The Scot at the heart of NFL’s most divisive play

Story by By Jonathan Geddes – BBC Scotland News

It is the NFL play that has divided America – and a Scot knows the secret of its success.

The so-called ‘brotherly shove’ has helped push the Philadelphia Eagles to the best record in American football.

Former Scottish rugby player Richie Gray spent part of the summer working with Eagles coaches to refine the technique.

However the play has now proved so successful that some pundits believe the league should ban it.

Gray’s coaching journey has been varied, including stints with the Scottish rugby team, South Africa’s Springboks, the NFL’s Miami Dolphins franchise and his current role with French rugby giants Toulon.

Yet few of the Galashiels native’s previous roles have generated as much debate as his involvement with the brotherly shove.

Richie Gray has coached for Scotland, South Africa and Toulon © BBC

The play is used by the Eagles in short yardage situations, when the offensive unit are needing one or two yards to either score a touchdown or secure a new set of downs to keep themselves in possession of the ball.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts takes the ball and goes forward, pushed by teammates.

The tactic has been a regular weapon for the Eagles since Hurts joined the team, with an extremely high success rate.

It is a variant on the long-standing quarterback sneak play, which many teams have used in the sport’s history when needing only a small gain.

Eagles coaches were seeking to further improve it, which is when Gray became involved.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime with John Beattie, he said: “In the summer I got a call from Ted Rath [Philadelphia Eagles vice president of player performance] asking me to mainly work with the defensive group, discussing tackle technique and things like that.

“All of a sudden Jeff Stoutland, who is a legendary offensive line coach in the NFL, gave me a call.

“He said when you’re here we’d like you to come in for a day with us and look at this play. He said ‘I want you to come in, we’ll rip it to bits, have a look at it and you give me your opinion on how you’d break it or make it better.’

“We spent a morning with all the offence coaches which is literally about 30 guys, going over this play millimetre by millimetre, broke it down and built it back up.”

Read the full BBC News article here.