In a copycat sport, head coach James Franklin and Penn State Football have borrowed one of the most recently successful pages from the Philadelphia Eagles’ playbook.
Unlike many teams — including Northwestern on Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions have have thrived in recent weeks deploying the ‘tush-push’ or ‘brotherly shove.’
Whoever coined the relatively newest catch phrase around these parts “It’s A Philly Thing”, pretty much nailed it. I am a firm believer in embracing your roots and being proud of where you came from.
For us descendants of Brotherly Love we were Philly born, we were Philly bred and when we die we’ll be Philly dead. That’s just the way it is. Deal with it or else. Translation: we think we love to win but deep down we’re not truly happy unless we’re angry about something.
No, it’s not the water and it’s not the weather. It comes from years of deep seeded narcissistic wounds due to cataclysmic heart-breaking losses, causing emotional trauma that has overwhelmed our pride and self-worth.
The injuries cut so deep that even an extremely rare and fleeting championship sprinkled in here and there cannot do much to mitigate the damage.
I always enjoy telling people that I’m from Philly and then watching them try to surreptitiously scramble to feign some sort of positive response. It never gets old. But I get it. I do. They don’t. And I get that too.
You had to have lived it and experienced it to understand it.
Let’s review just a few of our greatest “Philly Things” that we beam with sordid pride to get a little perspective.
Our most famous and beloved prodigal son is a FICTIONAL character who some think took a dive in the first movie so he could cash in on like the next nine Rocky sequels.
Our most famous food is a low-brow meat sandwich, topped with liquid “cheese” that’s a must have after last call if you can still scrape together about 30 bucks for you and your late night date.
The Raiders and Jets have the “Heidi game”. The Packers and Cowboys have the “Ice Bowl”. We have the “Santa Claus Incident.” At halftime of the season finale back in 1968 the Eagles trotted out an underperforming “backup” Santa and we were having none of it. Birds Nation gave the scraggly bearded one his just comeuppance that day, firing off salvos of snowballs, beer bottles and half-eaten hoagies at the half-assed imposter, who, instead of carrying a sack full of toys, was toting an equipment bag filled with soggy towels. But showing true Philadelphia resilience, Santa 2 left Franklin Field in “good spirits” as apparently he could have blown a point three from 30 yards away.
Hey, It’s a Philly thing. All others wouldn’t understand. We’re not happy unless the rest of the free world is hammering us about our behavior or we’re lamenting our ill-fated sports failures. It has created an us against the world mentality.
Enter the Tush Push or as one reporter presented it to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni this past week – “The Brotherly Shove” (gee I wonder how long he had kept that one in his back pocket).
It has become a league-wide phenomenon and the most unstoppable play in the NFL.
It’s basically a quarterback sneak on steroids.
It looks likes this: Birds’ quarterback Jalen Hurts lines up under center with two or three players behind him. He takes the snap, the offensive line surges forward and Hurts gets a big push from behind from his backfield teammates.
It almost always works and even when it doesn’t, the Eagles just line up and do it again.
The great thing about the play is that it gives you a play to play with.
If you’re facing a 3rd and one, you can basically try something creative on 3rd down knowing that if you don’t succeed you’re almost a lock to move the chains on 4th down.
It’s a play that prior to 2005 was illegal.
But, that year the NFL removed the language in the rule book that prohibited pushing offensive players. But no team has taken advantage of it quite like the Eagles under coach Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts.
Point for Philly.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Philly Thing if “we” weren’t taking a massive amount of jealous criticism for it.
It has become so successful and so unstoppable that owners, coaches and team executives have complained to the league about it.
Changing the current rule was discussed at last year’s owners meetings but at present there is no official proposal to change the rule. The NFL said they will revisit it after this season.
What’s so bizarre, though, is that in a copycat league, no other team has been able to run it with the unheralded success rate that Philadelphia has.
Other teams have tried it … The Colts, Jaguars and Bears failed in their week one attempts.
Just ask Justin Herbert and the Chargers why it’s not so automatic in other cities as it is here in Philly.
Two weeks in a row Herbert was stuffed on two critical 4th and ones in the 4th quarter. The Patriots also tried it and failed versus the Cowboys on Sunday.
