During the NFL’s annual league meetings earlier this month, a few changes were made to the rulebook. Concussion protocol is now tighter, officials can change the game clock and Bill Belichick will find new ways to make use of the rulebook. It’s a good start but there are still some rules that could use tweaking. The NFL might not be broken but tune-ups could still be in order.
In an ideal world, NFL kickoffs never should have left. But increasing awareness over injuries forced the league to neuter one of the most exciting plays of the game. Since moving the kickoff up five yards to the 35-yard line the kickoff has become just more time to use the bathroom. Almost every kick is a touchback and electric returns are few and far between now.
To keep kickers from just booting the ball as far as they can and eliminating the return, the receiving team should start their drive at the 30-yard line if the ball ends up sailing out the back of the end zone. This would put a renewed focus on the kicking game. At the very least, it will keep butts in the seat.
The NFL is a passing league and that is never going to change. Offense sells tickets, and the league has been generating more and more money since 1978. The rules definitely favor the passing game, probably too much so. It is time to give at least some power back to the defensive backs. Minimal contact shouldn’t warrant an automatic first down and a march halfway down the field.
College football currently has defensive pass interference as a 15-yard penalty. I would take it one step further and have there be two different kinds of pass interference. Like basketball, there can be “flagrant” pass interference and “non-flagrant.” Each one would give the offense different yardage and would at least give some help defensive backs across the league.
Another (less likely) option is to give corners 10 yards of contact to jostle with receivers instead of the current five yards. This could be a win-win for both the league’s wallets and fans. It would reintroduce physicality into the passing game and more teams would be prompted to go for the deep ball, which the league loves.
One of the NFL’s biggest missed opportunities happens at the end of games. Too many times there will be two minutes left on the clock, but because the leading team has the ball and the defense is out of timeouts, the game is essentially over. In order to have teams play until the final whistle and give us more exciting finishes, it should be a requirement that to stop the clock the ball has to make forward progress.