Imagine the NFL if the rules of play had never changed.
A quarterback can’t throw a pass unless he’s at least 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The offence begins some plays just a yard from the sideline and is penalised for throwing more than one pass during a series of downs. Player substitutions are prohibited. No communication from the sideline is allowed. Players from both teams grab their opponents’ facemasks at will.
Thankfully those are the ways it used to be and our beloved game has evolved to be as entertaining as we now know it.
But who decides on these changes? It’s not the refs, they are only there to enforce the rules, they don’t make them! That is down to the Competition Committee. This is an eight-man (yes still a closed world there) panel of the great and good of the NFL and is made up of four owners/presidents, two general managers and two coaches.
The Competition Committee’s actions are based, in part, on feedback from a variety of sources. At the end of each season, the 32 NFL clubs fill out a survey, answering questions about player protection, officiating, competitive balance and technology. Leading up to the National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, NFL Football Operations meets with coaches, general managers, players and NCAA representatives to gather their input about potential changes to the rules. There is also a review of data on injuries, instant replay and technology.
Whilst it may have gone quiet on the football field in the past month it’s not quiet off it. As Saints coach Sean Payton is on the competition committee I expect some of the recent conversations may have been very loud as his team were removed from a potential Super Bowl slot by a big missed call in the NFC championship game.
According to sources familiar with the committee’s discussions during its meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine, there is support for the idea of some kind of ‘Sky Judge’ (as used by the AAF).
The Competition Committee will meet once more before the league’s annual meeting in late March. At that meeting, they vote on new rules.
When the committee meets again they will vote on the following amendments proposed by teams as well as proposals by the NFL’s Competition Committee. It’s unusual for the league to release the team’s proposals separately.
Since the 2015 offseason, only 11% of rules change proposals by teams have been passed, while 97% proposed by the Competition Committee have been passed. Washington, who is proposing two rules changes this offseason, has not had any of their seven changes since 2015 approved.
By Kansas City; to amend Rule 16 to (1) allow both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least one time in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown; (2) eliminate overtime for preseason; and (3) eliminate overtime coin toss so that winner of initial coin toss to begin game may choose whether to kick or receive, or which goal to defend.
By Denver; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1 to provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team who is trailing in the game an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring. (Note: The proposal is similar to the AAF’s on-side kick replacement but would be a 1st and 15 from their own 35 yard line. )
By Washington; to amend Rule 15, Section 2 to subject all plays that occur during a game to coaches’ challenge by teams or review by the Officiating department in the instant replay system.
By Washington; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 5 to add review of personal fouls as reviewable plays in the instant replay system.
By Kansas City; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add review of personal fouls (called or not called on the field) as plays subject to coaches’ challenge in the instant replay system.
By Carolina, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia and Seattle; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add review of designated player safety-related fouls (called or not called on the field) as plays subject to coaches’ challenge in the instant replay system.
By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul to be subject to automatic review in the instant replay system.
By Denver; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add all fourth down plays that are spotted short of the line to gain or goal line to be subject to automatic review in the instant replay system.
By Denver; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add all Try attempts (Extra point or Two-point conversion) to be subject to automatic review in the instant replay system.
Ex Refs Get Further Job Opportunities
It started when Fox appointed Ex NFL VP of officiating, Mike Pereira to be an onscreen rules analyst and the job opportunities continue to grow.
All the major networks have added Rules Analysts, CBS took on Gene Steratore when he retired from being a referee last year. Fox continues to lead that field as they also have ex NFL Snr VP in Dean Blandino.
Blandino has fingers in many pies. He works on replay for the NCAA as well as working with Pereira on the recently launched AAF. The XFL said that Dean would also be assisting them, although this was subsequently denied by Blandino.
The latest in the roles for ex officials is a new appointment by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have taken on former NFL official Larry Rose to assist head coach Bruce Arians with instant replay challenges on game day and understanding the ever-changing NFL rules.
If the NFL appoint Sky Judges and each team takes on an official to assist them, then there may be hope yet for my dream of working in the USA!