Minkah Fitzpatrick penalty should start a broader discussion on ‘roughing the passer’ calls
The discussion around Minkah Fitzpatrick’s roughing-the-passer penalty on Sunday, according to CBS NFL rules expert Gene Steratore, extends beyond “good call/bad call.” Instead, the former NFL official and resident of Uniontown/Washington, Pennsylvania, claims that play should spark a larger discussion about what “roughing the passer” actually entails.
For those who haven’t seen the play, Fitzpatrick was penalised on a sack of Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during the Steelers’ 23-18 victory in Las Vegas on Sunday. Instead of having to convert a third-and-16 from the 24-yard line, the flag gifted the Raiders a new set of downs in the red zone.
And it caused a stir online among Steelers fans because it seemed that any helmet contact between Fitzpatrick and Garoppolo was inevitable given that the quarterback turned into the contact while bracing himself and Fitzpatrick’s collision with Garoppolo’s helmet coincided with the quarterback’s shoulder as well.
From Steratore’s perspective, Garoppolo switched from being a passer to a runner after realizing Fitzpatrick was approaching unimpeded on the blitz and adjusting his stance to avoid (or absorb) the impending impact. Therefore, did he lose any protections that were afforded to a passer in such circumstance, and can roughing the passer actually be deemed to have occurred?
“Initially, Garoppolo adopts a passing stance. Thus, he is a passer. In his weekly interview with WDVE on Tuesday morning, Steratore stated that he was given “all passing protection.” “However, as soon as the pocket begins to collapse, as he tucks the football away from his throwing stance, he sort of transforms into a runner, isn’t that right? In other words, he isn’t actually in the exposed standstill passing position that would normally afford him the necessary protection at that precise moment. Therefore, it is at that split-second when he transforms from a quarterback in the pocket in the passing stance to a human being who is (tucked) the ball now and just attempting to protect himself or get ready for impact. Upon doing so, then in my definition of that, now you become a runner.”
The threshold for what becomes an illegal hit then shifts, according to Steratore.
Therefore, Stertaore added, “the only punishment I could really have against you is if I hit you with a crown on my helmet, which would then be merely illegal use of the helmet since you’re really not a passer.
After then, you can assume that it is merely a semantic issue. In the end, the referee would undoubtedly rule that there had been perceived helmet contact or lowering of/leading with the helmet, which is what had first led to the official dropping the flag.
However, Steratore notes that a player who carries the ball against a player who is not carrying the ball vs a player in the act of throwing is more likely to be flagged for such an offense.
“His head and neck took a blow. He’s a passer, thus it’s acceptable to flag. However, being hit in the head while sprinting with a forearm or other object is a football injury, in my opinion. Therefore, that is where the confusion exists, according to Steratore.
DeMarvin Leal was found guilty of the offense, according to Steratore, regarding the contentious “leveraging” penalty that occurred during a field goal attempt by Vegas in the fourth quarter. One can argue whether such a little punishment was necessary in such a crucial circumstance, nevertheless.
Technically, it is a foul, according to Steratore. But if it’s not called, it’s not a ‘water-cooler play’ on Monday morning. Because it doesn’t, in my opinion, fall under the “is this big enough to do in this game?” category. Was there a significant impact on this play?
According to Steratore, if the Steelers managed to block the kick as the infringement was being committed, it would be a different story and it would have been evident to throw the flag because the infraction significantly changed the outcome of the play.