The NFL’s annual meeting will take place next week in Boca Raton, Florida. One item on the agenda is potential rule changes for next season. The NFL has announced that there are 19 proposed rule changes (nine proposed by the Competition Committee and ten by individual teams).
For any rule change to be ratified, it must receive at least 24 of 32 team votes during the competition committee sessions. Here is a complete list of the proposed rules as well as some brief commentary and our vote of whether it should pass.
Proposed Rule #1. (By Competition Committee) Permanently moves the line of scrimmage for try kicks to the defensive team’s 15-yard line, and allows the defense to return any missed try.
Analysis: This would permanently ratify last year’s experiment of kicking PATs from the 15-yard line. The rule certainly took the certainty out of PATs last year. Kickers hit only 94.2 percent of PATs, way down from 99.3 percent the year before, when the kick was 12 yards closer. Also, there were 94 two-point conversion attempts last year, up from only 58 the year before. This added excitement to the kicking game last year, and be implemented as a permanent rule.
Proposed Rule #2. (By Competition Committee) Permits the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches’ booth.
Analysis: This allows play callers to be on the field or in the booth and directly communicate with the on-field play caller. The technology exists so why not use it.
Proposed Rule #3. (By Competition Committee) Makes all chop blocks illegal.
Analysis: Currently, the chop block is permitted in limited circumstances on run plays only. The NCAA has banned all chop blocks for years. Current legal chop blocks can still be dangerous and lead to significant lower body injuries. Time for a change.
Proposed Rule #4. (By Competition Committee) Disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.
Analysis: This is a tough one. There are circumstances where personal fouls are accidental (for example, some facemask penalties). But rarely would a player accrue two of these “accidental personal fouls” in a single game. The proposed rule would also discourage players from getting fighting or celebrating (another rule that needs to be changed) personal fouls. Benefits include discouraging plays such as Aqib Talib’s dangerous facemask penalty that occurred in the Super Bowl, which only resulted in a one-yard penalty.
Proposed Rule #5. (By Competition Committee) Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.
Analysis: Similar to moving up the kickoff position a few years ago, this rule is intended to discourage the receiving team from returning the kickoff. If this rule is implemented, coaches will more often encourage players who field a kickoff in the endzone to take a knee – since the ball will be placed on the 25 yard line – than if the ball is only placed on the 20. At this point, if we are going to take the time to keep kickoffs as part of the game, lets actually see a return every once and awhile.
Proposed Rule #6. (By Baltimore) Amend Rule 5, Sections 3, Articles 1 and 2 (Changes in Position) to require players to wear jersey vests with numbers appropriate for their positions.
Analysis: The current rule requires players whose numbers are of an ineligible pass receiver (50-79 and 90-99) to report as an eligible receiver each play that they line up in an eligible position. The Ravens propose that a player actually put on a jersey vest (that is the team’s colors) over their jersey that has an eligible number (1-51, 80-89) on it. This would clear up any confusion over a player reporting as an eligible receiver because they would be donning an eligible number. I think that something could be done to change this rule but am unsure that this is the answer. The “jersey vests” will look odd and could be disruptive to the flow of the game.
Proposed Rule #7. (By Baltimore) Amend Rule 15, Section 2, Articles 1, 4, and 5 (Instant Replay) to provide each team with three challenges and expand reviewable plays.
Analysis: There are five proposed rule changes involving instant replay. This one is the most expansive. It bumps the number of team challenges from two (plus a third if first two are successful) to three and allows teams to challenge more plays. When it comes to instant replay, it is always about balancing getting the call right on one hand, and not disrupting the flow of the game on the other. Since plays in the final two minutes, turnovers, and scoring plays are already automatically reviewed, do we really need another coaches to have another challenge? If coaches are so such they are correct, and get the first two right, they get the third challenge anyway. If anything, make this a playoff only rule.
Proposed Rule #8. (By Buffalo) Amend Rule 15, Section 2, Articles 1, 4, and 5 (Instant Replay) to permit a coach to challenge any official’s decision except scoring plays and turnovers.
Analysis: The second instant replay proposal. This one makes sense. How frustrating is it when the refs clearly get a call wrong but it is an “unreviewable play”? If you are going to allow coaches challenges, you might as well allow them to review any call.
Proposed Rule #9. (By Carolina) Amend Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1 (Intentional Grounding) to expand the definition of intentional grounding.
