NFL's former head ref opposes Tuck Rule

Over a decade of dominance, we can look back on several pivotal New England Patriots moments and wonder "What if?"

What if Bill Belichick hadn't walked away from the New York Jets? What if the Patriots hadn't taken a late-round flier on Tom Brady? What if Eli Manning hadn't spun his way out of traffic before throwing to David Tyree?

Then there's the Tuck Rule.

What if Brady's incomplete pass had been ruled a fumble?

The Patriots almost certainly would have lost to the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs and would not have won their first Super Bowl. And without that first championship, maybe the course of history is changed throughout the 2000s.

It's something to think about. Mike Pereira is one man has continued to mull the Tuck Rule in the years since. The NFL's former director of officiating has come out against the rule that states when a quarterback in the act of passing and loses the ball while making any forward hand motion -- even while bringing the ball to his body -- it's considered a pass attempt.

Pereira, an officiating analyst for Fox Sports, was compelled to write about the Tuck Rule in his weekly column (via Toni Monkovic of "The Fifth Down Blog" at NYTimes.com).

Pereira watched Brady's former backup, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, benefit from the Tuck Rule against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. A video review overturned an apparent Ravens fumble recovery.

Pereira wrote:

This was clearly a correct reversal, but is it time to look at this rule because Cassel was not attempting to pass the ball when it came loose. By instinct, referee Mike Carey ruled this a fumble because that's what it appeared to be.

I think it's time to change this rule. A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball. If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be a fumble.

I would support a rule change, although it took me a long time to get to this point. I'm sure it's no consolation to the many Raiders fans around the country.

And I'm sure if the rule ever does get changed the Patriots would hand back their first Lombardi Trophy.

What do you think would have happened with the Patriots had they not caught that break in January 2002?