Since a similar article I posted last year got a lot of input...thought I'd provide another chance for everyone to address any changes they would like to see in the NFL.
I'll start the ball rolling by giving some changes I would like to see. Some are pretty substantial while others are more of the housekeeping variety. These have evolved from both ideas I originated as well as listening and reading ideas of others. Just try to think about the effect of the changes and whether you think they would be useful as tools to better the NFL.
My list is after the jump (and feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section).
7 PRACTICAL RULE CHANGES FOR THE NFL
1. INCREASE TEAM ACTIVE ROSTERS FROM FIFTY-THREE (53) PLAYERS TO FIFTY-SIX (56) PLAYERS.
Note: Prior to implementation, this proposal may require negotiations between the NFL Owners and the NFL Players Association to ensure it is in compliance with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Justification: Anticipated increases in league revenue with associated increases in CBA mandated payroll salary cap limits provides the NFL an opportunity to increase active player roster numbers. This change can be enacted without any significant change in regards to the salaries of individual players. Also, increasing current roster levels will aid NFL efforts to provide a safer working environment for its players while maintaining and possibly improving on the product brought to the field.
Effect: An increase to a 56 player roster will have multiple beneficial effects. It will enhance a team’s ability to develop players considered projects. The added roster slots provide protection for developing players that would be subject to being claimed off of practice squad rosters. By the thoughtful use of expanded rosters, coaching staffs will have enhanced flexibility while assembling game day rosters for particular opponents. This can increase team productivity which results in an improved product on the field. A peripheral benefit for the NFLPA is their membership expands under this change. This is important to players because a broader base increases organizational stability while reducing repetitive institutional costs per member.
Conclusion: This change represents a win-win for both the NFL and the NFLPA.
2. INCREASE GAME ACTIVE ROSTERS FROM FORTY-FIVE (45) PLAYERS TO FORTY-EIGHT (48) PLAYERS.
Justification: Increasing current game active roster levels will aid NFL efforts to provide a safer working environment while improving the quality of the product brought to the field.
Effect: A change to a 48 player game active roster will enhance a team’s ability to implement situational rotations and increase team production. A desirable byproduct of this change is it provides valuable playing time to more players. Additionally, an expanded game active roster is in tune with the NFL’s focus on safety. This provides coaching staffs with greater flexibility in controlling the number of downs played by individual players and reduces the probability of a player being pressed into action due to injuries or positional needs. This is particularly appealing when considering the league policy of increased awareness and concern regarding concussions.
Conclusion: This proposal allows the NFL to enhance both product safety and quality.
3. ADJUST THE NFL NUMBERING SYSTEM TO REFLECT CURRENT PERSONNEL TRENDS.
Justification: In response to current team personnel trends which are heavily laden with wide receivers, tight ends and h-backs, the NFL should adjust the current uniform numbering system. To facilitate the increased numbers in the aforementioned positions the league should allow wide receivers to utilize the numbers 1 through 9. Tight ends and h-backs will continue to use the numbers 40 through 49 as alternates to 80 through 89 should those numbers be taken. Any player affected by this change will be grandfathered in and can keep their current jersey number
Effect: This change provides an updated uniform numbering system to reflect current trends in team personnel. This change provides additional numbers for wide receivers in the 1 through 9 section that is currently underutilized and utilizes the numbers 40 through 49 as the alternate for tight end and h-back positions should the numbers 80 through 89 be taken. Also, this change better addresses the flexibility required should the NFL enact any kind of team roster expansion.
Numbers Current Numbering System
1 thru 9 Quarterbacks / Kickers
10 thru 19 Quarterbacks / Receivers / Tight Ends / Kickers
20 thru 49 Running Backs / Defensive Backs
50 thru 59 Centers / Linebackers
60 thru 79 Offensive Linemen / Defensive Linemen
80 thru 89 Receivers / Tight Ends - 40 thru 49 as alternate if 80 thru 89 are taken
90 thru 99 Defensive Linemen / Linebackers
Numbers Proposed Numbering System Changes
1 thru 19 Quarterbacks / Receivers / Kickers
Conclusion: This change represents a small adjustment to meet current trends.
4. ANY PLAYER SUSTAINING AN INJURY THAT RESULTS IN A STOPPAGE IN PLAY MUST SIT OUT THE REMAINDER OF THE SERIES IN WHICH THE INJURY OCCURS.
Justification: This rule change enhances protections in place that relate to player safety and aids in the league efforts to protect the integrity of the game.
2011 Examples of Requirement:
Dec. 8 (Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers): While drifting out of the pocket, Browns QB Colt McCoy takes a hard helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers LB James Harrison. McCoy is knocked out and is spread-eagle on the field. McCoy is taken from the field for only two plays before returning to throw an interception. After the game it is determined that McCoy has a concussion and should not have been allowed back into the action.
