Ryan Clark Get Up Screen grab: Get Up

As soon as Mecole Hardman fumbled the ball on Sunday, the debate over a fumble out of the end zone resulting in a touchback — or as many call it: “the worst rule in sports” — was inevitable.

And despite the play ultimately proving inconsequential with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Buffalo Bills to advance to the AFC Championship Game, the conversation continued on Monday morning’s episode of ESPN’s Get Up, with host Mike Greenberg bemoaning the controversial rule.

“I’ve been saying this for years. I don’t understand it. It is the most penal penalty in the entire world,” Greenberg said. “You fumble the ball anywhere else on the field, the offense retains it. You fumble it out of bounds in the end zone, inexplicably, it becomes a touchback and it goes the other way for the other team. It could have easily cost the Kansas City Chiefs their season.”

After Greenberg called for the rule to be changed — just like the NFL changed its playoff overtime rules after the Division Round matchup between the Chiefs and Bills in 2022 — panelist Ryan Clark weighed in.

“It punishes the team for covering 99 yards when you think about the fact that you could get into this position and now the rule totally changes because it’s the goal line,” the former NFL safety said, before changing directions. “You know what’s crazy? It’s actually the right rule.”

Clark went on to explain his belief that the end zone should be treated differently considering its importance to the game and the premium the rule places on ball security. Unsurprisingly, the similarly defensive-minded Rex Ryan agreed with Clark, much to the chagrin of Greeny.

“If the ball is fumbled six inches in front of [the pylon], then the offense retains it and you just go back to where it was fumbled from,” an exasperated Greenberg noted. “If you fumble it six inches behind it, the other team gets the ball on the 20-yard line? It is disproportionate to the play.”

This prompted Clark to make an epic analogy.

“It’s the same way on Sundays, people could be walking up to church, cussing each other out. But when they walk through that door, ‘Father God, I love you. Thank you, Jesus. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,'” Clark said. “You know why? ‘Cause it’s sacred ground, Greeny. The goal line and the end zone is sacred ground. You can cuss for 99 and a half yards. But when you walk through that threshold and you see Mother Mary, you’re going to make the sign of the cross and say, ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for our sinners.”

“Yes, which I do every Sunday,” Greenberg replied slyly.

How powerful was Clark’s analogy? It got Orlovsky — a former quarterback and the only offensive-minded analyst on the Get Up set on Monday — to change his mind.

“I was on your side,” Orlovsky told Greenberg. “They sold me.”

“Why?!” Greenberg replied.

“Because I think their point of it being the end zone matters — it’s not the 10-yard line, it’s not a first down, it’s points,” Orlovsky said, before later adding, “the offense can do something technically wrong or reckless and not necessarily be negatively [impacted].”

Regardless of where you stand on the rule, it would be tough to argue that Clark didn’t at least make a compelling case in favor of it. So much so that it even made Orlovsky commit the forbidden sin of foregoing an argument in favor of agreement on an ESPN morning show.

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About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.