Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Mar 2014

The NFL's New Rules

Deadspin has a list of all the rules proposals, as well as the rules that actually passed. Yes, this is the thread where you make goalpost dunk jokes.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 27 Mar 2014

62 comments, Last at 06 Apr 2014, 3:21pm by mrt1212


by tuluse :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 11:27am

The NFL is getting a little replay crazy. I've usually been a proponent of replay, but I do think you need to draw the line somewhere and say "this a job done by people, people make mistakes and you just have to live with them". I think in the past 2-3 years, the NFL has been creeping over that line.

I like the safety rule about blocks, and keeping the game clock running after a sack. Up with defense, down with offense!

One thing I don't like about the proposed change for PATs is different lines of scrimmage for PATs or 2 point conversion attempts. It will basically remove a fake kick as an option to get 2 points, and it offends me on an aesthetic level.

by akn :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 1:09pm

The only problem with the new sack rule is it encourages even more quasi-grounding throwaways. The rules committee should have strengthened intentional grounding rules at the same time.

Now we'll have 32 Russell Wilsons running backwards 20 yards and throwing uncatchable passes out of bounds.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 12:14pm

Adam Carrolla will be jubilant about the goalpost rule. Either that, or pissed that the NFL isn't giving him credit for the idea.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 1:18pm

I don't know what Carrolla proposed. But the best idea I heard about for the point-after issue is based on rugby where the ball must be snapped from where the ball crossed the goal line.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 4:07pm

One of Carrolla's comedy routines is complaining about random things that bother him. Whenever he has Rich Eisen on his podcast as a guest, he would constantly badger him that the NFL should extend the goalposts.

Another pet peeve of his is the "irrefutable evidence" rule about instant replay, and that the ref is biased towards letting a call stand, even if it's not correct. His proposal is to have a "replay gimp": A guy who is blindfolded and gagged, and locked in a soundproof booth, so he can't see or hear what was called in the game. One a challenge occurs, he's let out of the box to review the play, unbiased by what was called on the field. Sadly, the league office is unlikely to put that rule change up for vote.

I like that rugby proposal.

by ammek :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 5:37pm

I don't like the rugby conversion. It penalizes tries scored at the extremes of the goalline, which are often the most exciting and intricate to pull off. Scoring a try beneath the goalposts usually means the defense has screwed up. I don't see why an offense should be rewarded with easier extra points for that.

by jacobk :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 7:30pm

I liked the suggestion that the kick has to be taken by the player who scores the touchdown.

by DGL :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 11:06pm

The rugby conversion rule would make it kind of tough to have three players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.

by eggwasp :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 4:31am

Indeed - rugby conversions dont have a defence attempting to block the kick, they are essentially "free kicks" (though that term means something else in rugby).

by Sifter :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 3:13pm

The PAT rule proposal is interesting. Right now the PAT is the biggest waste of 30 seconds in the NFL. Just really boring, predictable and not visually interesting at all ie. by the time you've picked up the flight of the ball it's already through the posts. I guess a longer kick is better, but I still think the kicking game is the weakest part of the NFL from a spectator POV, and I'd like to see it minimized.

My ideas for PATs are either:
a) get rid of them altogether - make TDs worth 7 pts and you have the option of turning your 7th point into 8pts with a conversion from the 2 (and losing that 7th point if you fail), or
b) make the kid who scores the TD take the PAT. Tom Brady sneaks in for the TD? He has to kick the PAT. Suddenly PATs get more interesting. Can this guy kick? What's his record? And hopefully there'd be some god-awful attempts as well that we can all giggle at. Would also make the 2pt conversion decision more flexible eg. If a guy who is a bad kicker scored, then you're more likely to go for 2. Immediately adds more strategy and interest.

by ammek :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 5:33pm

I like:

— TD is worth 6 pts;
— XP worth 1 pt is reaching the end zone on a scrimmage play from the 2-yard line (ie, the current 2-pt conversion);
— XP worth 2 pts if the team manages the same from a scrimmage at the 8-yard line;
— If the conversion fails, the kicker may attempt to boot the ensuing kickoff through the opponents' goalpost for 1 pt.

