As has been the case the past few years, several NFL rules were at the center of discussion this season. Previously it was the catch rule. This year, it was the pass interference review fiasco. And there’s the loophole that the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans exposed to run over 1:40 off the game clock before punting the ball. That one will surely be written out of the rulebook next year. Here are some NFL rules that would be interesting to see implemented in the future. Some are obvious and likely to be implemented in some capacity, while others will never be implemented but make sense and would be enjoyed by fans.
Five NFL Rules That Would Be Nice to See
This is one of the NFL rules that has been a problem for years. The setup that doesn’t guarantee both teams a chance to score drives many fans crazy. In Super Bowl LI, that year’s MVP Matt Ryan sat on the sideline while Tom Brady marched down the field to win the game. The league’s number one offense from that year never had a chance to produce what could’ve been an all-time classic shootout. During last year’s AFC championship game, MVP Patrick Mahomes watched his defense give up a touchdown to the Patriots in overtime. Again, the league MVP and number one offense never had a chance. And now this year, Drew Brees and the number four offense had no chance to match the touchdown by the Minnesota Vikings that ended the New Orleans Saints season.
There are several different ways to go with changing this rule. At the very least, both teams in playoff games should get the chance to take the field before the game is decided. Something like the system used in NCAA football would make sense. The only change would be making the starting point much further than the 25-yard line, as each team would pretty much be guaranteed a field goal. Starting at the 50-yard line and forcing teams to go for a two-point conversion would be the best fix. Forcing two-point conversions should help reduce multiple overtime games, which could end up becoming a player safety issue.
Broadcasted Replay Review
Part of the reason NFL rules can be confusing is because of the lack of consistency and transparency with the fans. This rule would never be implemented, but it would be very interesting for football nerds especially. The conversation between Al Riveron in New York and the referee on the field should be played on the TV broadcast for fans to hear. Who wouldn’t enjoy listening to the conversation and hearing the reasoning straight from the source?
This rule would help put an end to the notion that certain teams get favorable calls more than other teams (or support the notion if it was true). Instead of Riveron making a video explaining a call and posting it to Twitter, all viewers would get to hear the reasoning live. There is a slim chance the NFL would ever do anything like this, but it would still be fun for the fans and would allow the league to help remove ideas that the favor some teams.
Indisputable Video Evidence
One thing that really worsens the viewing experience of fans is extremely long replay reviews. A way to fix this problem would be by limiting how long a replay can last. This would make sense due to the reasoning of a call needing “indisputable video evidence” to be overturned. If a review takes five minutes to look at every available angle in slow motion, it’s hard to imagine there is indisputable video evidence to overturn it. Whether the limit is two or three or however many minutes, there should be a limit. If officials can’t confidently overturn a call after two minutes of looking at various angles in slow motion, the call shouldn’t be overturned at all. This would go hand-in-hand with the previous rule, as it would allow fans to know what the refs are talking about and how long it takes them to make a final decision on a call.
This is another one of the NFL rules that are often discussed, especially in a year like this year. The Philadelphia Eagles hosted a playoff game at 9-7, despite the two wild card teams finishing with better records. There still needs to be an incentive for teams to win their division, though, so just taking the six teams with the best records shouldn’t necessarily be the solution. Instead, a logical change would be to take the four division winners and the next two best teams as wild card teams. After the six teams are decided, though, they should be re-seeded based on record.
If this rule was in place this year, the six NFC playoff teams would have been the same. However, the sixth-seeded Eagles would have been traveling to New Orleans on wildcard weekend. The fourth-ranked Seattle Seahawks would have played host to the number five ranked Vikings. If a team wins their division at 9-7 or 8-8, that just means they won a poor division. An 11 or 12-win team getting a wild card spot means they played really good football despite having at least one more top team in their division. The team who wins the bad division shouldn’t be guaranteed a home game against the team who placed second in a quality division.
Scoring on Kickoffs
With NFL rules putting more of an emphasis on player safety, this rule would go along with that. Kickoffs have been one aspect of the game with many rule changes to make the plays safer for players. Moving the spot of the kick up to the 35-yard line has produced more touchbacks. And now that a touchback comes out to the 25 instead of the 20, teams are content to just take a knee. Kicking teams are countering this by kicking the ball high and just short of the goal line. This strategy allows their coverage team more time to get downfield. Many times, these types of kicks aren’t returned past the 25, making it beneficial to not kick the ball into the end zone.
The proposed rule here is to give teams one point for kicking the ball through the uprights on a kickoff. Over the course of a game, this would allow teams to score roughly a field goal worth of points on kickoffs. There’s no telling how coaches would react to this rule. But, teams with good kickers likely would risk the other team starting at the 25-yard line to potentially add multiple points over the course of a game. And, of course, the added number of touchbacks would help further the NFL’s desire for player safety.
Honorable Mention: No More Automatic First Downs
Automatic first downs for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct are fine. Defensive hands to the face or holding shouldn’t automatically result in a first down. On third and 15, a defensive holding three yards downfield should not be a first down. There are already enough rules that make the game easier for offenses than defenses. If a defensive end beats an offensive tackle, the tackle can just throw him down by his jersey. That’s just ten yards and no loss of down. Current NFL rules make it hard for defensive players, specifically in the secondary, to succeed. Eliminating automatic first downs for five yard penalties would be a nice change to see.