Thursday, March 27, 2008

Musings on NFL Rules

Starting Monday, NFL owners are meeting to discuss possible rule changes for the coming year. Here is what I think of some of the proposed rules.

The college option on the coin toss, allowing teams to defer taking the ball until the second half.

Sure, why not? The more options available the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Eliminating the five-yard "incidental facemask" penalty. Grabbing the facemask and turning it would lead to an automatic 15-yard penalty.

Really? So much for protecting the players. This is an important rule. It does not need to be eliminated. Refs need to better ENFORCE this rule, and perhaps there needs to be a clarification in what constitutes a 5-yard "incidental" versus a 15-yard personal foul, but the incidental should remain in place.

Banning players from having hair below the name tag on their backs.

Hello to the "No Fun League." The NFL has characters, and some of them are famous for their childish behavior (hello, T.O.), some for their just-plain-good-time antics (hello, Ocho Cinco), and some are just because of their presence (hello, Polamalu). Troy Polamalu is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, and has long hair that extends far below is helmet. He has been tackled by his hair on occasion, and there is a penalty already in place to protect players from pulling excessively on their hair, similar to their jersey. To institute this rule, however, is a ton of prevention for an ounce of cure. The NFL is not suffering from an image problem, and the players should be allowed to be themselves, and to let their personality shine through. Let this one go, Roger.

Instant replay on field-goal attempts.

No brainer. Do it. Instant replay is about getting the calls right. While they are at it, the challenge system should be changed. Instead of only X number of challenges per half or per game, coaches should be allowed X number of WRONG challenges. As long as the officials got it wrong, the coach should be allowed to challenge an unlimited number of times. Get the calls on the field right so the NFL doesn't have to say "whoops" come Monday.

Ending the forceout rule on receptions and interceptions.

Again, do it. If you cannot get your feet down in bounds, the pass is incomplete. That is the point of defense. With such strict rules in place about pass interference, it is getting close to impossible to actually defend against the pass. Should make the call easier, too. No more "woulda coulda shoulda." Get your feet down or you are out.

Changing the rule on seeding in the playoffs.

This would mean that there is the potential for wild card teams with a better record than other division winners would host the wild card game. I'm sorry, I understand the unfairness of having to travel to a team with a worse record, and the divisions may not be stacked evenly in any given year, but this is the reality of sports. And sports are cyclical. There was a long time when the NFC dominated the Super Bowl. Today the AFC has been dominant (the Giants are only the 3rd NFC winner in the last 10 years). If you cannot win your division, you should not host a wild card game. Better luck next year.

Hopefully the owners get it right this time around. They also have a potential labor dispute with the players union to diffuse, and the regular business of the league to transact. Going to be a busy time in Palm Beach. Hopefully a productive one, too.

160 days until kickoff. Can't wait.