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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Josh Elliot has an article up at on NFL rule changes he'd like to see.

Interestingly, four of the changes he wants to see are already implemented in the college game: the overtime format, the 15-yard maximum on pass interference, the number of feet required inbounds for a completion (one for college, two for the NFL), and whether a receiver forced out of bounds by a defensive back without getting his feet down will be given credit for a completion (no in college, yes in the NFL).

He mentions something in his discussion of the overtime format that I have wanted to see myself: moving the OT starting point back to the 35 yard line instead of the 25. (He calls the 25-yard line "absurdly close," which is stretching the boundaries of the word "absurd.") The biggest flaw in the current system is the fact that it can literally take forever. A few six- or seven-overtime games have been played, leaving both teams exhausted and pissed off when they get waxed the next week. Moving the starting points back ten or fifteen yards will force teams to get a first down before moving into reasonable field goal range and increase the chance that a team will end up not scoring on their drive, increasing the variance of each possession. Make that change, declare the teams tied after three overtime sessions, and call it a day.

When it comes to pass interference I'd actually like to see colleges add a flagrant version of pass interference that would be a spot foul without the 15-yard maximum. The rule as currently structured can lead to a situation where intentionally committing a penalty is a good thing, which should never be the case (I'll probably subject you to a diatribe on that subject as it applies to the end of basketball games eventually). The flagrant version would probably be an exceedingly rare call, as it would only be assessed when the defensive back was intentionally committing interference, and how many times is a defensive back badly beaten enough to want to interfere intentionally and able to do so? Infrequently. But when it happens it should be penalized appropriately.

Elliots other four suggested changes are less interesting to consider. One ("don't show that blue LOS line on TV") isn't even a rule change. Another ("no cut blocks") is a radical departure from the current NFL rules that will never see the light of day. The last two are impractical. He suggests that the ground should be allowed to "cause" a fumble, which makes no sense. If the ground causes a fumble it's because you've hit it. You're down by definition. Changing that rule introduces a heap of inconsistencies my brain doesn't want to deal with. Finally, he suggests "no fair catches," which is an invitation to murder punt returners unless you reintroduce the much-reviled halo rule. It was also a feature of the ill-fated XFL, and my motto is "find out what the XFL did and do the opposite." (If you're curious, no, my motto doesn't come into play all that often.)