Jon Gruden Still Thinks Tom Brady Fumbled On The Tuck Rule Play

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Jon Gruden’s most recent game as head coach of the Oakland Raiders helped breed two NFL fixtures of the past 16 years: the New England Patriots‘ dynasty and the Tuck Rule.

It can all be traced back to one play: Charles Woodson’s hit on first-year starter Tom Brady in the closing minutes of the teams’ divisional-round matchup. The ball came loose and the Raiders pounced on it. A recovery, up 13-10 with 1:43 remaining, would mean certain victory for Oakland.

But after review, citing a rule that had been in place since 1999, officials ruled Brady had thrown an incomplete pass.

In the remaining time, the Patriots rallied for a game-winning touchdown, then bested their next two opponents to claim the first of five Super Bowls under Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

Gruden, who’d be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following offseason and just recently rejoined the Raiders as head coach, is still mad about the ruling.

“Brady fumbled that ball,” Gruden said at his re-introductory press conference on Tuesday. “… For my career to end that night in New England, it still ticks me off. I’m so thrilled to be back here. I hope people understand the emotion inside. I feel there’s unfinished business. I also feel a lot of loyalty and I feel a lot of responsibility to get the Raiders going again. It’s been a while since we consistently performed at a high level. That’s all I care about.”

In 2013, NFL team owners voted to eliminate the Tuck Rule. Here’s how it used to read:

When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.

And here’s the new rule:

If the player loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, or if the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft abstained from the vote.