I'd also drop the value of a field goal to 2 pts (while increasing a safety to 3 pts). Kicking is boring.

Secretly, my favourite things about this proposal are that it would lead to more pleasant round numbers, and make it more difficult to know how a team reached its points total without checking the box score.

by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 8:38pm

I'm baffled by the desire to change the PAT/2 pt. conversion rules. The essence of the game of football is that the offense has the ball with a certain down and distance, and they have to decide what to do. Saying that a team can run one kind of play from one yard line but another kind of play from another yard line simply doesn't make sense in the context of the game.

Making PAT's harder will decrease the value of a TD, and therefore increase the value of FG's. Coaches will be more willing to kick a FG because scoring a TD no longer guarantees 7. The prevalence of 6 point scores will mean that two FG's will be equal to a TD, which is definitely not what the NFL wants strategy-wise.

Saints/Jags in 2003 is a fun reminder that PAT's aren't automatic. I don't know about other people, but when my team scores a TD down 7 with 10 seconds to go, I'm still sweating bullets on the PAT. You never know when the kicker will pull a Carney, the holder will pull a Romo, or the snapper will pull a Junkin (the Romo and Junkin plays weren't XP's, but could easily happen on one).

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:08am

That making PATs more difficult to convert will encourage coaches who already kick far too many field goals to kick more field goals is an excellent point that hadn't occurred to me before.

This fact pushes me from the "spot PATs at the 25" camp into the "make PATs automatic" camp.

As for Carney, one game-altering PAT honk every 20 years is not nearly reward enough for sitting through 80 mind-numbing PATs a week, 17 weeks a year (not including playoffs) for 20 years. And that's for fans; players are actually required to work hard and risk injury on every single one of them, which is the most offensive thing about them.

by MC2 :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:13am

I agree completely. This whole thing seems like a classic case of trying to fix something that's not broken.

Have you ever watched a game and said to yourself, "Boy, that would have been a great game, except that both teams made all their PATs. Damn those accurate kickers!"

Yeah, me neither.

by jdawg :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:18am

Agree that there is no need for change to PAT rule. Eliminating it entirely would be fine. No one wants more games decided by kickers.

But if they do change it, I have an idea that will make things interesting. The team kicking the PAT gets to choose where they kick from, and on the ensuing kickoff they must kick from the same spot. So if you kick from the 10, you kick off from the 10. If you want to kickoff from the 40, you need to try a 50 yard PAT. Obviously will never happen but would give coaches interesting decisions to make.

by DraftMan :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 1:23pm

Unless a team is in need of a lot of points, this decision likely always boils down to "attempt a hopeless 99-yard PAT, then kick off with an onside kick from around the opponent's 11."

by jdawg :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 4:29pm

Good point. So limit it to 60 yards PAT, kickoffs from midfield or further.

by akn :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 1:57pm

Have you ever watched a game and said to yourself, "Boy, that would have been a great game, except that both teams made all their PATs. Damn those accurate kickers!"

No, but I have said to myself "Well, that PAT and the commercial breaks around it were a waste of 10 minutes."

by eggwasp :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 4:33am

There's rarely a commercial between the TD and the extra point - the problem here is my personal bugbear that they run commercials after the ensuing kickoff. We've just had one after the TD and now you give us one 10-second play (which was probably a touchback) and go to commercial again?

by dbostedo :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 9:08pm

I haven't understood why everyone proposes choice "a)" that way. (I.e. worth 7 points and add or take away.) Peter King and various radio folks have been phrasing it that way.

Isn't it easier to say when TDs are scored, you can take an automatic extra point or go for 2? It's easier to explain, simpler to say, and keeps TDs worth exactly what they are now. You could even summarize it as "extra points are now automatic if teams elect to take them" and be done with it.

by sancho.brasil :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 9:47am

I agree. Another way of saying this could be that, after the TD (six points), teams always get the ball at the 2-yard line for a 2-points play. If they forfeit it, they are awarded one point instead.

