Each year the National Football League’s Rules Committee reviews proposed changes by owners, players, the NFLPA, and even referees in a bid to make the game safer, fairer, and more competitive. Some changes are great, like instant replay, and others are a bust, like virtually no kickoffs being returned because the spot for kickoffs was moved up by five yards.
Here’s a look at three rules changes for the 2012 NFL season that will definitely have an impact on the overall game.
Two years ago the NFL’s Competition Committee proposed and ultimately had implemented an overtime rule that changed the fundamental way overtime has been played in the NFL for decades.
Basically, the rule states that if a team scores anything other than a touchdown on their first OT possession, then the other team has will get one possession to also score. If a touchdown is scored, however, the game is over.
We only saw a couple of instances of this rule come into last season because it was a playoffs-only rule. Well, they liked the outcome so much it’s going to be a part of the regular season and the playoffs starting in 2012.
For what it’s worth, I’m an old-school die-hard football fan and I think it’s a terrible rule. Overtime in the NFL should be “sudden death.” Score, you win. Give up a score? You lose. However, they didn’t ask for my opinion and may not have cared after they heard it. C’est la vie. I’m still watching the 2012 season. I’ll just be grumpy at times for no reason, particularly in overtime games.
This is one rule change I think all football fans are going to wind up hating, and I predict the NFL will reverse its decision in a season or two to implement this new rule.
Like all scoring plays in the NFL, now all turnovers will be automatically booth-reviewed by a league official. This is a terrible rule on many levels, and will actually serve to fundamentally change the game—for the worst.
In the past, coaches have had to make a decision when turnovers took place. That decision was whether or not to challenge the call on the field. Coaching staffs had people reviewing turnovers on replay just seconds after they happened, which frequently resulted in the coaches knowing the factual result of the turnover before the on-field call. If the refs got it right, no challenge. If they got it wrong, coaches had to plead their case and wait for the results of a booth review.
An additional distraction of this rule is that some football games could potential run four hours or longer. Not that there’s anything inherently upsetting about a game that runs four hours or longer, but much of this added time will be of the unproductive sort.
This is kind of like the designated hitter rule in the American League of Major League Baseball. It takes a fair amount of coaching strategy and decision-making out of the game. The three challenges each coach gets per game have just been neutered, as reviewing turnovers was their primary use. Now, they’re pretty much relegated to in-bounds/out-of-bounds calls, where the ball is spotted after a play has been blown dead, and whether or not a pass was caught or trapped on the turn. Boring, right?
Thanks, NFL, for ruining a key component of every game, and for removing one of the most important situations for a coach to face in any game: Whether or not to challenge a turnover call. Coaches will now burn through their challenges knowing full-well any really, truly important situation, like turning the ball over on your final drive of the game to win from behind, will be made by someone “upstairs,” and we ain’t talking about the Big Guy.
See what I mean? It’s a truly unimpressive and dreadful rule change.
Too Many Men on the Field
This is a minor-but-important rule change that has a little more clout than might appear on first glance. It’s also simpler than the NFL has worded it, but have no fear, I’ll cut to the chase.
This rule adds a level of fairness to the game and fixes a loophole, if you will, that should never have been allowed to exist. This season, “too many men on the field” will be a dead-ball foul. This means the clock will stop, the five-yard penalty will be assessed, and the clock won’t start again until the ball has been snapped.
If you remember last year’s Super Bowl, then you might remember the New York Giants getting a lot of “too many men on the field” calls late in the game. Each time they did this it took a little more time off the clock as the refs would immediately start the clock after assessing the penalty. This tactic is particularly harmful to offenses who, late in the game, are tossing Hail Mary passes into the end zone to try and win. A few-seconds runoff here and there adds up to a lot when there’s only 0:52 left in the game.
Now, those same passes will start from a stopped-clock if a defense is flagged for this penalty. Defenses will no longer be incented to cheat by taking intentional penalties late in the game.
It’s a good change and definitely levels the playing field for each team in the league.
Like each previous season, we’ll get used to these new rules in a few weeks, and in the meantime we’ll discuss them to death with other football fans until we feel like we are members of the NFL’s Rules and Competition Committees.
What do you think about these new NFL rules for the 2012 season?