For the Eagles, the play is almost as automatic as previous extra points were.
Before PATs got moved back to the 15 yard line a few years ago NFL kickers were converting them at about a 96% clip.
On the way to last year’s Super Bowl, the Eagles converted the play 37 times in 41 attempts. That’s a conversion rate just north of 90 percent.
So, why has Sirianni’s team been able to execute the short yardage play to a fare-the-well while others haven’t?
Simple, they have the most dominant offensive line in the league, for starters, a line that features All-Pro center Jason Kelce, Pro Bowl left guard Landon Dickerson and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson.
It also helps to have a quarterback who can squat over 600 pounds.
“Not everyone has Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens. Not everybody has Jordan Mailata. Not everybody has Lane Johnson on the other side. Not everybody has that type of quarterback,” Sirianni told reporters last week. “We noticed that last year when people were making some big deals about it. There are a lot that are unsuccessful.
“But there is clearly a talent to it that our guys have, because it’s not as — maybe it’s automatic right now for the Philadelphia Eagles — but it’s not automatic around the league right now.”
Why Penn State Football is Enjoying Eagles-Like Success with ‘Tush-Push’
Of course, now you’re starting to see teams at the collegiate level trying to pull it off.
Penn State Football is one of those teams.
In Saturday’s 41-13 win over Northwestern, the Nits trotted out their version of the Tush Push/Brotherly Shove and they converted on all four of their attempts.
In The Nittany Lions’ case they have a stud center in Hunter Nourzad who stands 6-foot-3 and tips the scales at a menacing 320 pounds. Throw in a quarterback in Drew Allar who is a monstrous 6-foot-5, 242 pounds to the mix, and you have the ingredients of a very potent short yardage play in your offensive arsenal.
Did you notice that when Northwestern tried to pull off a 4th and inches mid-way through the 3rd quarter they got stuffed?
Wildcats QB, Ben Bryant, who is a svelte 210 pounds, and their offensive line was clearly overmatched by Manny Diaz‘ powerful defensive front.
Following Lions’ success with the Penn State Press, The Eagles were back at it again on Sunday.
During their 34-31 overtime win over the Commanders the Birds were a ho-hum 5-1 on Brotherly Shove attempts, including an all-important, critical 4th and 1 at mid field in overtime to extend the game-winning drive.
The only unsuccessful attempt came in the first half, when Landon Dickerson was flagged for lining up offside.
Otherwise, the Eagles might have been a perfect 6-0. Conversely, Washington was technically 1-2 on their attempts which constituted a slight variation of the iconic play – a direct snap to running back Logan Thomas with quarterback Sam Howell lining up outside.
It’s just an example of how other teams don’t have the ingredients or confidence to run the Brotherly Shove straight up.
Once upon a time, the Eagles put themselves in the annals of Super Bowl lore when they pulled off another short yardage play on the grandest of stages, at one of Super Bowl 52’s most critical junctures.
With all the foreboding in big games we’ve become accustomed to, how that team pulled off that play against that other team with such velvety smooth execution will forever be an unsolved mystery.
It was a play that the Eagles had never called before, called by a backup quarterback and approved by a first time head coach in just his sophomore season, run on 4th down and goal at the one by an undrafted rookie running back, who pitched the ball to a third-string tight end who had never attempted an NFL pass before, who threw to the aforementioned backup quarterback, who had never caught an NFL (or college) pass before, in front of 118 million people in 190 different countries.
I’d say it earned its moniker, The Philly Special.
That play has its own statue commemorating the call outside the Linc.
Only time will tell if the Brotherly Shove will ever be memorialized for its potency and place in a championship season.
This year’s team has been far from perfect. Oh wait, they are perfect. They’re one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL after four weeks. Outsiders are calling them the worst 4-0 team in history.
That’s fine, bring it on. Yes, my eyes see the same thing that others do.
This year’s Birds have been wildly inconsistent offensively, their secondary has been porous at times, they couldn’t have played dumber football against the Commanders on Sunday and the play calling has been curious at best from time to time.
Through it all though one thing has been steady, reliable, consistent and game-saving through four games – a bulked up quarterback sneak that exploits a rule change from 17 years ago that is virtually unstoppable.
Only in Philly … And, maybe in Happy Valley, too.