ALBANY, NY – As a gridiron guy giving an outsider’s view of rugby, most weeks – when the time comes to write my column – I usually Google the phrases rugby, rugby & football or American rugby. Something along those lines. Then I try to put my spin on the topic.
Sometimes there’s a new piece on Jarryd Hayne and how he may or may not sign with an NFL team (in case you’re wondering he hasn’t yet) or there’s something about concussions. However, this week I found a rather interesting column. I stumbled upon Australian columnist Peter FitzSimmons latest work, “Rugby back line moves could light up the NFL.”
FitzSimmons discusses a variety of different issues in sports in this particular column, but what caught my eye was how he talked about rugby’s impact on football. His first example was about the way the Seattle Seahawks tackle. Their coaches teach a rugby-style tackle.
“Rugby players take the head out of the game,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “We practice this without helmets, without pads… Part of it is for safety, as they get a lot fewer concussions and neck injuries this way, and part is the effectiveness in bringing a man down.”
Now this is nothing new for RWU readers. We’ve pointed that out here many times. But What was interesting was what Fitz Simmons wrote next:
“Still, for my money, there is one more major innovation that NFL can take from rugby, and that is lateral passing. Occasionally they do it, but possession is so prized in NFL that the culture is that once you have the ball on the fly, you hold on to it until the brutes bring you down. It would be a fascinating contest to see an international rugby backline with ball in hand, go up against an NFL defensive team and see how they’d go. Would they score a try every time? Nuh? But I reckon they’d do 10 yards most times!”
This idea is rather intriguing, but at the end of the day almost implausible. Aside from an option, lateral passes almost always occur in a desperation/trick play. Not to mention, a lateral during in option is almost a completely different motion than in rugby. Option laterals occur with the flick of the wrist, while in rugby they do not.
Lateral passes are only effective in football through an option play, which only has one lateral, or backwards (lateral) pass from a quarterback, which also has just one lateral. The types of laterals that Fitz Simmons is referring to wouldn’t work this day and age.
Rugby is played more in open space, while players in the NFL are all close to the line of scrimmage. There isn’t enough room for multiple laterals to be effective in football.
And unlike rugby, there are stoppages at the end of every play in football and both the defense and offense get set before each snap. If the running back was handed the ball and then lateraled it to a wide receiver or another player, a corner back or outside linebacker would be there waiting.
Lateral passing works in rugby because of the pace of the game. Stoppages in play occur much less frequently than in football, allowing offenses to move the ball laterally much more effectively.
What do you think about rugby-style lateral passes in football? Would it work?
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