Nothing in the game-changing 1906 rulebook was more hotly debated than the forward pass. The traditionalists on the Rules Committee wailed, “It’ll sissify the game!” “It’ll turn football into roundball!” (aka basketball). So, to cripple and kill the forward pass in its rookie season, they hit it with strict rules and penalties.
- If the ball is passed over the line of scrimmage within 5 yards of each side of the center, it’s a turnover to the opponents from the spot the pass was thrown. (The 5-yard rule explains the 5-yard grid in the “gridiron” photo above.)
- A ball thrown across the goal line on the fly is a touchback for the defenders. (End zone catches? No way.)
- A forward pass hitting the ground without being touched by a player of either side is a turnover from where the ball was thrown. (Grounding, intentional or not, = turnover!)
- A forward pass thrown out of bounds? Turnover. (When “throw it away” meant it.)
Despite all the flack thrown at the forward pass in its first season, the Rules Committee got one thing right: From the ’05 season to the ’06 season, football deaths dropped from 18 to 11. The game was much safer!
Next: Dibs on the “first” spiral pass is all spin!