Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald says RPO plays are 'the purest form of communism'

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald speaks at the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football Media Days in Chicago, Monday, July 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Annie Rice)

Pat Fitzgerald has some thoughts about run-pass option plays.

RPO plays have taken over college football offenses, and, if you watched the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl, you saw them on display in the NFL as well. Fitzgerald, the former Northwestern linebacker who is in his 13th season as head coach of his alma mater, is not a fan.

“RPO is the purest form of communism,” he said Tuesday.

Yes, he really said that. Fitzgerald thinks linemen are illegally downfield on most RPO plays. How that relates to communism, I have no idea.

Take it away, Pat!

“I don’t understand how offensive linemen can be downfield. It used to be when [an offensive lineman] tripped and fell down, it was illegal man downfield. Now if it’s just an uncovered lineman and you go 2.3 yards downfield, it’s not a penalty. But if you go three yards it is and nobody can see it until after the ball is thrown,” Fitzgerald said.

In college football, no ineligible receivers “shall be more than three yards beyond the neutral zone until a passer throws a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone,” per NCAA rules. “A player is in violation of this rule if any part of his body is beyond the three-yard limit.”

Fitzgerald seems to believe that rule is violated on RPO plays, where the quarterback quickly surveys the defense before deciding whether to hand the ball off to the running back, run it himself or throw it downfield. Often, the offensive linemen will not know what the quarterback is going to do with the ball before it is snapped, so the QB has to make a choice quickly.

“It’s the rules. You can complain all you want. If I want to get it fixed I guess I can beg to get on the rules committee,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s the most en vogue change, I think, in football. If you’re a purist of football, it’s not the game. It’s not. People downfield blocking and the ball being thrown should be illegal.”

Clearly, Fitzgerald is serious about this topic even if he was being tongue-in-cheek with the “communism” portion of his comment.

In his comment above, he ended it with a slight smirk, a first pump and, “RPO forever!”

Fresh off a loss to Duke, Fitzgerald’s squad, now 1-1 on the year, hosts Akron this weekend.

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