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NFL Rule Changes: Focus on Officiating

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It's a nice, sunny day today in Cleveland as the temperature is actually hovering around the 50-mark. Yesterday, the Packers signed Ben Taylor to a deal, meaning we'll need to find someone else to start at his position. It's not really that big of a loss in my book, since Taylor rarely made a significant impact on games. As Phil Savage said, we don't need players that are simply "ok"(Taylor).

What I want to review today are the proposed NFL rule changes, which sound outstanding at the moment. Tony Grossi reported on the issue in today's Plain Dealer. I'll outline the main proposals and offer a note on each:

Clamp down on false starts: McKay said that many of the 850 false-start penalties in 2005 were because of receivers flinching before the snap - actions that affect nothing except to delay the game. A rule change would allow a receiver who moves before a snap to reset without a penalty, as long as a defensive player hasn't reacted to the flinch.

I understand false starts where the offensive lineman backs up two steps before everyone else does; that's understandable. But when a receiver twitches barely, and a guard lifts his head up an inch to the point where slow motion on a camera is needed to see it, things get ridiculous. Especially if a team has a lot of momentum going, why should players have to extensively worry about a false start killing everything? It does not add to the game unless it's obvious.


Redefine holding penalty: McKay said too many holding calls may be the result of officials merely reacting to players on the ground, rather than seeing the actual foul. New language in the rule would require officials to see the holding in order to throw a flag. (Gee, that's a novel idea.)

Does that mean Dennis Northcutt will actually have his three return touchdowns on punts like he should have every year? The holding penalties are the ones that are most "abused" by the officials. At least on false starts, we see a "flinch". On half of the holds though, the accused player either made a legitimate move or a mysterious jersey number is called.


Low hits on quarterbacks: Defenders will be required to take every opportunity to avoid hitting a quarterback below the knees when the quarterback is in a defenseless position looking to throw with both feet on the ground.

This rule is kind of tough. Of course a defender should be made to drill a receiver in their chest rather than purposely going low, but sometimes accidents happen. A perfect example would be what happened to Carson Palmer in the playoffs.


Replay changes: McKay wants to reduce the time a referee can review a replay to 60 seconds, down from the present 90. Also, the committee wants to include "down by contact" as a play that may be reviewed. A proposal by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would expand replay to every penalty.

I would definitely support the "down by contact" rule being reviewed, because it is way too ridiculous that some fumbles cannot be reviewed because "the whistle was blown". If this rule is put into effect, officials better be told that they cannot blow the whistle until they officially see the pile unfold or a certain player down with the ball in his hands. After that occurs, then the officials should huddle and tell whether they felt the ball carrier was down by contact or not. Regarding the time being reduced, I would just leave it at 90 seconds. While some calls are obvious, others need proper analyzing. Officials usually get to see four different replays, each of which may last 15 seconds. If they keep it at 90 seconds, the official has the time to check every angle, and then use the remaining 30 seconds to either take another look or make his decision.


More helmet transmitters: The committee wants to allow one defensive player to wear the same device used by quarterbacks to hear coaches' instructions from the sidelines.

I have no issue with this either. It would allow better communication a lesser amount of timeouts used. When offenses make audibles, one defensive player can be told the play quickly rather than calling a timeout out of confusion.

One final note by Grossi in today's paper:

Green Bay needs a center after veteran Mike Flanagan signed with Houston to reunite with offensive line coach Mike Sherman, the former head coach of the Packers. The Packers may fill the void internally or could take a look at the Browns' Jeff Faine.

I would still love to have a third-round pick for Faine, which would be a steal. If we get another fourth-rounder though, I hope the Browns would attempt to trade multiple picks to get an extra second or third-rounder.