Analysis: This is interesting and we don’t know all of the details of the proposal. However, when you think about what “intentional grounding” really is, does the current rule make any sense? If a quarterback is outside of the tackle box and throws the ball 30 rows deep past the line of scrimmage with no receiver even on that side of the field there is no flag but he is clearly intentionally throwing the ball away. What about changing the rule to make any throw that is not catchable a receiver intentional grounding? This would not be in line of the NFL’s trend of rules protecting the quarterback but it would make the game a lot more interesting.
Proposed Rule #10. (By Kansas City) Amend Rule 14, Section 2, Article 1 (Half-distance Penalty) to add penalty yards to the distance needed to gain a First Down.
Analysis: This might be my favorite. It is best understood by way of example. The Bears have the ball, first and 10, on their own 10-yard line. Jay Cutler rolls back and launches an errant throw across the middle (shocker). Instead of allowing the ball to be picked, Alshon Jeffery tackles the defender and draws a 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty. The penalty is assessed half the distance to the goal (at the five) and under the current rules, it would then be first and 15 from the five. Under this proposal, the down to gain line is moved from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line, making it first and 20. Thus, the team who commits the penalty does not gain any advantage just from being near its own goal line. Brilliant.
Proposed Rule #11. (By Kansas City) Amend Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2 (Legal Forward Pass) to prohibit quarterbacks from falling to the ground, getting up, and throwing a forward pass.
Analysis: The “Peyton Manning” Rule. And we aren’t talking about that time Peyton Manning was lying down. Low blow, I am sorry.
From a protecting the quarterback point of view, this makes a lot of sense. Defensive players have a difficult enough time knowing when and where they can hit a QB these days, why make them have to risk penalty if they aren’t sure if a QB has gone down or not. If he is on the ground, blow the whistle, end of story.
Proposed Rule #12. (By Minnesota) to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 1 (Coaches’ Challenge) to eliminate the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two Instant Replay challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.
Analysis: See Proposed Rule #7.
Proposed Rule #13. (By Washington) Amend Rule 16, Section 1, Articles 1, 4, 6 and 7 (Overtime procedures) to eliminate overtime periods in preseason games.
Analysis: This is just silly. I suppose the thought behind this rule is to prevent injuries in meaningless games but why take the fun out by calling it a tie? Especially when the third, fourth, or fifth string players, who get very limited time to showcase their talents, are going to be the ones playing. Many times preseason games are an opportunity for families and fans, that maybe cannot afford to go to an expensive regular season game, to see their favorite team play. And no one wants to see a tie. Remember when the MLB All-Star game ended in a tie? No thank you.
Proposed Rule #14. (By Washington) Amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 4 (Reviewable Plays) to subject personal foul penalties to Instant Replay review.
Analysis: This proposed rule ties is with two other proposed rules. If the league implements proposed rule #4 (disqualifying a player for two personal fouls), then this rule – at least as it pertains to the second personal foul – is a must. Proposed rule #8 makes all plays reviewable, presumably including penalties, and if added, would render this proposal moot. Assuming that neither of those rules is added, just including personal foul penalties to the list of reviewable plays seems unnecessary. It would further slow the game down and, in my opinion, there is no reason to differentiate between personal foul penalties and others, like pass interference, as reviewable penalties.
Proposed Rule #15. (By Washington) Amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 1 (Coaches’ Challenge) to eliminate the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two Instant Replay challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.
Analysis: See Proposed Rule #7.
Proposed Rule #16. (By Competition Committee) Expands the horse collar rule to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.
Analysis: The purpose of the current horse collar rule to protect players from a dangerous type of tackle. If grabbing a player by the name plate and tackling them the same way is equally as dangerous (and it seems to be), then this rule makes a lot of sense.
Proposed Rule #17. (By Competition Committee) Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team attempts to call a timeout when it is not permitted to do so.
Analysis: If we have the “Peyton Manning Rule” then can we call this the “Chris Webber Rule”? A five-yard delay of game penalty sounds fair for this type of action. The bigger question is – assuming that the main reason a team wants to take a time out is to stop the clock – whether there is a clock runoff added as well.
Proposed Rule #18. (By Competition Committee) Eliminates the five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver illegally touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and re-establishing himself inbounds, and makes it a loss of down.
Analysis: Instead of penalizing a player five yards, they just lose a down. It makes sense for those close calls when a player doesn’t know whether he went out of bounds or not. I would rather see him try to catch the ball and only lose a down if he was wrong.
Proposed Rule #19. (By Competition Committee) Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.
Analysis: If I am understanding this correctly, this proposal just seeks to take the ceremony out of spotting the football.