Best regards.

by smade :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 9:36pm

While we're eliminating things that almost never fail, add nothing to the game, and are just leftover relics of the Walter Camp era let's get rid of the center snap and let the quarterback start the play with the ball in his hands. Tradition and history be damned!

by MJK :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 6:42pm

* The replay thing is getting silly. There are so many things wrong with replay that would be easy to fix (let coaches challenge more, get rid of finite numbers of challenges and instead just let you challenge as long as you have timeouts, get rid of the "two minute has to come from booth" rule), but this does nothing to address them. All it does is try to fix something that shouldn't be a problem. It was spurred by a truly horrid replay call by Jeff Triplette. If you're options are (1) install a time consuming, costly, and official-undermining system to try to keep Jeff Triplette from making bad calls, or (2) do not employ Jeff Triplette, I know which one I would opt for.

* I don't understand why Belichick's proposal to put extra cameras on the goal line keeps failing. What is the issue here?

* I like the idea of having the player who scored the TD kick the XP attempt, although you'd have to have a contingency rule in case he was injured on the TD play (and some way of making sure that he didn't fake a minor injury to get out of it). Maybe if he can't make the attempt, you have to go for two? Failing that, you could require that the point after attempt be a drop kick. It would at least be more interesting than it is now.

* Don't like the no-dunking rule. The "No Fun League" continues its tyranny.

by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 7:27pm

I don't understand why Belichick's proposal to put extra cameras on the goal line keeps failing. What is the issue here?

It's inconceivable to me that the NFL doesn't have these cameras, at the very least since Ben Watson forced that fumble on Champ Bailey in the 2006 playoffs. Even the awful, backward leadership at FIFA has recognized the importance of a definitive goal line view. I don't understand the lack of this in the NFL.

by jds :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 8:20pm

More cameras = more costs.
More cameras = possibility of obstructing view from some seats (or eliminating some seats) i.e. lower revenue.

I know exactly why they haven't added the cameras.

by RickD :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 9:00pm

More costs? Cameras are cheap compared to the NFL's operating budget.

Today's cameras are not going to obstruct any views.

IMO, the league likes to artificially elevate the referees by refusing to admit their mistakes. That's why they don't want to let coaches have a general power to ask for reviews of any plays, and that's why they don't want more cameras on the field. They's show more mistakes!

It's a weird attitude to have. No other sport that I can think of intentionally refuses to take easy steps to correct obvious mistakes.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 5:05am

No other sport that I can think of intentionally refuses to take easy steps to correct obvious mistakes.

They've finally caved, but it took decades to convince FIFA to allow the use of goal-line technology in official matches to determine whether the ball crossed the goal line -- for me, the principal reason to have these cameras. FIFA also remain very restrictive about what can and cannot be reviewed after the match using camera footage. Considering soccer games have been televised for about six decades, the progress in empowering leagues with the use of TV footage has been and remains painfully slow.

by eggwasp :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 4:35am

Well, yes but then soccer is a continuous game that doesn't stop the clock.

by Theo :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 5:38am

...which completely is not an argument to the point he's making.

by sancho.brasil :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 1:55pm

Actually, it is. Pausing the game to check decisions is a non-starter in soccer. The organ responsible for the rulebook is the IFAB, which meets twice a year, and has 8 votes: 4, from FIFA and 1 each from Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Every decision needs 3/4 of the votes. It is extremely conservative.

Best regards.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 4:11pm

I specifically did not mention any instances which would require play to be halted for a review. Goal-line technology decisions are almost instant, and play need only be stopped if the goal is awarded. The rest of my post dealt with post-match video review.

