Every single year on January 19 the NFL world feels the need to remind everyone it’s the anniversary of the Tuck Rule game. This year that day was Saturday prior to the Conference Championship games. The first of those games ended in highly controversial fashion, with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis getting lit up by Nickell Robey-Coleman before the ball arrived and no flag thrown.
When is a catch not a catch?— FantasyFootballNerd (@ffnerd) January 21, 2019
When is a penalty not a penalty?
Seemed like such an easy call that even Nickell Robey-Coleman was looking for a flag that never came. pic.twitter.com/eUDKxkHlYE
A flag there would have ended the game and the Saints would have had first and goal and could have run out the clock, added the game-winning field goal and headed to the Super Bowl. Instead the Rams were able to get the ball back with enough time to drive down field and tie the game up and win it in overtime.
Then Drew Brees was hit by Donte Fowler has he threw and Brees was intercepted by John Johnson. The Rams took over and moved in to field goal range to win it.
It all played out eerily like the Tuck Rule game.
Much like the strip sack by Charles Woodson that was wiped away by the questionable application of a terrible NFL rule that has since been removed from the books, it’s a helpless and infuriating feeling for a coach. Far more than any anniversary reminders, it’s heartbreaking ends like that which bring back feelings of the worst call in NFL history.
Four year before the Tuck Rule debacle, Jon Gruden and Sean Payton were on the Eagles’ coaching staff together — Gruden as Offensive Coordinator and Payton as QB coach. So, Gruden reached out to his friend Sean Payton to talk about what he saw as a shared experience.
“Sean and I worked together a long time ago,” Gruden said Tuesday. “I was involved in a playoff game that ended in quite dramatic fashion and so has he now. So, he and I will have a couple hotdogs and a couple glasses of coke here and talk about things in the future, I’m sure.”
Payton and Gruden both have Super Bowl rings as head coaches. Gruden got his the very next season as head coach of the Buccaneers against his former team. But that doesn’t take any of the sting away from the season that was taken from them.
“You don’t ever get over that,” Gruden said. “That’s the last time that team will ever be together. It will never be the same. Those guys fought as long and hard as they could and it will sting forever.”
I think the players and the fans would say the same. At least the Saints have a Super Bowl in recent memory to ease the pain. The Raiders have three years of seasons that ended with gut punches followed by 15 years of utter franchise futility. And greats like Tim Brown and Rich Gannon never got their Super Bowl ring. That pain won’t just go away.