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A closer look at the NFL Competition Committee’s proposed rule changes

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There are a handful of interesting rule changes being proposed, some of which might have a significant impact on NFL games.

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Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The NFL’s annual meeting is this weekend (Sunday, to be precise). It is at this meeting that the owners will vote on the rule changes proposed by the NFL Competition Committee. While none of the proposed rules are generally too impactful, there have been a few in recent years that have made small changes to the NFL game.

This year, there are few noteworthy proposals that deserve our attention. James has already touched on one of the proposed changes, which discusses ejections as a possible penalty for egregious illegal hits. Here are some of the other changes that will be discussed that seem interesting (H/T to USA Today for their compilation of all the proposals).

Banning defensive players from leaping over the long snapper during field goal and extra point attempts

This one is interesting because it is a common tactic employed on special teams to block kicks. We’ve seen some electric plays happen on the back of these blocks, including game changing returns and one-point losses. The justification for the new rule seems to be based nebulously around “player safety”. You’d think the NFL would focus on something other than a special teams play used perhaps 2-3 times per game if that was their goal, but I digress.

The expansion of a defenseless player protection to include receivers running routes, including the area 5 yards from the line of scrimmage

A rule like this could change how defenses cover and hit on short routes. From the wording it’s hard to say exactly what this would mean, but I can tell you that it’s already hard for defenses to cover those quick, short passes and shallow crossing routes. Part of the trade-off for running those plays is that defenders get an easy shot at the receiver. Tacking additional penalties onto short passes could have negative consequences for how the game is played.

The Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills jointly proposed a rule that increases the number of challenges a team can have in a game, as well as to allow coaches to challenge any officiating decision made by a referee

This is by far the most interesting (and potentially impactful) of all the proposed changes. The NFL has had a consistent problem with “getting it right” as far as officiating goes, namely because many calls can’t be questioned, reviewed, or overturned.

A rule like this could help fix that problem. If you would please focus your attention on the picture that I have placed at the top of this article, you’ll understand why a rule change like this could be beneficial. The nature of that play meant that there was nothing Atlanta could do, even though the penalty was clear as day. Making sure games are called correctly is paramount to having a fair NFL environment.

The other part of the rule would be increasing the number of challenges. It’s pretty unclear how much of an increase that would be, but I would caution against teams having more than 3-4 challenges a game. Anything more than that could cause a significant slow down, and the NFL has made it clear they’d like to avoid increasing the length of games any more than they already have.

Limit overtime in preseason and regular season games to 10 minutes

This rule is short and simple, but it has a clear and tangible impact. While the vast majority of overtime games are decided within 10 minutes, any that are not would simply become ties. I’m not sure more ties are something that the NFL, or fans, would want. Keep in mind that overtime in postseason games would remain at 15 minutes.


What do you think about these proposed changes? Are there any that you support? Any that you disagree with?