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Grading the Potential NFL Rule Changes

The sport of football is far from perfect, but not all of these suggestions are going to help things.

Crunching the numbers and making verdicts about the rules, no matter how many get thrown out before this week is over.

GRADING the Rule Changes

The rulebook for the game of Professional Football is both long and cumbersome, but sometimes a slight change can make a world of difference.

I’ll be grading the proposed rule changes with the patented BOLT-O-METER, a surprisingly.. phallic.. rating system, despite my best attempts to keep things above 2nd Grade humor. Still, this shiny new system allows us to rate each and every change, no matter how insignificant, as if it were a game-changing play. Proposals are graded out of 100 possible yards.

Rule Change proposals

  • 1. By Philadelphia: Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays. Update: Withdrawn.

Doesn’t make the game particularly more interesting, and largely raises the chances that one of the most exciting plays of the game is negated due to some small infraction.

  • 2. By Philadelphia: Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. Update: Change approved.

03 yards: Terrible rule change. This is one of the only ways that these plays remain interesting. Creative, athletic plays should be encouraged, even if there is a high chance of failure. That one-in-a-thousand chance gives your team a way to still make a play that isn’t completely hinged on a kicker missing by a hair

  • 3. By Philadelphia: Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet. Update: Withdrawn.

As a general rule, I am against making the game even harder for defensive players. Their job is already thankless and increasingly difficult, but that’s got to be weighed against basic player safety.

  • 4. By Philadelphia: Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half. Update: Withdrawn.

A fantastic proposal! If a play was called wrong, the coaches should absolutely be able to challenge. That said, I understand how this could be possibly abused and extend unnecessary reviews. This sounds like a good balance.

  • 5. By Washington: Eliminates the limit of three total challenges per team per game and eliminates the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.

54 yards: This pales compared to the proposal above. Without further addendums (which they would surely add), this would just encourage too many challenges. More good than bad, but only by a smidgen.

  • 6. By Washington: Moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights.

100 yards: A rule change that goes the distance! This is a great way to encourage tuning in to kicking plays, giving a bit more running room for returns, and rewarding athleticism. It will probably fail because of Denver, but that’s a shame. I’d really like to see ways that reward incredible kicking without screwing too much with the current point system.

  • 7. By Buffalo and Seattle: Permits a coach to challenge any officials’ decision except scoring plays and turnovers.

92 yards: Another good suggestion! Obviously, the intention is to allow coaches to challenge penalties or other decisions that they currently just have to accept regardless of validity. Keeping the current challenge framework in place, this just improves blatantly wrong calls. The downside is that it further puts every single play, call, and rule under a bigger microscope that is neither interesting or healthy for the game. Still, that’s better than having to suck up a taunting penalty when a player was just congratulating a college friend.

  • 8. By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

85 yards: A good, sensible rule gets to stay. To my knowledge, this hasn’t been unfairly applied yet. Some sort of hyper-quick New York office veto might be the only way to improve it.

  • 9. By Competition Committee: Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.

50 yards: Boooooooring.

  • 10. By Competition Committee: Reduces the length of preseason and regular season overtime periods to 10 minutes.

01 yard: What?? Who actually wants to shorten the most interesting possible scenario in a game? Anything that encourages more TIES is a terrible idea.

  • 11. By Competition Committee: Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection.

22 yards: Just another way to make defense harder and less effective. They already get pegged if it’s a dangerous hit or even a would-be-dangerous hit. Perhaps the league needs a few more fines to pay for PSAs.

  • 12. By Competition Committee: Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than 2 yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

61 yards: Contrary to the above proposals, this is just clarifying the intent of the current rule set and really shouldn’t change much.

  • 13. By Competition Committee: Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a handheld device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews.

67 yards: Some people are making this out to be a bigger change than it is. Expect even more Microsoft Surface plugs than before.

  • 14. By Competition Committee: Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

83 yards: I’m a big fan of using loopholes in the rulebook to give your adversaries something they did not expect. I also am a fan of that being a creative process, expecting the ‘authorities’ to close said loops once revealed. Good rule change, because it’s also pretty poor sportsmanship once this isn’t a surprise anymore.

  • 15. By Competition Committee: Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

17 yards: Excellent intent; terrible rule change. This is almost the exact definition of the underdog’s 2 minute drill. I wouldn’t expect this change to gain any traction.

New bylaws up for a vote

  • 1. By Washington: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.14 to place a player who has suffered a concussion, and who has not been cleared to play, on the club’s Exempt List, and be replaced by a player on the club’s Practice Squad on a game-by-game basis until the player is cleared to play.

87 yards: This is a sensible change, spurred by the league’s push to better diagnose concussions.

  • 2. By Washington: Amends Article XIX, Sections 19.8(B) and 19.9(B) to permit clubs to opt out of the “color rush” jerseys created for Thursday Night Football.

98 yards: Anything that kills the color rush jerseys has my vote!

  • 3. By Competition Committee: Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only.

61 yards: This sounds like it is a good change, but I really don’t know the extent of the rules or how necessary the changes are. So I’ll plead ignorance and still judge it accordingly.

  • 4. By Competition Committee: Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.

64 yards: Sounds like a reasonable change. Anything that keeps otherwise able-bodied players on the field as much as possible is a good change. The possible downside would be inaccurate reporting of injuries to allow for easier return.

  • 5. By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

81 yards: Sweet memos! This is a reasonable measure to keep everyone in the loop as deadlines begin to loom toward summer’s end.

Proposed resolutions

  • 1. By Philadelphia: Amends the NFL’s On-Field Policy to allow clubs to have a secondary helmet for players. Update: Withdrawn.

It’s a shame that this has been withdrawn, that means I don’t have a reason to use this two-helmeted Philip Rivers.

  • 2. By Competition Committee: Permits a club to negotiate and reach an agreement with a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.

94 yards: Ugh, yes please! Most of the in-demand coaches are still going to be busy during the postseason, while those who have vacancies are left to twiddle their thumbs.

  • 3. By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.

92 yards: If the interest, or at least consent, is mutual from both the employee and their employer, then this is just a good move. It might even help weed out some toxic employees that really just need a change of scenery. I can see some back-room dealings/trades between executives to even allow so-and-so to interview with another team, but that would probably be the extreme exception.

And there we have it... another year, another (potential) slew of changes, making historical statistics gradually more useless every season!