It’s been a few weeks since the NFL’s competition committee met to discuss future rule changes. It’s always interesting to see what teams will come up with. This year, some of the more interesting ideas were to expand the definition of intentional grounding, make 50+ yard field goals worth 4 points, expand the replay system, and change the penalty for a receiver who goes out of bounds then comes back to catch the ball. But, let’s look at what the NFL accepted and put into practice for the coming season.
Permanently moving “try kicks” to the 15 yard line.
This seems like an odd idea, mostly because we don’t know what a “try kick” is. For those who are wondering, that’s the technical term for an extra point. The rule was passed for the 2015 season, but was changed on a one-year term. Now, it’s a permanent part of the game.
All coaches can use the radio system to communicate with players, regardless of where they are (on the field or in the coaches’ booths.
This is significant because, until this year, a coach sitting in the booth couldn’t communicate directly with a player. That is, there had to be a relay system where the coach communicated with someone on the sideline who would, then, pass the message along to a player. It was a complicated system that took precious seconds away from the play calling.
The time saved is a significant factor because of how the rule is written. The ability to communicate through the headset is only allowed from the end of a play to, either, the beginning of the next play or until there are 15 seconds left on the play clock. That means, the time that the coaches only have, about, 25 seconds to communicate what needs to happen.
Chop blocks become illegal
This is a safety rule, and I love it. To be clear, there is a difference between a “chop block” and a “cut block”. A chop block is when a defender is engaged with a blocker, then another blocker comes in low and hits the defender. The potential of blowing a defender’s knee out that way are quite high, and thus, it’s illegal now. A cut block is when a blocker comes after a defender and blocks low. That is still allowed. So, the key here is that you can’t go low when the defender is engaged.
The horse collar rule now extends down to the “name plate” on the jersey.
Roy Williams created the concept of the “horse collar” tackle when he would grab players by the neck of their jersey and pull them directly backwards. It became an issue when multiple players (most notably Terrell Owens) got injured. Under the new rule, the horse collar is expanded to include the jersey. So, if a player grabs someone by the top of the jersey (around their name) and pulls them directly backward, they can be flagged (and possibly fined).
Penalizes a team for calling time out when they have none left
This seems like a no brainer. In College basketball, Chris Webber famously called for a timeout when the team had none left. As a result, they lost the ball, and the game. That was in 1991, so it’s a bit concerning that the NFL is just getting around to this. But essentially, if you have no timeouts, and you call for one, you get a delay of game penalty.
Eliminating 5 yard penalty for a WR who goes out of bounds
This is an interesting rule change as I didn’t think the event occurred enough to make a significant impact. Until now, if a player went out of bounds and became the first player to touch the ball, it was a 5 yard penalty from the previous spot. This rule change eliminates the yardage, but makes it a loss of downs, which is a pretty significant change.
Eliminating multiple spot fouls during a change of possession
This may be the most confusing rule change of the year. The simplest way to explain this is that if there were multiple fouls after a change of possession (focus on a kickoff), the down would be replayed under previous rules. There were times when teams could choose whether they would replay it, or accept where the ball was. It was a very confusing situation. So, to simplify things, whoever has possession keeps possession and the penalties offset.
Those are the official rule changes at this point. There are still more that are being discussed. One of the most interesting is the possibility of having a 4 point FG. It’s similar to the concept of the three-point line in the NBA; if a FG is more than 50 yards, it’s worth more points. If this rule were created, it may make kickers more draftable as they can earn significantly more points. Last year, there were 104 successful FG from 50+ yards. Many people will argue against this, but there was a point in time (back in the 1880’s- yes football existed back then) where a FG was worth more than a TD.