The NFL will hold its annual owners meetings next week when teams will vote on changes proposed by the competition committee. Those can include rule changes, the hiring of full-time officials and everything in-between.
Before the owners gather in Phoenix to discuss the proposed adjustments, we decided to come up with a handful of our own. The NFL is great, but it’s not perfect, and these 10 rule changes would move the league in the right direction as far as entertainment value and quality of play go.
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Offense keeps possession on fumble through the end zone
This is the absolute worst rule in football. If a player dives toward the pylon, but the ball slips out of his hand 1 inch before it crosses the goal line, and it tumbles out of the end zone, the defense gets the ball. If he fumbles it and it rolls out of bounds at the 6-inch line, the offense keeps it.
How on earth does this make sense? It doesn’t.
The offense should keep possession on any fumble (other than one through its own end zone), unless there is a clear recovery by the defense. Do away with this touchback nonsense, which essentially cost the Ravens a win over the Redskins last season.
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Coaches keep challenges if they win them
The NFL has done its best to get calls right with replay reviews and challenges by coaches. However, one small tweak would make coaches’ challenges even better.
Give each team one challenge per half. If the coach wins the challenge he keeps it, similar to the way it’s laid out now. However, with this change, a coach will have unlimited challenges … if he keeps winning them.
The only time he loses the right to challenge a play is, well, if he gets one of his challenges wrong. Having one per half would avoid a possible scenario where a coach challenges a play early in the first quarter, gets it wrong and has no challenges for the remainder of the game.
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Allow custom cleats during games
The NFL had one week last season when players could wear custom cleats to benefit the foundation of their choice. In short, it was awesome.
Now, the league has to continue to loosen the laws on colorful, meaningful cleats and allow players to wear whatever they want on their feet. Want to wear Yeezy 750 cleats? Go ahead. Want to wear all red Jordans when you play for the Packers? Sure, why not.
Just ease up on fining players and threatening to toss them for looking good.
Soften celebration penalties
The granddaddy of them all: celebration penalties.
There’s a reason the NFL has been called the “No Fun League,” and it’s because officials have come down hard on players dancing, pretending to shoot arrows into the sky and dunking on the goal posts.
I’m not saying the league has to let players do whatever they want, because that would get out of control. But if Antonio Brown wants to twerk, let him. If Josh Norman wants to shoot a bow and arrow after a pick, allow it.
Choreographed dances can sometimes get lengthy, but they also make the game more fun. It encourages players to show personality, which is what the NFL wants, right? Just soften the penalties a bit.
Clarify the catch rule
This one has been the most criticized rule of any in the past five years. From the “Calvin Johnson rule” to Dez Bryant’s non-catch against the Packers, no one really knows what a real catch is. It’s not exactly clear in the rulebook, and the league has had a hard time explaining it.
There may not be a way to make it indisputable, but the easiest solution is to just use common sense. Did the receiver get two feet in bounds and maintain possession for a reasonable amount of time? If so, it should be a catch. Nix the rule that says a receiver has to control the ball all the way to the ground. Use common sense and this rule will be a whole lot easier to understand.
Defensive pass interference = 15-yard penalty
Currently, defensive pass interference is a spot foul. That means the offense will get an automatic first down at the spot of the penalty, which could be 5 yards or 75, depending on the play.
On the flip side, offensive pass interference is just a 10-yard penalty, despite the fact that a receiver can maul a defender to prevent an interception and only lose 10 yards. To balance it out a bit, defensive pass interference should be changed to a 15-yard penalty, the way it is in college.
This would make the penalty more reasonable, while still rewarding the offense with 15 free yards. I realize 15 isn’t the same as 45 on a deep play where the receiver gets tackled, but it would balance the penalties a bit.
Remove “automatic first down” from illegal hands to the face
If a defender goes to press a receiver on the outside, and his hand happens to make its way up into the facemask of the offensive player, it’s a 5-yard penalty. That’s not the issue with the rule. It’s the fact that it results in an automatic first down.
It could be third-and-25, and even if the pass falls incomplete, it’s a first down in the event that hands to the face is called. It’s one of the worst rules in football and it has to change.
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Shorten overtime to 10 minutes, eliminate it from preseason
Currently, overtime periods are 15 minutes. We had two ties last season, and there likely would have been a few more if the NFL follows through with the competition committee’s proposal to shorten them to 10 minutes.
It should, and here’s why.
NFL games are long as it is, both for the players and for everyone watching at home. Adding 15 minutes of overtime when the quality is lower not only impacts that game, but each of the two teams’ next games the following week. It makes it more difficult for players to recover in time, which can lead to injuries.
Moving to 10-minute overtimes would obviously increase the likelihood of ties, but it would also protect players from injury.
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Let every eligible receiver wear whichever number they’d like
Packers running back Ty Montgomery is moving from wide receiver to running back next season on a full-time basis. He’ll be keeping his No. 88, which seems impossible by the NFL’s standards. It’s not, simply because he played receiver for a full season and is moving from an eligible-receiver position to another one.
If he can wear 88, why can’t every eligible receiver wear the number of his choosing? Wideouts should be able to wear numbers from 20-49, and running backs should be able to wear receivers’ numbers.
USA TODAY SportsJerry Lai
Move kickoffs back to the 30-yard line
Kickoffs used to begin at the 30-yard line. Back in 2011, the NFL moved them up to the 35, thus reducing the number of returns and driving up the number of touchbacks. There’s just one problem: Returns are infinitely more exciting to watch than touchbacks.
It used to be an accomplishment when a kicker could boot one out of the end zone – something only the biggest legs could do. Now, it’s completely regular – expected, really.
Keeping touchbacks at the 25-yard line is fine, but the league should move kickoffs back to the 30-yard line. That may increase the number of returns, but unless the NFL wants to completely eliminate kickoffs, it should at least make them watchable.