Intentional Grounding vs Throwing Away Difference In American Football

Intentional Grounding is enforced when the quarterback makes a forward pass with no receivers in the vicinity.

Throwing the ball away is when the QB throws the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack.

In American football, there are many rules that players have to learn and practice before going for their thrilling games.

Throwing away and Intentional Grounding are concepts every quarterback must learn to improvise their game when their initial strategy fails. These terms depend on how the QB uses the ball and can become suitable for the offense or yield a bad result.

The defense aims to tackle the quarterback before he is eligible to throw the ball to his open receivers. Doing so yields in loss of downs. Hence, the defenders will pressure the offensive side in every gameplay.

These two concepts depend on how well a QB can handle the pressure and react with the ball.

Intentional Grounding in NFL

Intentional grounding in NFL is a foul incurred by the offensive side when the quarterback passes the ball forward without receivers in the vicinity area. 

A QB can face pressure inside the pocket when they get rushed by defenders at any game moment. Their mentality to avoid a loss of yardage and downs can drive them to make a forward pass in desperation. 

A forward pass with no open receivers in the thrown area will be seen as an unrealistic pass, and then, the rule of intentional grounding will work. The match officials will make the call on whether there was intentional grounding.

This rule will result in a loss of down and a 10-yard loss from the previous spot.

Why is the Grounding rule enforced?

The intentional grounding rule was made to ensure fair gameplay between the defense and offense during passing plays. 

Without this rule, the offensive side could get a huge advantage as the QBs could throw passes wherever they wanted, and the defense would get no sacks and turnovers.

Moreover, with the demand for athletic quarterbacks these days, the need for such a rule has become ever more important. The rule was made in 1914 and is still vital today in football.

Exceptions to the Grounding Penalty

There are exceptions to the grounding rule in football. 

If the receiver is present but fails to run the route at the perfect time, the penalty will not be called.

Moreover, the rule will not be enforced if the quarterback starts to scramble, running with the ball forward. While scrambling, the QB can throw the ball out of bounds for various purposes, like avoiding hits or stopping the clock. 

Also, if the defenders tackle the QB in such a way that it results in a mismatched forward pass due to the momentum, the grounding rule will be exempted.

Intentional grounding in NCAA

The intentional grounding rule is also applied in NCAA tournaments. The call is made if the college QB makes an unrealistic forward pass. 

However, the penalty is a little different than the NFL rules. In NCAA, there is no loss of 10 yards, just a loss of down. 

The next play will occur from the same previous spot where the foul occurred. The NCAA rule is lenient compared to the NFL’s.

Throwing Away in American Football

A quarterback will throw the ball away if he is under pressure from the defenders.

Throwing Away is like an incomplete pass and intentional grounding without penalty.

When the defenders pile pressure on the offensive linesmen and the QB, the quarterback can scramble to his left or right of the line of scrimmage and go outside the pocket. Then the quarterback can throw the ball out of bounds when he is outside the pocket, which will not result in an intentional grounding.

However, another criterion must be met, too: the ball must go beyond the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, this will result in the case of intentional grounding when the quarterback is outside the pocket. 

Thus, the QBs are trained to have good arm practice to throw the ball to greater distances, even under pressure.

Intentional grounding vs Throwing Away

A quarterback can avoid the intentional grounding penalty by throwing the ball away.

When the QB goes outside the pocket, he can throw away beyond the scrimmage line and not incur any penalty.

A smart QB will always have a good pocket presence and can sense if he can pass the ball to his receivers on time. A good awareness will help the QBs make faster decisions on whether they should throw the ball away.

Offensive coordinators and QB coaches have also started training their Quarterbacks on throwing-away capability. 

Some QBs will run to the left or right side of the field as soon as the ball has been snapped. This is done to minimize they are ‘outside the pocket’ distance.

This yields a lesser-risk play since they can step outside the pocket and throw the ball away quickly if they come under pressure. This playstyle is known as the bootleg.

Performing a bootleg will reduce pressure, and the quarterback can decrease his chances of getting sacked or fumbles.

Does Intentional Grounding Count As A Sack?

Intentional grounding technically counts as a sack since both result in a loss of yards and a down for the offensive team.

However, they are not the same. In the NCAAF, Intentional grounding does not count as a sack in that scenario. Since the yard loss will not be enforced like in the NFL. 

Moreover, there will be safety, i.e., 2 points for the defensive side when the QB gets sacked in their end zone. Getting an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone will also yield the same result. 

Getting a safety will result in the punt or kick from the offensive team that got scored upon from the 20-yard line. The defensive side will also gain possession, making it quite valuable.

Intentional Grounding On 4th down

When there is Intentional grounding on the 4th down, the defensive side will assume possession. 

The opposition team will start the next play from the same position where the previous team’s QB had made the rule infraction.

Performing an intentional grounding on 4th down is dangerous and will only hamper the opportunity for a touchdown. 

Hence, the quarterbacks are trained mentally by every NFL team to compose themselves under pressure and maintain good pocket awareness to throw away the ball whenever their playstyle gets disorganized.