My overall point was that the NFL is far from alone in its intentional refusal to take easy steps to correct obvious mistakes. FIFA has been refusing to use functional goal-line technology and video evidence of cheating for decades.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 5:03pm

I've seen referees huddle and discuss in soccer. It's very rare, but it happens. So they can stop play if needed.

by eggwasp :: Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:40am

Thats very different to stopping the game for 2 minutes to look at replays for an offside, handball etc.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 9:58am

Baseball does. MLB finally acknowledged 15 years late that they have a problem with inactivity during the games, and every fan knows what the obvious solution is (forbid the batters from stepping out of the box before the end of the at-bat). MLB's solution: Now each batter's walkup music is capped at 15 seconds!

by SFC B :: Wed, 04/02/2014 - 5:33am

My idea for speeding up baseball games has been to reduce pick-off throws. The pitcher gets 2 attempts to pick-off a runner during an at bat. After the 2nd any additional pick-off attempt that doesn't succeed is a ball.

by MC2 :: Wed, 04/02/2014 - 6:49am

That's not bad, but the real issue is all the pitching changes. That's what takes up so much time. If I were in charge, I would say that when a new pitcher enters the game, he can't be taken out until he either finishes that inning or faces at least 3 batters, whichever comes first.

by SFC B :: Thu, 04/03/2014 - 4:05am

I like your idea and agree that constant pitching changes are a huge drag on the action. But I do think it represents an actual, and important, strategy in the game. So I'd suggest a small change to your idea. If a pitcher doesn't close out an inning, or face three batters, they can still be swapped out, but any runners on base are allowed to advance a base; basically treat it as a balk.

Another thing I'd like to see implemented is a change to the intentional walk. Instead of requiring the pitcher to throw the four balls, just allow the team to tell the ump they want to walk the batter. Sure, it isn't a big deal in the scheme of time used, but it interrupts the flow of the game, and is sometimes used as a way to get an incoming pitcher more time to warm-up, which ties back in to the frequent pitching changes.

by MC2 :: Thu, 04/03/2014 - 6:05am

I could definitely live with that modification, although to be honest, if my new rule ended up eliminating the "righty/lefty matchup" strategy entirely, I wouldn't really miss it. I think the main effect of that strategy has been the proliferation of "one trick pony" relief specialists, many of whom would probably struggle to get outs in the high minors if they had to face batters from both sides of the plate.

As for the intentional walk rule, I totally agree. In fact, I've heard that suggestion before, and I'm kind of surprised it hasn't been implemented yet.

by eggwasp :: Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:42am

How about making the RP run on and pitch rather than watch some commercials and warm up on the mound. Make them warm up in the bullpen and go out & throw a live pitch straightaway. If they aren't ready to do that in 60 seconds, its a ball.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 5:12am

More cameras = more costs.

Maybe the league could hold a bake sale?

The benefit of a higher chance of getting critical decisions correct surely far outweighs the costs.

by Jerry :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 6:57am

How often are more cameras on the goal line going to matter? It seems that the problem is usually bodies between the camera and the ball, and more cameras are unlikely to solve that, especially if the league doesn't want to obstruct seats.

by RickD :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 9:13pm

Trying to understand the rule against dunking, which is just the latest "No Fun League" rule against letting players celebrate as they wish. I think it stems from the desires of the owners to have the players be viewed as uniformed soldiers, not as stars of the league. The NFL's attitude is the opposite of the NBA's.

Just trying to figure out what the league is thinking here.

by tuluse :: Thu, 03/27/2014 - 10:20pm

There is a subset of fans who do not approve of such trivial things like "having fun" or "showing emotion" in a football game.

There is another subset of fans (which may overlap with the first), who--how I put this diplomatically--tend to see things through a racial lens and associate non-conformity with negative attributes of certain races.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 5:04am

Jimmy Graham damaged a crossbar with a dunk against Atlanta on Thursday Night Football. The game was delayed while it was repaired. It's one incident in decades of dunking, but probably the incident that finally prompted this change.

by Jerry :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 6:51am

Dunking didn't become popular until recently. You're right about the new rule being a reaction to having to level the crossbar after Graham's dunk.

by Travis :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 8:26am

Rich McKay, Competition Committee chair, on the rule change:

