Bad news for NFL fans who got sick of the Eagles’ infamous quarterback sneak in which players flanking Jalen Hurts pushed him forward: The “two-cheek sneak” is no longer just an NFL design. It has infected the USFL as well.
The play, which is designed to give the quarterback extra momentum in short-yardage situations, became a hot-button topic ahead of the Eagles’ Super Bowl date with the Chiefs due to its apparent circumvention of the rules, such as not pulling players forward with momentum.
The play made an appearance in the first two USFL games of the season Saturday, with its debut coming, fittingly, from the Philadelphia Stars.
It was affectionately dubbed “The new Philly Special” by the Stars’ Twitter account.
— Philadelphia Stars (@USFLStars) April 15, 2023
The New Jersey Generals then attempted it against the Birmingham Stallions in the second game of the day, but they were unsuccessful in converting.
Will the two-cheek sneak remain in the NFL?
The Eagles’ notorious play is a controversial subject within the league.
“Not one team thinks it’s fair,” an NFL analytics staffer told Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic in January. “Every team has complained, but you’re allowed to push so basically they reinforced the rules so they didn’t have to talk about it again.”
Fox NFL rules analyst Dean Blandino believes there’s a good chance the play fades away.
“I think the league is going to look at this, and I’d be shocked if they don’t make a change,” Blandino, who is also vice president of officiating for the XFL, said, per The 33rd Team. “It amounts to a rugby scrum. The NFL wants to showcase the athleticism and skill of our athletes. This is just not a skillful play. This is just a tactic that is not an aesthetically pleasing play, and I think the competition committee is going to take a look at it.’’
The NFL’s Rules Committee did not propose a rule change when it met in March, so for the time being at least, it’s safe in the NFL.
Will the two-cheek sneak remain in the USFL?
This is trickier to answer. The USFL is a deeply reactive league, so it may come down to public sentiment.
Last season, the USFL changed its rules to include a running clock in the first and third quarters to shorten games. Would there be a midseason rule change this year if there is a negative response to the play on social media?
Perhaps the USFL’s head of officiating, Mike Pereira, will address the sneak and rule one way or the other. With it making an appearance in the first two games of the season, it’s clear teams are happy to run it for as long as they can.