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Open Letter – Dear NFL, Your Rules Could Use Some Tweaking

The National Football League’s 60-minutes of football has become an increasingly complex game. According to the NFL, there have been over 60 rule changes implemented since 1985. Given that propensity, the refs most certainly have their hands full, as do the players and their prospective coaches.

Each year the powers that be in the NFL convene to discuss the proposed rule changes for the season to follow. And each year a few rules are usually added to the roster while others may be modified or changed.

Under this moniker, I propose that we pen an open letter to the NFL on rule changes that would make a good deal of sense for the coming season. Feel free to chime in with your comments on this one. It can’t hurt to grab the attention of the executives over there, so they can see what their fan base is asking for.

Reduce the Influence of The Coin Toss on OT Game Outcomes

Current overtime rules are confusing to players, officials, and fans alike and are fundamentally unfair, favoring the receiving team, whose privilege is determined by a coin toss and a successful referee interpretation of the post-coin toss election; both of which have been subject of recent scandals, such as the Divisional Round Playoff game pitting the Packers at the Cardinals.

Proposal: The NFL will never adopt college overtime rules, in spite of seemingly popular demand. Those rules entail that each team gets to try from the 25-yard line, and if the game remains tied, they continue trying until a team fails. Instead, the NFL can allow each team to get a chance at a score. Currently, the first team to score a touchdown wins. But if the first team only scores a field goal, the other team has one try. Even this up and allow each team a chance at a touchdown before going to sudden death.

Eliminate Boring/Pointless Plays

The PAT was moved back this past year, and it’s still boring to watch. Sure, occasionally a kick is missed. So what. Either make this an automatic point after or force teams to go for two points. To be honest, two-point conversions are much more exciting to watch, and they have potentially game-changing outcome because they can be missed more often. If teams were going for two each time, the game would be a lot more fun to watch.

Kneel-Downs

A QB should be able to kneel, and if the other team has no remaining time-outs or does not contest to the time being leached off the clock, the half should end automatically. Why do we have to watch this time drizzle off like tea steeping? A few exceptions are implied. Those being that the defense has no timeouts left but contests clock runoff, and the clock runoff would leave remaining time on the board for the opposing team to regain possession.

Permit More Exciting Touchdown Celebrations

The NFL should modify the rules surrounding “excessive celebration” penalties to codify more precisely what is allowed and what is not, and should allow scoring teams a prescribed amount of time to conduct a meaningful and entertaining celebration of scoring events without penalization.

Genuinely unsportsmanlike conduct, such as the following, should, of course, continue to be prohibited. This would include: offensive, outrageous, provocative, lewd, grossly inappropriate or suggestive, or similarly likely to disrupt and/or offend others or other “conduct unbecoming,” such as celebrations that persist for longer than a reasonable, prescribed amount of time (say, 15 seconds).

Expand Scope of Coach’s Challenges

Adding more to challenges helps each team compete better and evens the odds, especially when refs are botching so many crucial calls. To fix this, you can easily increase the number of coach’s challenges from two challenges per half to three, and allow coach’s challenges inside of the two-minute warning.

What’s more, coaches should be allowed to challenge certain missed penalties that should have been flagged — specifically those penalties, which, if assessed against the non-challenging team, would have resulted in the challenging team gaining: a first down; half-the-distance to the goal; possession of the football; a score; an untimed down.

Spell Out Catching in Plain English

Catching has been a hotly contested debate. Just ask the Cowboys from last year, and plenty of other receivers and quarterbacks who would side with Dez Bryant. They are simply unclear and quite often called wrong, and many times in situations that would alter the outcome of the game.

Instead, simplify the catch rules so they can be easily understood by fans and fairly judged by officials. The current catch rules require all of the following elements to be established by the receiver: possession, control, two feet in bounds, making a “football move,” survival of contact with the ground (e.g. retention of possession and control of the football during and through any contact with the ground as a result of making the catch or being tackled during the catch).

Proposed rules would require just the following two elements be added to what defines a catch:

  • Possession and control should be treated as equivalent for the purpose of establishing whether a catch has occurred.
  • Survival of contact with the ground should not be required as long as possession is interpreted in favor of the offense.

Award Bonus Point for Long Field Goals

Incentivizing field goal attempts from the 50-yard line and beyond by awarding four points instead of the usual three would make for even more exciting kicks and a lot more interesting games. On field goal attempts that would be worth four points, the defense should also be eligible to earn four points by blocking the field goal and successfully returning the ball to the opponent’s end zone on the same play.

Amend Defensive Scoring Plays

If a defending team returns a blocked field goal or an intercepted/fumbled two-point conversion for a score, the opposing team should be forced to punt the ball back just like they would after a safety.

Sideline Infractions

There are a few annoying sideline infractions that shouldn’t be called and that disrupt from the game. And quite honestly, they are rather silly. To correct this, the NFL could reduce the penalty for minor sideline infractions which are currently classified as “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Example: Coach or sideline staff accidentally steps on the field

Proposed Penalty: five-yard penalty for “Sideline Infraction.”

Increase Violent Penalty Infractions

In almost every game, you see some serious shuffling and fighting on the field, and often this results in a round of fisticuffs taking place. There’s no room for this in professional football. It’s football, not the MMA. But players know they can get away with it because there is nothing preventing them from doing it.

Increase the severity of penalties for teams whose players commit malicious/violent acts on the field. Current “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalties are not severe enough to discourage certain types of malicious/violent acts which continue to occur on the field. The NFL should differentiate between more mundane forms of unsportsmanlike conduct and serious, egregious forms by calling these two very different types of bad behavior by different names and penalizing them differently.

Malicious/violent acts deserve severe on-field penalties (not to mention the off-field penalties that the League Office will hand out after any such game).

Examples of malicious/violent acts that go beyond ordinary unsportsmanlike conduct in severity: Gross acts of violence which are committed with the intent to deliberately cause injury to another. This is including, but not limited to, such acts as: violently attacking, punching, kicking, stabbing, gouging eyes of, stomping on, tripping, kneeing or elbowing, choking, head butting, throwing equipment at, or otherwise maliciously attacking another individual with intent to cause severe physical injury.

For these acts, referees should immediately eject the players involved, with them losing their pay for the game and being subject to fines and suspension. Period. It’s too often that you see players getting arrested off the field on battery charges, only to be allowed to commit battery on the field to other players — with virtually no repercussions in the aftermath — in front of millions of witnesses, nonetheless.

Proposed Penalty: Ejection of all players involved and 15-yard penalty, automatic first down.

It’s a professional game. Let’s start holding players accountable for their actions on the field, too. If you or I beat the tar out of each other at a bar, we’d likely both be arrested. Why are players getting a free pass on national television while setting a terrible example as role models?

What are your proposed rule changes for the NFL? Let us know in your comments.

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