Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New NFL Rules

The NFL passed a few new rules into law this week, most of which seem like a good idea:

  • Field goals are now reviewable, which seems like the kind of thing that should have always been reviewable, so I'm in favor of that.
  • Teams can elect to "defer" the coin toss to the opposing team, rather than choosing to receive or kick off. That's fine, though I really don't care, and I imagine most coaches don't care either. Possession seems much more important than direction.
  • The 5-yard variety of facemask penalties was eliminated. My hope with this rule change is that, while the total number of facemask penalties will go down, the number of 15-yard facemask penalties will go up. Any level of twisting or pulling should now be a 15-yard personal foul. This rule change seems to be closer to the spirit of football, where sometimes you're going to get your hand on somebody's facemask.
  • Defensive players can now also wear radio helmets, just like the offense has with the quarterback. Though I didn't see any specifics, I assume they mean just one player on defense. This seems like a direct response to the Patriots' spying scandal, and a way to even the playing field a little bit. I'm in favor.

But there's one rule that, at least at first glance, seems like a bad idea:

  • The concept of a "force out" on the sidelines was eliminated with regards to pass completions. I could maybe see this being a good idea if you go with the "one foot in bounds" rule that college uses, but all signs point to it still being a two feet league. That means that defensive backs are all going to be trying to force receivers out of bounds, and we're going to get a lot less passes near the sidelines. In case you can't put two and two together, this means that late game drives are going to be a lot more difficult, which is a shame, because late game drives are really the most entertaining part of football. I'll need more concrete information on this rule to know for sure, but at first glance, it doesn't look good.

I do like that the NFL, as a league that relies heavily on its rules to define the game, is willing to make changes from year to year in the hopes of creating a better package, a safer and fairer sport. Kudos on the effort, just make sure you get that sideline catch rule right.

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