Anatomy of A Sham
Here is the relevant excerpt from an ESPN report (laughingly titled "Odd, but correct, call brings confusion") on the now-famous corkscrew: “It is illegal to intentionally fumble a ball forward and, by rule, an illegal forward fumble is an incomplete pass. That makes it a dead ball. A 5-yard penalty is then assessed from the spot.”
Allow me to throw my red flag. Jackson may have deliberately fumbled the ball, but he did not intentionally fumble the ball. Big difference. Do you think he intended to fumble the ball? Of course not. He intended to show off. He did not intend to fumble.
This dates back to the Holy Roller, after which the rules were changed to make it illegal to fumble the ball forward in an attempt to gain unfair yardage. Jackson's spike was not an intentional act to move the ball forward. Nor was it a pass, by the way.
On that note, I received an insightful email from Butch. The email was actually addressed to Commissioner Robert Goodall, Supervisor of Officials Mike Pereira, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who was a source for the aforementioned report. Following are excerpts from the ESPN report, with Butch’s comments in caps:
While the call was questioned on the field, NFL Supervisor of Officials Mike Pereira confirmed to ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the call was correct -- and not without precedent (PRECEDENT WAS THAT THE CALL WAS RULED A FUMBLE, NOT ILLEGAL FORARD PASS).
It is illegal to intentionally fumble a ball forward and, by rule, an illegal forward fumble is an incomplete pass. That makes it a dead ball. A 5-yard penalty is then assessed from the spot. (WHAT ABOUT THE LOSS OF DOWN?)
Jackson spinning the ball forward when he was not down by contact constituted an intentional illegal forward fumble and thus an illegal forward pass. Had he spun it backward, it would have been a live fumble.
A similar call was made when Plaxico Burress did the same thing with the Steelers on Oct. 1, 2000. (THAT CALL WAS RULED A FUMBLE)
Butch then consults the NFL's own Digest of Rules regarding the Forward Pass, which contains the following rule and the associated penalty for breaking the rule:
3. The passer must be behind his line of scrimmage (Loss of down and five yards, enforced from the spot of pass).
Hmm, what's missing from this equation....LOSS OF DOWN, PERHAPS!? Someone will come in here and say, well, Jackson got a first down, so while the original pass from Rivers to Jackson was on fourth down, the downs were reset with the completion for a first down. Okay, then why wasn't it SECOND down after that, instead of first down? They spent ten minutes getting this wrong. It takes one minute to review the Digest of Rules regarding the forward pass.
So, let’s look at this the NFL/ESPN way. Say it’s 4th down and 10 on the Raiders’ own 20 yard line, with a minute to go against the Chargers. Aaron Brooks hits Randy Moss in the flat. Moss sprints upfield all the way to the one-yard line before tripping and hitting the turf. He thinks that he’s been tripped up by a defender, so he gets up and proceeds to corkscrew the ball into the ground in celebration. The Chargers recover. According to this new "correct" precedent, the Raiders are hit with a five-yard penalty for “illegal forward pass.” It’s now first and goal for the Raiders at the Chargers’ six-yard line, correct?
Yeah, right. I’m sure we’d get that call. Right after pigs fly and the devil serves ice cream.
P.S. According to Butch's email, here are the relevant email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. If you write, I recommend being civil and focusing on the facts while reminding them that the Raider Nation is watching.
P.P.S. See Stick 'Em's stick for more on the Burress precedent.