New Yorker - "The N.F.L.’s Rear Guard Is Angry About the “Tush Push”"
By Louisa Thomas
"His glutes were already famous for their exploits. At fifteen years old, he competed in power-lifting meets; after transferring to Oklahoma from Alabama, for his final collegiate season, he was videotaped squatting five hundred and eighty-five pounds, nearly triple his own weight, and double that of a defensive lineman. A nice ass is not a requirement for the quarterback position. (If it were, Peyton Manning wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.) But, in an era defined by the run-pass option, having a quarterback who can stay upright while absorbing and exerting force sure helps.
The trick is putting the ass to work. The Eagles were terrible during Hurts’s rookie year, and they began the next season 2–5. Then they started running, more than anyone else, and became a juggernaut. Hurts led all quarterbacks that season in rushing, with seven hundred and eighty-four yards. The following year, he ran for seven hundred and sixty, finished second in M.V.P. voting, and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. For some of those rushing yards, though—some of the most critical ones—he had help. At some point before the 2023 campaign, the Eagles’ coaches figured out that Hurts’s rear could do more than just make him a great runner. It could also be the perfect target for a big shove.
The modern “tush push” can be traced to a play that came at the end of a 2005 game between the University of Southern California and Notre Dame. Behind by three points, U.S.C. had the ball on Notre Dame’s goal line, with seven seconds left. The quarterback Matt Leinart ran straight into the wall of the Notre Dame defense, on a so-called Q.B. sneak, and appeared to have been stopped. But Reggie Bush, U.S.C.’s star running back, came in behind Leinart and shoved him into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. At the time, it was illegal in both college football and the N.F.L. to directly aid the runner—most sneaks involve the quarterback diving into a sliver of open space or trying to leap over the offensive and defensive lines—but no flag was thrown. The following year, the N.F.L. removed language forbidding pushing the ball-carrier forward. The N.F.L. has denied that this decision had anything to do with the Bush push; the idea, according to the league, was to save referees from difficult judgment calls, not to give teams the opportunity to try a new offensive strategy.
But, during the first game of the 2022 season, that’s precisely what the Eagles did. As time wound down, the Eagles clung to a 38–35 lead over the Detroit Lions, facing fourth-and-one. Hurts lined up for a sneak and was shoved forward just far enough for a first down. As the Eagles’ campaign went on, the rugby-style scrum on a Q.B. sneak became the team’s signature play. “Sneak,” it should be said, quickly became a misnomer: everyone knew what was coming—but no one could stop it even so. Philly fans soon gave the play a geographically appropriate name, dubbing it the “brotherly shove.” (Somehow there have been no prominent appeals to call the play a “bum rush.”) The Eagles used it forty-one times during the regular season and converted the short yardage thirty-seven times. During the Super Bowl, the Eagles went to it six times, twice scoring touchdowns.
This year, the Eagles have gone to the tush push a league-leading seventeen times, gaining yards on all but one attempt. Other teams are trying it, too, and experimenting with other techniques. The Q.B. sneak has never been so popular. According to The Athletic, there were two hundred and thirty-three sneaks in 2021, a twenty-first-century record that was surpassed the following year. This season, sneaks are on pace to break the record again. Many of these plays are the more traditional sneak—violent and messy, with bodies writhing everywhere. But other teams are trying to copy the Eagles. They are using their quarterbacks as battering rams."
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