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Could complaints lead the NFL to outlaw the Eagles’ QB sneak ‘tush push’ tactic?

The Eagles know the "tush push" is legal and successful. Their opponents can't stop it. But a rule change off a vote from NFL owners could do just that.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts  picks up a first down with a quarterback sneak during the third quarter in Super Bowl LVII against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, AZ.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts picks up a first down with a quarterback sneak during the third quarter in Super Bowl LVII against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, AZ.Read moreDavid Maialetti / Staff Photographer

INDIANAPOLIS – As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That seemed to be the overall sentiment from Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who was peppered with questions regarding the legality of the team’s success with the quarterback sneak earlier in the week at the NFL scouting combine.

The Eagles, who converted on 90.5% (29 of 32) of their QB sneaks in 2022, often supported Jalen Hurts with an assortment of teammates from behind — a group of two and sometimes even three players — who pushed Hurts forward. Across the league, the ultra-successful play earned the nickname “The Tush Push.”

“We’ll do whatever the rules say to do, but we had a lot of fun coming up with those plays,” Sirianni said.

“I thought it was good for the game. Obviously, I’m biased. We had a lot of success with it.”

Some teams have expressed concern with the Eagles’ renowned QB-sneak success. Those in favor of omitting the “tush push” have pointed toward the optics of the play, as it often appears as a rugby-like scrum with all 22 players piled on top of each other and Hurts advancing forward with assistance.

The NFL competition committee is expected to revisit the legality of the QB sneak later this month when league meetings are scheduled to be held in Phoenix. The 32 owners will vote on any potential rule changes and proposals at that time. It should be noted, though, at this moment, there is no official rule proposal associated with the QB sneak.

“I think it’s cool anytime someone’s able to execute something when the opponent knows it’s coming,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I don’t care who you are. That would be attempted by every team if they could guarantee the success at the rate that the Philadelphia Eagles were able to do it at. ... It’s not the coolest highlight-reel football to watch, but nonetheless — I very much appreciate what it takes to excel at that.”

» READ MORE: ‘We just destroyed you’: Eagles’ unmatched success with the quarterback sneak is no coincidence

McDaniel then joked that he hoped his comments wouldn’t be considered “tampering,” considering the QB sneak is such a hot topic.

Said one high-level NFL executive, who requested anonymity: “Rather than complain about it, maybe teams should practice perfecting the [QB sneak] like [the Eagles].”

Pushing a teammate has been legal since 2005. At the time, the competition committee, with officials in mind, clarified run-blocking rules and omitted language that prohibited pushing a ballcarrier from behind.

Over the last 17-plus years, teams have used pushing, albeit sparingly, as a method to convert on short-yardage scenarios. Throughout his storied tenure with the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady often was pushed from behind by multiple teammates in an effort to move the chains.

“[Hurts] is so good right now, they want to take out the quarterback sneak because he’s unstoppable,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said during his appearance on the Big Play Slay podcast. “I ain’t never seen somebody change rules around the league, but just for Tom Brady. So obviously he might be the Tom Brady-level right now ... he’s going to be one of the best to do it. We have the NFL trying to change rules ... because they can’t stop him.”

There has arguably been no team like the Eagles — and also a sneaker like Hurts, who possesses incredible lower-body strength for a quarterback and squats up to 600 pounds. By the end of this past season, other playoff contenders, including the Bills, Bengals, and Jaguars, imitated the Eagles’ tush-push formations during their QB sneak attempts.

“Until they change the rules, it’s going to be part of our game,” former Eagles and current Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “Obviously it’ll be a topic at the league meetings. The competition committee, I’m sure, is looking at a lot of data right now. [Jaguars quarterback] Trevor Lawrence’s length helps, he was able to dive over the pylon for a couple of touchdowns and also some valuable third- and fourth-and-1 situations. We have to get better as a football team; it’s a valuable part of anybody’s offense.

“You saw what Philly did and has done with their offensive line and Jalen Hurts. That’s a great example of using the tools and resources you have to execute that play.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll added: “This is an opportunity for the game to evolve. “I didn’t [initially] understand or didn’t realize how far they had gone with their commitment in terms of it looking like a rugby play in a scrum. I thought that was an evolutionary opportunity for the league. The fact that they’re entertaining the thought of maybe not allowing it to happen in some form or fashion, I get that because they’re clinging to what we know and may not be willing to go where we don’t know.”

Carroll also pointed to how potentially banning the “tush push” could affect how play callers dial up their plays during earlier downs. With the QB sneak in mind, Sirianni and former offensive coordinator Shane Steichen were able to call plays on first and second down with confidence they could convert anywhere on the field if they positioned themselves into a short-yardage situation.

When Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was asked about the QB sneak, he glanced at a nearby team official as he tip-toed his way in expressing his passionate feelings regarding the play.

“All I know is everything we’re doing is legal and it works,” Roseman said. “And just because people do something that’s really good, doesn’t mean it should be outlawed.”