One of the big topics of discussion this week has been the talk around the league about getting hits on read option quarterbacks. The idea is that if a team thinks their quarterback is likely to take some unnecessary hits, they might be less inclined to run the read option, and more likely to stick to a more traditional offense (as if that means they will struggle!).
Jim Harbaugh addressed the top earlier this week, and expressed concern over how the rules regarding quarterbacks would be enforced. He wanted clarification and planned on addressing it with the referees before Sunday's game.
The NFL occasionally releases videos to the media in which they discuss various rules-related issues. This week, the league's VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, released a video that included an explanation of the roughing penalties as they relate to quarterbacks in read option plays. You can watch the video over at NFLCommunications.com.
Blandino stated that during the read option play, when we do not know who the runner is, both players will be treated as runners for purposes of the play. This means either can be tackled. For there to be confusion on who is the runner, the quarterback must be "presenting a running posture." If the quarterback is either running or presenting a running posture, roughing the pass penalties do not apply. If the quarterback is backing up or fading backward or standing still, he is protected by the passer rules.
And that really is a key point to all this. Vic Fangio addressed it in his own press conference on Thursday. He was asked about protecting the quarterback, and he said:
I think where people misinterpreted the rule a little bit, the quarterback has never gotten any special attention. The passer gets special attention. So, it just so happens that the quarterback is the passer 99.9 percent of the time. But, it's the passer, if you were to toss the ball to a halfback and he was going to throw a halfback pass, once he starts that action of throwing a pass, he gets the protection of a passer. So until the quarterback starts showing that he's a passer, he's just like a running back.
If you check out the video above (two-thirds of the way in), there is an example from the 49ers-Packers playoff game, and then a game involving Washington. I recommend giving it a watch.
Where it gets interesting is when a ref decides a player is still part of the play and allows a big hit, and then every fan of that player is yelling and screaming at their television. That is bound to happen, right?