Sept. 19 (St. Louis Rams vs New York Giants): The Rams utilize a no-huddle offense as they drive down the field against the Giants defense. As the Rams reach the red zone and continue to use the no-huddle offense, suddenly two Giants players (DB Deon Grant and LB Jacquain Williams) do a synchronized flop. This stopped action and allowed the Giants to insert a goal-line defense package. Neither player appeared injured at the end of the prior play or showed any detrimental effect after the “injuries”. Referees are powerless to penalize this gamesmanship ploy.
Effect: Implementation of this rule change addresses two NFL priorities. First and foremost, by not allowing a player to return to a series in which he receives an injury, the league effectively reduces the chance that a player will return to action without an adequate sideline evaluation. This significantly enhances league efforts to prioritize player safety. Second, this rule effectively addresses the perceived practice of players faking injury to control game action for competitive advantage or to impede an opponent’s momentum. Additionally, this rule removes the burden on game officials to determine whether a player is truly injured or is engaging in gamesmanship. In this way, the integrity of the game is defended.
Conclusion: This change addresses multiple concerns in a modest yet appropriate manner.
5. SEED NFL PLAYOFF TEAMS AS CURRENTLY DONE BUT UTILISE TEAM WIN-LOSS RECORDS TO DETERMINE HOME TEAMS FOR THE DURATION OF THE PLAYOFFS. WHEN REQUIRED, USE A DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP AS THE FIRST TIE-BREAKER AND PLAYOFF SEEDING AS THE SECOND.
Justification: By increasing the importance of team records, the league provides extra incentive for teams to play at their fullest capability, even after clinching their divisions. This keeps teams fully engaged in late season games in order to secure home games throughout the playoffs.
Effect: Enacting this change significantly increases the importance of games for teams that have clinched playoff spots early in the regular season. With every team playing to their full potential, the league ensures a consistently high quality product is being delivered for the entire season.
Conclusion: This change will raise the overall quality of games played late in the regular season.
6. REVISE THE NFL PLAYOFFS TO ADD A THIRD WILD CARD GAME.
Justification: By expanding the NFL Playoffs the league will increase its visibility and provide a better product to consumers. Providing a third game on Wild Card week allows each conference to play a 1PM and a 4PM game on either Saturday or Sunday and play a highlighted 8PM game on the opposite day. The conferences should flip their schedules in alternate years.
Example: (NFC Wild Card schedule) Saturday 1PM, 4PM, and Sunday 8PM
(AFC Wild Card schedule) Sunday 1PM, 4PM, and Saturday 8PM
Effect: Increasing the Wild Card participants will increase league visibility and revenue and the expanded coverage will provide added interest in the playoffs for fans. This also makes the final weeks of the regular season more meaningful to more teams and their fans. Teams will be able to play themselves into the playoffs later into the season. The number of meaningless matchups at the end of the regular season will be significantly reduced.
Conclusion: This change enhances the league’s product and increases league revenues.
7. ELIMINATE THE PREGAME COIN TOSS. VISITING TEAMS WILL HAVE THE OPTION AT THE START OF GAMES. SHOULD OVERTIME BE REQUIRED, HOME TEAMS WILL HAVE THE OPTION.
Justification: This change will standardize the pre-game procedures and eliminate any possible errors in the coin toss. This is also competitively appealing considering this change may help to mitigate the competitive advantage that home teams have traditionally enjoyed. Finally, this rule ensures that home teams have the opportunity to get the ball should overtime be required. The fact that fans have been extremely irate at the current overtime process is of concern to the league and they are trying revised procedures. This would address another area of fan concern.
Example of Justification: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Detroit Lions - Thanksgiving Day (Nov 26) 1998. Referee Phil Luckett conducts a coin toss for a required overtime. The Steeler’s Jerome Bettis calls tails. The toss is tails but the Lions are awarded the option. The Steelers question the call and TV commentators say on air that the call was tails. Detroit goes on to win in the overtime period. After a review of the situation, the NFL responds by changing the coin toss procedure to require both calling the toss and confirming the call prior to the toss actually taking place.
Effect: Implementing this rule change helps to ensure a seamless start to games by significantly reducing the possibility of errors in executing the pregame procedures. Visiting teams, given the option at the start of the game, are provided a tool in dictating how the first possession of the game is initiated. This may partially offset an inherent home field advantage. Additionally, this change will have a positive effect on fan support of the league because it ends the possibility of home teams losing in overtime without having had an opportunity to receive the ball.
Exception: A coin toss will continue to be utilized for the NFL Championship Game. The team designated as visitor will call the toss prior to the start of the game. If overtime is required, the team designated as home will call the toss prior to the start of the overtime period. This will be implemented to maintain traditional pre-game ceremonies and allows the NFL to incorporate special guests and/or dignitaries into the event. Also, venues for the NFL Championship Game are selected well in advance to participants being determined. Therefore the game is rarely held on a participant’s home field and thus a true home field advantage is not of significant concern.
Conclusion: This change strengthens the game day processes for the start of play and may also provide peripheral benefits in competitive balance and enhancing fan enjoyment.