NFL Competition Committee Rule Proposals

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article outlining the NFL rules that the teams had asked to be changed by the owners.  At that time, the competition Committee hadn’t put forward their proposals.

This is unusual, as normally all the proposals are submitted together.  I suspect the reason for the delay was the momentous change they were contemplating relating to replay reviews.

To put the differences into context between changes proposed by clubs and those proposed by the competition committee, 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.

Competition Committee Proposals:

  • 1. To amend Rule 6 to make permanent the kickoff rule changes that were implemented during the 2018 season.
  • 2. To amend Rule 12 to expand protection to a defenceless player (Blindside Blocks).
  • 3. To amend Rule 14, Section 5, Article 2 to change the enforcement of double fouls when there is a change of possession.
  • 4. To amend Rule 11, Section 4, Article 2 to simplify the application of scrimmage kick rules for missed field goals.
  • 5. To amend Rule 14, Section 2, Article 3 to allow teams to elect to enforce on the succeeding try or on the succeeding free kick an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.
  • 6. To amend Rule 15, Section 2 for one year only to expand the reviewable plays in instant replay to include fouls for pass interference; also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).
  • 6a. To amend Rule 15, Section 2 for one year only to expand the reviewable plays in instant replay to include all fouls for pass interference, roughing the passer, and unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenceless posture; also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).


Ignoring the more technical changes, there are Two MAJOR proposals being put forward.

Blindside Blocks and Concussion

The first is to limit Blindside Blocks so that contact isn’t made with the shoulder, helmet or forearm.  Blindside blocks that involve helmet contact against the defender are already illegal.  It will still be possible to ‘de-cleat’ a player, however, to make it legal you are going to have to initiate contact with your hands first. (A blindside block is one where a player doesn’t see the block coming, normally when play changes direction and he’s focusing on the runner).  This now brings the NFL more or less in line with existing high school rules on blindside blocks.  A new proposal by the NCAA rules committee will also look to limit forcible blindside blocks in the future (A change that will almost inevitably affect the International rule set the year after it’s introduced in the US).  This change at all three levels of football reflects a continuing effort to reduce the risks of concussion.

Information coming out of the competition committee conference call revealed that the changes to rules for kickoffs produced a 35%  decrease in concussions.  I fully expect to see proposal 1 passed this year.

Replay Expansion

The most major change is likely to be called ‘The Saints Rule’.  Following last years’ NFC championship game where an obvious pass interference call was missed, there is now a proposal to allow Pass Interference to be challenged.  There is a second, more encompassing proposal to expand replay to also include roughing the passer and unnecessary contact fouls.

The reason this is such a major change is it’s the first time in the history of replay that subjective calls will be included.  Previously replay was ruling on points of fact; was the ball touched, did a runner step out of bounds or did the ball cross the goal line etc.

Unfortunately, the league has missed a big opportunity to correct obvious missed calls as replay will only be allowed to challenge when a flag has actually thrown and not to challenge a missed call.

The AAF which launched this season with two ex VPs of NFL officiating advising them (Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira).  They introduced a ‘Sky Judge’ to each of their games.  The role of this official was to spot any egregious officiating mistakes and correct those plays immediately.  This has obviously been seen as a big success in the eyes of many, although it isn’t making ground with the competition committee and it looks like any future 8th official will be on the field, not in the booth.  The other change the AAF made was to allow the TV audience an insight into what the replay official is seeing and how they are ruling on any questionable plays.  In the picture above AAF replay official, Terri Valenti (who does the same role for the NFL) is seen reviewing a play in the game between Orlando and Atlanta.  Let’s hope the NFL also open up the replay booth (and New York) transparency.