Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett had college football fans and the internet buzzing over his fake-QB slide and subsequent touchdown run in a 45-21 smashing of Wake Forest. Let’s be honest, in real-time, this might be one of the illest plays of the college or pro football season. But there is a conversation that needs to happen about the legitimacy and safety surrounding a play like this.
The QB slide rule was implemented in the NFL during the mid-1980s to protect passers who became runners from some of the bone-crushing hits that were customary in football back then. The NCAA didn’t officially adopt a similar rule until much later in the 2010s. After the fallout of Pickett’s play, it seems like a good time for the NCAA to review this, which could potentially result in a ban on fake QB slides.
A move like Pickett’s is difficult to accomplish and not one that just anybody can pull off successfully. But now that it’s happened, you know there’s a whole bunch of high school and college players waiting for the opportunity to try out this maneuver the first chance they get. That’s where the NCAA reviewing this play becomes significant.
This move involved an amazing amount of agility, balance, and body control by Pickett. Still, the way athletes train today from the eighth grade on, there are probably dozens of other QBs that can duplicate the same play and possibly make it look better. I don’t think any real change will come from this until after something crazy happens on one of these fake slides, so we’re undoubtedly going to be seeing more of it very soon.
On the flip side, we have defenders who have been forced to change their mindset to avoid a costly 15-yard penalty. By circumventing this rule, QBs are essentially making a mockery of this rule while thumbing their nose at officials and defenses in the process. The offense knows the rules are more in their favor than ever, and the fake slide goes too far in taking advantage of that.
But by allowing a move like this to exist, the NCAA will have acknowledged that they take no issue with players (Qbs in this instance) gaming the system. The sliding “defenseless player” rule protects players who are giving themselves up to the defense. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a clever heads-up play that I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of already. But all it takes is for one defender to expect this move, not let up, therefore colliding with the QB and doing some major damage in the process.
Rules and laws usually get changed after the fact in our society. We talk about being proactive instead of reactive, but large, powerful entities like the NCAA rarely take the opportunity to do so when it’s presented. The NCAA could step in and say no to this type of play before one of these players is seriously injured trying to make top plays on SportsCenter. I honestly doubt they will, though. They’ll likely review it (well, maybe) and do nothing about it. Not yet, anyway.
We’ve seen fake spike plays and fake kneel-downs, but I can’t remember a fake slide in the manner Pickett performed against Wake Forest. Dan Marino is the first QB I can remember faking the spike late in a game, and he didn’t even fake the motion of spiking the ball. What Marino did was motion to his teammates that he would spike the ball on the next play as they’re running to the line of scrimmage. But upon taking the snap from center, Marino never actually faked the spike; he simply stood up, paused briefly to freeze the defense, then fired to the end zone for a TD, catching the Jets entirely off guard. I don’t have a huge issue with this play, but it could be argued that Marino took advantage of a rule here but not nearly in the same way Pickett did with his non-slide.
The difference in those trick plays, as opposed to the open field fake slide, is just that. A fake spike or kneel doesn’t occur in the open field with 250-pound (or more) defenders flying around at full speed in pursuit of the QB. It’s easier to protect the QB behind the line of scrimmage upon snapping the ball than it is once they become a ball carrier at midfield and fake sliding to dupe the defense. Eventually, there’s going to be an ugly collision that we’re all going to say could have been avoided. If other QBs speak out as to the safety factor involved in a play like this, we could see some type of change quicker than usual. I’m not talking about other college QBs either, although that could help. But if current and former notable NFL QBs speak out against this fake-out, that could persuade the NCAA to make a ruling on this sooner than later. Short of that, I see the NCAA doing what they usually do, which isn’t much of anything.
Original source here