I think the reasoning behind it is disruption of the game and the inability to in some stadiums to be able to correct the goalposts themselves because of the way they are put in. (In some venues) when you get them off angle, they’re not coming back during that game time, which creates a little bit of a problem of where the kicker is going to kick. When we changed the rules about props way back when we had some issues with some things that were going on on the field and it dealt with sportsmanship, we left a number of things in. We said the ‘Lambeau Leap’ was ok and you can do it because it was a traditional thing. I don’t think we ever contemplated that the goalpost would ever be thrown off kilter in games and there be a 20-minute delay of the game as they try to right them. When you add five feet to the top and make them even heavier, I think we were concerned about how it would impact a game from a competitive standpoint. That’s why the rule modification took place.

by DraftMan :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 1:19pm

Dunking in the NBA is perfectly fine, it's only when you break the backboard that a technical foul is assessed. Why couldn't the same result-driven standard be used here?

by Travis :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 1:41pm

Dunking is fundamental to the modern game of basketball. Dunking on the goalposts has nothing to do with football gameplay.

by jdawg :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 4:32pm

I have no problem with dunking on goalposts. But I do have a problem with about 90% of the attempted dunks on the goalposts, which end up actually being throws over the goalposts. Those should be penalized, if you try to dunk and throw the ball upwards rather than downwards, fifteen yard penalty.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 9:58pm

Agreed. Just treat it as another delay of game penalty if the goalposts are knocked out of alignment. Or maybe they could afford more sturdy goalposts.

by mrt1212 :: Sun, 04/06/2014 - 3:21pm

They're think of a specific incident involving a specific player who delayed a game with his dunk routine, Jimmy "I was a college basketball player" Graham

by sancho.brasil :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 9:29am

I have no problem with the PAT whatsoever.

My two main suggestions would be as follows:

a) Kickoff at midfield. Touchback at 40-yard line. If the ball goes straight out-of-bounds, offense gets the ball at the spot of the kick. If the ball touches a player or the ground before going out-of-bounds, ball is placed at the spot where it went out-of-bounds.

The idea is to minimize returns while reducing also touchbacks. This would increase kickoff tactics.

b) For a pass to be ruled incomplete, the ball should pass the line-of-scrimmage; otherwise is a fumble and the play remains alive. Whenever a pass goes straight out-of-bounds behind the line of scrimmage, the ball is placed at the spot where it went out-of-bounds. Intentional grounding could be applied.

Best regards.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:01am

Your kickoff idea would merely result in all kickoffs being fair catches around the 10 yard line unless the kicker massively screws up. It would be better to eliminate kickoffs (which the NFL probably will do eventually).

by sancho.brasil :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 2:16pm

Not necessarily. Because of the shorter field, there is an incentive for the offense to challenge the ball.

Best regards.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 12:25pm
by MJK :: Sat, 03/29/2014 - 5:44pm

Wow. I'm not a big fan of Barnwell, but I basically agree with almost everything he said.

by andrew :: Fri, 03/28/2014 - 7:12pm

rather than add 5' to the goalposts (which still affords the possibility of goiong over), I still prefer just putting a laser pointer on the top of the posts. If the ball hits the laser, good. You can turn it on only for when kicks are taken, and some light fog could easily make the lasers visible if desired.

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 03/30/2014 - 3:40pm

Sure, then you can have a timeout on every FG attempt so the officials can consult with the FAA and local air traffic control for permission to execute the kick.

by Theo :: Sun, 03/30/2014 - 8:40pm

I propose a maximum number of non-football related people around the field.

Before, during and after the game please.

by Theo :: Sun, 03/30/2014 - 8:44pm

"The league also voted to enforce defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage at the spot of the foul"

So helmet to helmet fouls are now spot fouls instead of 15-yarders.

by Cythammer :: Sun, 03/30/2014 - 10:10pm

So if a quarterback is hit more than fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage the penalty won't result in any gain of yardage at all…? I must be missing something.

by tuluse :: Mon, 03/31/2014 - 12:30am

"beyond the line of scrimmage"