What Is Intentional Grounding In A Football Game?

What is intentional grounding in a football game? Intentional grounding is when a quarterback throws the football away to avoid a sack. The objective of an offense during a football game is to put points...

The objective of an offense during a football game is to put points on the board. The person most responsible for getting an offense in scoring position is the quarterback.
It's the quarterback's responsibility to march his offensive unit down the field with as few problems as possible.


But one area where a quarterback can be more harmful than helpful when it comes to being the guy in charge of the offense is when he commits an intentional grounding penalty. An intentional grounding penalty is when a quarterback purposely throws the football away in an attempt to avoid a sack. The one detail that separates an intentional grounding penalty from just another incomplete pass is whether or not there is a wide receiver in the area of the football. If no one is in the area of the football, an intentional grounding penalty will be called.

Stanley Conner is the offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Alabama A&M. Before joining the Bulldog staff, Conner was a four-year letterman at Jackson St. University where he helped the Tigers earn four Southwestern Athletic Conference titles. Following graduation, Conner played with the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League and the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League before settling down into his coaching role. As the offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, Conner has had many situations where his quarterbacks have been called for intentional grounding.

"Basically, what they're saying is that you throw the ball away so that you wouldn't take a sack," he said.




Intentional grounding is a way for the defense to be rewarded for putting pressure on the quarterback. It would be unfair for a quarterback to be able to just zip the football out of bounds when he feels the defensive player pressuring him. The penalty for committing an intentional grounding is 15-yards plus the loss of the down.

The combination of the two penalties should further illustrate the severity of the penalty. To compare, most other penalties result in a walk-off of yards, but they allow the offense to repeat the down. For example, a holding penalty (which is a 10-yard penalty) on 1st-and-10 for an offense would make the next play 1st-and-20.

But if a quarterback commits an intentional grounding on a 1st-and-10 play, the next play for that offense would be 2nd-and-25, the loss of down plus the 15-yard penalty.

"The quarterback just can't throw the ball away," Conner said. "Also, there has to be a receiver in the vicinity of the pass."

One of the reasons a lot of quarterbacks throw the football away is so that they can avoid an unnecessary hit.
With that in mind, the quarterback is allowed to throw the football away with no receiver near the path of the football as long as he is outside of the tackle box.

"There is a tackle to tackle box that he has to be out of," Conner said.

The tackle box is the imaginary box from the left tackle on the line of scrimmage to the right tackle on the line of scrimmage. If the quarterback has successfully run outside of the imaginary box and throws the football forward past the line of scrimmage, intentional grounding cannot be called.

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