Off-season is an important time for both the NFL teams and the league itself to make adjustments and preparations for the upcoming season. Every year, the NFL Competition Committee gets together to discuss how to improve the league and the game itself. The committee and the teams then announce proposals for rule changes, which will be voted on during the NFL Owner’s Meetings this week. These proposals can potentially change the mechanism and the pace of the game, and even the slightest adjustment can have a substantial impact on the playoffs. Six proposals were submitted by the committee in 2013, and 13 were submitted in 2014. Unlike 2013 and 2014, the committee submitted 23 proposals to the league in 2015, mainly focusing on the expansion of instant replay.
Breaking down proposed rule changes might sound boring. However, these new proposals can prevent officiating errors in the game from happening. In other words, controversial calls will no longer be made, and you will have to actually watch the replay instead of throwing your remote to the flat screen in frustration. Therefore, pay attention and save yourself a TV.
The Detroit Lions proposed that replay be expanded to include all plays in which a challenge flag was thrown by a coach. That’s far too redundant.
The New England Patriots also submitted a proposal related to this topic. The current rule for challenges states that the coach can have up to three timeouts and two challenges in each half of the game. That’s why there are five indicators displayed on the scoreboard. For each challenge used, a timeout is charged. If the challenge is successful, the timeout is restored to the team. Additionally, the team is awarded with a third challenge opportunity if the two previous challenges are successful. The Patriots proposed that timeouts and challenges should be separated, and the coach can call them at any point of the game. That makes a lot of sense. An officiating error shouldn’t be left uncorrected just because the coach is out of challenges. In this way, the coach can just simply call a timeout and inform the officials that he wants to challenge the call. However, if this proposal is adopted, we won’t see Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid throwing the red flag in anger.
The fans also have to acknowledge referees’ subjective interpretation of the rules. Penalty calls, such as pass interference and holding, depend heavily on the referee. There’s a difference between the book definition and the human judgment. You can’t just take out a rulebook and argue with the referee on the field, can you?
Another interesting proposal worth mentioning has been submitted by the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts proposed to add another bonus field goal if the team successfully completes a two-point conversion after a touchdown. In other words, a team can score nine points in just one run. After scoring a touchdown, the coach can choose to score a bonus field goal for one additional point, or a two-point conversion and a bonus field goal. This proposal can drastically change the mechanics of the game if adopted. This would encourage teams to make special plays and go for the two points. Think about it: two touchdowns and one field goal attempt can establish a 17-point lead, and it would be overturned with just two plays.
The Patriots also proposed to add mandatory fixed-view cameras on the goal line and the sidelines. In this way, officials no longer have to rely on cameras on drones, which occasionally give replay footage with bad angles.
Overall, these proposals aim to make the game as even as possible by providing more information for both the officials and the coaches. The results will be announced at the conclusion of this week’s Owner’s Meetings.