The photographic evidence says otherwise.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has made a career out of serving as the link between the everyman and advanced scientific thought. So it stands to reason that when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt he had physics on his side of a controversial play, he would recruit the celeb scientist for the good of his team.
The play may be over, but the debate continues over Seattle QB’s controversial play in the team’s win over Philadelphia on Dec 3.
In the NFL, once a player has crossed the line of scrimmage with the ball, they are not allowed to throw the ball forward to a teammate. Backwards or horizontal passes, known as “laterals,” are allowed however. On a third down play, Russell Wilson crossed the line of scrimmage and tossed the ball to a teammate. The play was deemed legal, but even after viewing replays, many believe the play was a forward pass, and thus illegal.
Here’s the play in question so you may judge for yourself.
Russell Wilson with a lateral to Mike Davis! https://t.co/u7GVLzZ1gb— Steve Frederick (@Steve Frederick)1512360298.0
Speaking to 710 Radio in Seattle, Carroll stood by the legality of the play, and jokingly mentioned he had some calls into none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson to advance the scientific argument here. Finding a surrogate proponent is probably a good idea, because Carroll’s argument, though enthusiastic, is a little… vague… from a physics perspective.
Russ was the point guard and we saw him on the fast break. As a matter of a fact, I have, in fact, already put in my calls to Neil deGrasse Tyson. We’re talking physics now. I’m serious. I’m going to get an explanation about why that was a backwards lateral so that everybody understands. Because the ball was traveling at the speed that Russell was traveling.
NDT has yet to chime in on the matter, which is surprising because he seems to perk up at such opportunities. In his absence, we’re resigned to sorting this mess out on our own. Here’s the rule as cited by USA Today’s FTW:
It is a forward pass if:
a. the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent’s goal line) after leaving the passer’s hand(s); or
b. the ball first touches the ground, a player, an official, or anything else at a point that is nearer the opponent’s goal line than the point at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand(s).
c. When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional movement forward of his hand starts a forward pass.
This screengrab shoes the ball leaving Wilson’s hands very close to the 47-yard line.
We then see the receiver, Mike Davis, touch the ball further downfield, midway between the 48 and 49-yard-lines.
Based on the criteria listed in point “b” per the rules, we don’t need the laws of motion or physics to tell us that the receiver touched the ball further downfield than the QB threw it. As such, Neil can probably let this one be and focus on what he does best: charming the masses on Twitter.
The pudgy, lovable, mildly creepy, microscopic Tardigrade “WaterBear” would make a most excellent @Macys Thanksgiv… https://t.co/5Vr3o6AEI4— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@Neil deGrasse Tyson)1511405235.0