Even though football is popular, there are a lot of rules that make it hard for newcomers to understand. One good example is the penalty for being grounded on purpose.
The rules for intentional grounding also change depending on whether the game is being played at the college or national level.
You’ve come to the right place if you’ve been trying to figure out what intentional grounding is all about.
Part of a football coach’s job is to explain complicated rules in a way that anyone can understand, not just players and die-hard fans.
This article is all about that very thing. I’ve talked about everything, from what the rule means to why it exists in the first place.
Intentional Grounding – The Definition
The NFL says that an intentional grounding foul happens when a quarterback throws a forward pass that has no chance of being caught and is about to lose yards because of pressure from the defence.
If you want to know what it means to say “without a realistic chance of completion,” it’s easy. A pass that is thrown toward an open receiver and lands near him or her has a good chance of being caught.
So basically, the intentional grounding rule is used when the quarterback (QB) is between the two tackles (inside the pocket area) and throws the ball where no wide receiver can get to it.
To avoid being tackled behind the line of scrimmage, the quarterback can only throw the ball when he’s outside the tackle box and the ball goes beyond the line of scrimmage. Or if the quarterback is hit as he is getting ready to throw the ball.
Why Does The Intentional Grounding Penalty Exist?
Even though football rules can sometimes seem arbitrary, there is always a good reason for each one. And the rule about intentional grounding is the same.
Think about how hard it would be for the defence to get a sack or a turnover if the quarterback could throw a pass anywhere on the football field.
If the quarterback wasn’t limited by intentional grounding, he might be able to make an unlimited number of long plays.
Every time the defence put pressure on the quarterback, he could just throw to buy some time and get away with it, even though the defence was all over the ball.
The NFL also says that the intentional grounding rule is there to protect the quarterback.
This could be because the quarterback is vulnerable when he or she is scrambling because he or she can’t see any attacks coming from behind. So, if the quarterback wants a “out,” all he has to do is throw the ball past the line of scrimmage.
Intentional Grounding NFL Vs. Intentional Grounding NCAA
Before we talk about how the NFL and NCAA’s intentional grounding rules are different, let’s take a moment to talk about how the NFL punishes this rule.
According to the NFL rulebook, here’s what happens when a team intentionally grounds the ball:
- Loss of down and 10 yards from the previous spot; or
- Loss of down at the place of the foul; or
- A safety if the passer is in his end zone when the ball is thrown.
To be honest, there isn’t much difference between how the NFL and the NCAA define each new intentional grounding. The real difference is how being kicked on purpose is punished.
For intentional grounding in the NFL, the penalty is almost always a loss of a down and 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. In college football, the penalty is a loss of a down and the next play has to happen where the foul happened.
In college football, losing a down because of an intentional grounding near the line of scrimmage makes it harder to move the chains (the chain connects the signal poles indicating how far the offence needs to go to get the first down).
On the other hand, the NFL rule makes it very hard for the offence to get a first down after a penalty because the offence loses both a down and 10 yards.
Why Is Spiking Not The Same As Intentional Grounding?
When you talk about “intentional grounding,” you can’t miss a spike. Most of the time, football fans don’t understand why spiking isn’t treated the same, since it’s the same as an incomplete pass.
When the quarterback throws the ball on purpose to the ground right after the snap, this is called a “spike.” The play stops the clock but costs a down and doesn’t add any yards. So why does offence even care about the spike?
The offence uses a spike play when it wants to save a timeout or doesn’t have any more. This gives the offence time to think about its next play without wasting valuable game time.
Even though the defence can tell when the quarterback is trying to spike the ball because of the way he moves his arms, and they know that their opponents are trying to stop the clock, they sometimes let their guard down, which leaves them open to attack.
This is because the quarterback can sometimes pretend to spike the ball and then choose to run a normal play. When the QB throws the ball to a well-placed receiver, the chaos caused by the play lets the offence gain yards.
According to NFL rules, what does it mean to spike the ball? Well, the first rule is that the clock can’t stop while the quarterback tries to spike the ball.
The second rule is that the quarterback must be in the centre when the snap is taken and must throw the ball to the ground right away.
Intentional grounding may be looked at if the quarterback spikes the ball when the clock is running, waits to spike the ball after the snap, or spikes the ball in a shotgun formation.
What’s The Difference Between Intentional Grounding And Throwing The Ball Away?
In a perfect world, all of the QB’s passes are caught by tight ends or wide receivers. But in the real world, things are always going wrong. For example, when the quarterback tries to pass the ball, he or she can throw it away, ground it on purpose, or make a pass that is incomplete.
We know, but an incomplete pass is when the quarterback tries to throw the ball, but it goes out of bounds, hits the ground, or the player doesn’t catch it.
When this happens, the game clock stops, and the next down starts right where the last one did. In short, if a pass is broken up, it wastes a down.
When the defence is putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, what can he do if he can’t intentionally drop the ball or throw an incomplete pass?
He has two choices, and one is to throw the ball away, which, ironically, looks a lot like an incomplete pass. Once the quarterback is out of the pocket, he throws the ball out of bounds when he throws it away (right or left along the line of scrimmage).
This keeps the quarterback from making a dangerous throw that a defender can pick off.
Bonus – Football Terms You Should Remember
As I was writing this article, I couldn’t stop thinking about one thing: what if someone who doesn’t know many football terms reads it? I’ve used a lot of football terms here because it’s hard to avoid them sometimes.
But to make sure that everyone, and I do mean everyone, understands the idea of intentional grounding, I’ve made a quick glossary you can look at to get the idea.
Down: A period of action during which each team has to move the ball 10 yards. The offense will typically get four downs before returning the ball to the defense via a punt.
Interception: When a defensive player gets a hold of a pass.
Line of scrimmage: The place on the field where the ball is spotted and where the next play begins.
Pocket: The area just a little behind the center, where the QB stands.
Sack: What happens when the QB gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Scrambling: When the quarterback is running to avoid getting sacked.
Snap: When the center passes the football from between his legs to the player behind him. The action that kicks off a football play
4th & 10
If you’re reading this, I hope you know what “intentional grounding” means and how it relates to things like a bad pass or throwing the ball away. But it’s okay if you’re still a little unsure.
Sometimes, it helps to picture situations in football to understand the ideas. So, while you read this, I suggest you watch clips of different football plays on sites like YouTube. Believe me, it will make a huge difference.
See you at the games until next time!