The Philadelphia Eagles had a fantastic season, coming up just short of winning another Super Bowl. One area in which they were particularly excellent involved fourth and short situations. The Eagles developed a specific approach that proved successful on many occasions.
Many fans and members of sports media are divided over the play and its fairness. Now the NFL is looking at its success and may enact rules that could impact it. Let’s look at the Eagles’ controversial “push sneak,” how the NFL may rule on its legality, and how that might affect other teams.
What is the Eagles’ fourth and short push sneak?
The Eagles have a talented quarterback in Jalen Hurts. While the young passer can certainly hurt (pun intended) teams with his arm, his legs are almost equally dangerous. Hurts is a talented runner, and the Eagles have taken advantage of that.
Often, the Eagles will run a QB sneak with Hurts on fourth and short. They were devastatingly effective with this play and formation. According to CBS Sports‘ Jeff Kerr, the Eagles converted this play with Hurts 92.3% of the time.
It’s common for teams to use a quarterback sneak in short-yardage situations. But the Eagles redefined the play by having other players push Hurts from behind to help convert the first down. Their success is due to more than just the play call, however. It’s due to Hurts’ strong ability as a rusher and the Eagles’ masterful offensive line play.
The play has been so successful that the league is discussing whether it should be legal.
The NFL competition committee is taking a look at the push sneak
According to The Athletic‘s comparison of the formation to a rugby play, the NFL Competition Committee discussed the strategy at the NFL Scouting Combine. NJ.com points out that 24 of 32 NFL owners have to vote against the play for it to be made illegal.
Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman defended the practice, stating, “All I know is everything we’re doing is legal, and it works, and just because people do something that’s really good doesn’t mean it should be outlawed.”
The first part of what Roseman said is true. The Eagles have been excellent using a play affectionately called the “Tush Push.” But the second part about it not being outlawed is up in the air. If the play is allowed to stand, the question becomes: Will other teams use it, and if so, will they do so with the same effectiveness as Philadelphia?
How other NFL teams may use the push sneak
The Eagles had a great season for more reasons than simply being able to take advantage of the rules on fourth and one. But do NFL owners want to do away with this play because it is against the spirit of the game, or are they upset the Eagles have been so good at utilizing this formation?
If the play isn’t made illegal, expect other teams to imitate the Eagles’ push sneak. Other teams, such as the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens, noted the play’s effectiveness. Quarterbacks with effective running ability, like Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, would likely thrive using a similar formation.
The fact is what the Eagles are doing isn’t cheating; they’re playing within the rules. But other questions about whether the play is good for the game are legitimate.
It makes the game more closely resemble rugby than American football. Good or bad, that’s an accurate statement. The issue will be whether NFL owners believe this is a direction the game should continue to head in.
What do you think of the push sneak? Should it stay, or should it go?