In its traditional yearly fashion, owners from all 32 NFL teams among a large contingent of coaches, staff and media alike meet in the offseason around this time to take care of important business—like rules changes and questioning everything about Commissioner Roger Goodell.
This year’s meetings includes several rules that actually kind of make sense, plus a few that will only remind you how thankful you are that you never had to suffer through prohibition. Sarcasm aside, let’s take a look at some of the new rules.
Per a March 22, 2016 memo from the NFL:
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.
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.
3. By Competition Committee: Makes all chop blocks illegal.
4. By Competition Committee: Expands the horse collar rule to include when a defender grabs the jersey or name plate or above and pulls a runner down towards the ground.
5. By Competition Committee: Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team attempts to call a timeout with it’s not permitted to do so.
6. 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 a down.
7. By Competition Committee: Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.
Let’s first take a look at the rules that make sense.
Rule No. 1 was an experimental procedure from last season, where the League saw that point after tries only dropped from 99 percent down to 94 percent. It didn’t have much of an effect on the overall flow of the game, but it rewards defenses a little, which I suppose is intended to make the game more exciting. But don’t quote me on that.
Rule No. 3 is fairly black and white; if a player grabs on to the jersey where the nameplate is, he’s flagged. I think it’s a good rule, but defensive coordinators are going to have to get creative this offseason in coaching players on how to get around the rule, or establishing a takedown with an entirely new approach. If you’re an avid NFL viewer, that could be one thing you pay closer attention to during camp or in preseason games.
Now, let’s take a look at the more questionable rules.
For starters, No. 5 is one of those rules that makes you ask yourself, “How?” Or “Why?” The rule is intended to penalize a team who calls for a timeout when they have no timeouts. But if you’re a quarterback, you could easily just spike the football if time is a concern, or just fake an injury. I can see teams getting as creative as possible to get around this one, which might just disrupt the game enough for viewers to notice.
Lastly, rule No. 6, where now, instead of a receiver being flagged for five-yards for illegally touching the pass and reestablishing himself inbounds, the offense loses a down. I can already visualize a world where replay booth discussions on the myriad of plays this call could pertain to could easily take us through several commercial breaks. Hello, four-to-five hour football games…drink up, bros.
Overall, I give the rules around a 50/50 approval. When they’re initiated to legitimately combat injuries and bolster player safety, then they’re solid. But if changes force coaches to get creative, or have the potential to disrupt the flow of a game, it takes a toll on fan excitement, which could impact ratings or ticket sales. Let’s hope the latter doesn’t happen, but if it does, stock up the Yeti’s.