Friday, March 23, 2007

New Discipline Policy; League Meeting Proposals

With the NFL owners' meetings coming up, it seems like Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce a harsher discipline policy, specifically targeting off-field behavior. I am all for harsher penalties to reign in the run-ins with the law that have become more widespread as of late. Most of the players Goodell has spoken to support his initiative, and I'm not surprised. The vast majority of NFL players are decent citizens and don't get into trouble on or off the field. A few players with bad character shouldn't bring down the prestige and reputations of all NFL players.

Miami has had its fair share of players getting into trouble lately, whether it be Randy McMichael or most recently Joey Porter, but overall the Dolphins have done a good job of finding players with little risk of behavioral problems. Even guys like Marcus Vick, who had character issues coming into Miami, have stayed out of trouble once in South Florida. Cameron has already stated the high value he places on "character-guys," which becomes that much more important under this new discipline policy. Hopefully Joey Porter finds a way to keep his fiery attitude in check until gamedays.


At the meetings, there will also be several recommendations for rule changes. Any rule change will have to be approved by 3/4 of the teams. Let's take a look at which ones might be worth pursuing:

- In overtime, the kickoff would be moved from the 30-yard-line to the 35.
Atlanta general manager Rich McKay, the committee's co-chairman, said the committee believed the kickoff spot was the major reason that that 62 percent of teams winning the coin toss won overtime games last season, not necessarily on the first possession, but because of the field position they got. McKay said it stemmed from the change in 1998 that moved the kickoff back to the 30 and added the "K-ball," a kicking ball harder to kick deep.

Until then, winners and losers of the toss had won just about equally.

"This is something we resisted," McKay said. "But there was an advantage gained by the coin toss. We think we can cure those stats and make the coin toss less of a factor."
I think this would be a good move for the above reasons. The coin toss should not determine the chance of winning the game, and 5 yards can surprisingly be a crucial difference. I have also heard another suggestion for an overtime rules change (although this idea has almost no possibility of passing). The idea is that the team that wins the coin toss can only win the game on the opening drive by scoring a touchdown. This eliminates the chance of a questionable pass-interference call setting the team up to kick a game-winning field goal from short distance. It also forces the team that wins the toss the march the entire field for a score. If the team fails to score a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, the rules basically revert back to normal and the game can be won by a field goal. This rule would seemingly equalize overtime for both teams, maintaining the sudden-death structure but removing unfair field position issues and making it more likely that both teams will touch the ball at least once.

- Another rule would make instant replay a permanent part of the league's rules. I think this one is a no-brainer. Instant replay seems to be almost universally accepted now. One change I would make would be to take the college format of replays, in that the replays are conducted by referees in a booth rather than on the field. These refs then radio their call to the referee on the field. I think a referee removed from the chaos on the field would be able to get a clearer view of the play from up inside a referees' box.

- Players would be assessed a 5-yard penalty for spiking the ball on the field after a play (this would not include spiking the ball after a touchdown or out of bounds). I personally don't see the need for this rule. I'm not supporting Terrell Owens-type celebrations after every play, but there's already enough rules against excessive celebration. I like to see guys just hand the ball to the referee after a good play, but there should be leeway for at least some celebrations. Spiking the ball isn't going overboard.

- Injury reports would only use verbal categorizations like "doubtful" and "probable" in the Friday reports rather than on Wednesday. The earlier reports will simply say what the injury is and how much practice the player has missed. This seems like a reasonable rule. Most coaches (Bill Belichick comes to mind) place a dozen players on the injury list every week even if it is almost certain that they will play. The verbal categorizations carry little meaning and are used as misinformation as often as they are truthful.

- Similar to the radio in a QB's helmet, one defensive player would have a communication device in his helmet, allowing him to talk to the coaches before the snap. I don't think defensive players need this technology as much as QBs, but I don't see why the defense shouldn't have the capability as well.

- A period would be added between the championship games and the Super Bowl to allow assistant coaches to interview for head coaching positions.

- Tampa Bay has proposed including all penalties other than offensive holding as open for instant replay.

- San Francisco has proposed changing the pass interference rules to those used in college, with the exception of flagrant violations. In college, a pass interference penalty results in a 15-yard penalty rather than placing the ball at the spot of the foul. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it's a rule that I really hope the league looks into. Too many games are turned on questionable PI calls that move the ball halfway up the field. PI is a call that is so subjective and oftentimes far too harsh. Equalizing the penalty to 15 yards would be a good move. Of course, flagrant violations, in which the defender clearly and excessively interferes with the pass, would remain as spot-fouls.

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