Could force-out rule change affect play calls?

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

On my first stop on my first trip around the AFC South, I asked Tony Dungy about the abolition of the force out-rule judgment. Receivers have to get both feet down in bounds, or passes will be ruled incomplete.

A piece of Dungy's answer made my ears perk up: "I think it'll change where you throw the ball, definitely."

"I think it will be bigger for the offense, just having to understand that some of those jump balls you threw on the sideline and the things right on the boundary may not be completions this year," Dungy said. "But I like the rule. I think it will be much easier to officiate consistently. And you won't have those plays that get reviewed or maybe don't get reviewed -- is it a force out? Isn't it? What constitutes that? I think everyone knows now you have to get two feet down and that will make it easier."

I was surprised that he suggested the rule change could actually impact some play calls, and left eager to see what the other three coaches had to say on the subject.

But Gary Kubiak, Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio all lined up on the other side. Each said he don't envision the change influencing any decisions regarding pass plays.

  • Kubiak: "I don't see how much it's going to change. It takes a judgment call out of the game. I think they are trying to make it pretty concrete. We'll see. I think it's one of those things where one year there may be zero that it affected and the next year there may be 15 because you changed the rule, so let's wait and see."

  • Del Rio: "It's a handful of plays over the course of the year. I think it's going to be one of those rules that's going to make a whole lot of sense. We're going to have less confusion. It's pretty clean. You either get two down or you don't get two down. You either get two down and possess the ball or not... As long as there is not a catch and then tackle and carry, he's got to get his feet down. No I don't think it changes the game of football at all as we know it."

  • Fisher: "I think it's a good rule. We [on the competition committee] went back and looked at dozens of plays that were ruled force outs, half of them were and half of them weren't. We went back and looked at dozens that were not ruled force outs, half of them were and half of them weren't. It's a hard play to officiate. So we just eliminated it. You either get the feet in or your don't. It's a reward for a good play if you can get him out of bounds. But there is also an element of forward progress involved, so if the guy is five yards from the boundary and makes the catch, you essentially stop his progress, it's going to be ruled a catch. You're not going to have a situation where you take a guy from here and run him and dump him out of bounds."

Among players, defensive backs certainly feel like a rule alteration has finally gone their way.

"I think it's a good rule," injured Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "A lot of things have gone against us as DBs in the past. To get one of these rules on our side is a good thing. If he's in the air, I'm going, I'm pushing him out, I'm doing everything I can."