Thursday, April 3, 2008

NFL rule changes

A look at the rule changes adopted by the NFL this past week (summarized here):

Putting less on the officials:

"The force-out rule was eliminated, meaning a player who catches a ball must have both feet (or another body part) in bounds. "

A smart move. It was an unnecessary judgment call to put into the hands of the refs. You're asking for controversy like with the Browns comeback against the Cardinals last year.

"Incidental grasp and release of the facemask, which was a 5-yard penalty, no longer will be penalized. The 15-yard penalty remains intact for twisting, turning or pulling the mask."

Good. Why open it up to complaints of how severe the penalty should be? Yes, there will still be complaints about whether or not the penalty should be caled at all, but thats one less point to argue.

Correcting some obvious mistakes:

"Instant replay was expanded to include review of field goals (except those above either upright that don't touch anything)."

Why wasn't this included to begin with? Probably becasue they didnt foresee this.

"Snaps untouched by a player in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap will no longer be a false start, and either team may recover and advance the ball."

A logical move as well - good explanation here.

More puzzling decisions:

"Teams winning the coin toss now can defer a decision until the second half."

Jack Del Rio seems to think this one was important

"Muffed illegal forward handoffs will be treated as fumbles, and no longer as incomplete forward passes."

We're not sure what prompted this one, but in any case it seems to make sense - why should offenses get the benefit of an incompletion (as opposed to a fumble) in a situation where they wouldn't be allowed to pass the ball anyway?

Not Passed

A new playoff seeding system, "allowing wild-card teams to be seeded ahead of the division winner with the third- or fourth-best record, if they had a better record."

Interesting idea - the point was to create more competition for playoff seeding and therefore having fewer meaningless games at the end of the season, like last year's Tennessee-Indy game in which Indy's playoff seeding was already set, and the Titan's victory over the Colts' backups knocked Cleveland out of the playoffs.

Of course, it's always good to avoid meaningless games, but the proposed system would have removed the reward for winning your division, traditionally very important. Apparently this was too high a price to get a little more jockeying for position at the end of the season, as the proposal didn't even get enough support to be put to a formal vote.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this article. very interesting. one thing: you praised the fumble rule change, saying "why should offenses get the benefit of an incompletion (as opposed to a fumble) in a situation where they wouldn't be allowed to pass the ball anyway?"

    what do you mean they wouldn't be allowed to pass the ball anyway? the handoff would be taking place behind the line of scrimmage. am i missing something obvious?