what they ask you to do, if you do fake it, to put your hands up then they're not allowed to hit you.”
The Redskins had this policy clarified after their game against Cincinnati last year. Robert Griffin III was hit three times after he handed the ball off. It was explained to the team that as long as it looked like the quarterback might still have the ball he was fair game to get hit. But if he made it clear he no longer had the ball by, say, putting his hands up the defenders ran the risk of getting penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.
In the following game against Tampa Bay, Griffin did put up his hands in appropriate situations and he didn’t get hit after getting rid of the ball. For the rest of the season he rarely was hit when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.
The rule adheres to good common sense. If the quarterback is practicing deception and is acting as though he has the ball the defense should have every right to tackle him. If he clearly does not have it then hitting him is just taking a cheap shot and should be penalized.
So relax. Griffin is in no more danger than he was last year. Teams will undoubtedly take cheap shots at him from time to time but if he does he should draw a yellow flag and 15 free yards for the Redskins.