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Insane Ideas: Rules Changes

Should the depth of the NFL end zone be extended from 10 to 20 yards? Practically, this is probably impossible, as adding 20 yards to certain fields would be an issue in many NFL stadiums. But let’s ignore that issue for today. I recently had lunch with a baseball friend of mine who suggested this change. My initial reaction was that this would be a bit odd, but there are several reasons to like his idea:

1) My baseball friend — let’s just call him Sean — doesn’t like how compressed things are at the goal line. Why are teams in effect penalized for getting down to the 1 yard line? Why make things easier on the defense?

If you think about it, there’s no reason for the end zone to be ten yards deep. If you are someone who believes we need more rules to promote defense, would you be in favor of making the end zone five yards deep? If not, why not? What makes ten the right number?

We have been conditioned by announcers to believe that life is tougher near the goal line for NFL offenses, and that this is a good thing. Does that make sense?

2) The goal posts would remain at the back of the end zone, which has three benefits. One, the extra point would now be slightly more difficult, which would quiet that controversy. Two, teams might be a little more likely to go for it on 4th and goal, as a 30-yard field goal isn’t as much of a gimme as a 20-yarder. But most importantly, when it’s fourth-and-three from the 30 yard line, teams would now go for it. Perhaps idiot-proofing coaching isn’t a desirable reason for change, but I am in favor of most rules that result in less kicking.

3) This would allow for 119-yard returns, a trade-off that I’m willing to make even if it lowers the possibility of an Orlovsky happening.

So what do you guys think? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or go in a different direction and post your own insane idea rules change. Here’s one of mine: in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, the clock stops on a play that does not gain yards.

The purpose of this hypothetical rule change would be to stop teams from taking a knee to end the game. I don’t expect this to be a very popular idea, although the Pro Bowl actually implemented this rule this year. But watching teams battle for 58 minutes and then have the game essentially end with 2 minutes left always rubbed me the wrong way. I know, I know, the winning team earned the right to do it. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’d rather see a team have to at least gain a yard to end the game. I’m pretty sure all 32 coaches would hate this rule, but it would certainly make the end of certain games more exciting. That’s a pretty risky statement, I know, because it’s hard to top the victory formation for excitement.

  • Wade Iuele

    Currently each team can only have one player on the field at a time with a speaker in their helmet (QB on offense and usually a LB on defense). Why? Put a speaker in everyone’s helmet.

    This (perhaps combined with everyone wearing a play wristband) could shorten the time between plays and allow greater precision on both offense and defense. The only downside I can see is that it slightly reduces homefield advantage due to crowd noise.

    Why does this rule of only one speaker helmet on the field even exist?

    • Chase Stuart

      Good idea.

  • Sunrise089

    “in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, the clock does not stop on a play that does not gain yards.”

    I’m confused. This seems like it would hurt trailing teams spiking the ball to have time to set up a play, and HELP leading teams since they don’t want the clock to stop. What am I missing?

    • Chase Stuart

      Well that was a typo! Fixed!

    • Chase Stuart

      One would think I could get this sort of basic part of the post right, but this is what happens when you schedule over two weeks of posts in advance!

  • wiesengrund

    “Why are teams in effect penalized for getting down to the 1 yard line?”

    Because being at the 1 and being at the 0 yard line is a difference of 7 points and it is the only yard on the field of play where this happens. Hence the need to earn it.

    • Arif

      But they “earned” it by getting that far…?

      In practical terms, they went 99 yards, and “earned” most of those points.

      It is weird to force teams to determine their ability based on what happens on 1% of the field.

  • Andrew Ross

    I’m in favor of expanding the end zone but only if we can also borrow the rouge from Canadian football.

    • Richie

      I’m in for the rouge.

  • Dave

    How about no ineligible receivers? Presumably, teams that sent 10 out in the pattern would give up sacks that are alarming both in quality and quantity. But, that would be their choice to make.
    Could create some interesting offences and really interesting defensive responses.

    • Richie

      I like this one. Although, would this give the offense too much of an advantage? Defenses might not be able to use as many big fat run stuffers in the middle, therefore making it too easy for offenses to run?

      • Dave

        I agree that this change could likely have the most impact in the running game, a bit counter-intuitively. If you can spread out 9 wide, the read option becomes terrifying, I would think.

        Also, I would guess there would be more interceptions in this case. More people banging around means more mistakes, more tipped balls etc. Either way, it would be interesting to see.

        • Richie

          It reminds me of playing touch football at recess in 4th grade. 25 kids on each side, and 24 of them ran pass patterns!

  • I like the extending the end zones idea. It also would help counter the amount to which NFL kickers have improved on FG attempts in recent years by making all of those attempts longer/more difficult.

    I don’t like the no kneeldowns idea much, though. I want the games to end! However, I’m also the lone nut who wants to do away with regular season overtime . . .

    • JeremyDe

      You would do away with regular season overtime? So…the game would just end in a tie? If so, you are not the only nut.

      • Indeed, the game would just be a tie.

        Seriously, I’ve brought this up many, many times in various football fora over the years and I believe this marks the first time anyone has ever agreed.

        • JeremyDe

          Honestly, I don’t specifically want to get rid of overtime, but I wouldn’t have a problem with getting rid of it either. I’ve fluctuated on the concept before, and the couple times I mentioned it, you’d think I proposed to drown stray russian dogs. As overhyped as it may have been, 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State doesn’t have the same historical impact if overtime exists. Neither does the 84 (83?) Orange Bowl. If Osbourne kicked the extra point, is Miami’s rise to an 80s powerhouse as swift without that title? Granted, at the moment, I can only think of a couple college examples, but that could be due to the nfl using the OT for longer than i’ve been alive.

          Although if you want to cause some real chaos, try going into a baseball forum and suggesting the same concept. No extra innings during the regular season.

    • Red

      I would love to get rid of regular season overtime. This would encourage coaches to be more aggressive in the final minutes, because there would be a greater stigma in settling for a tie than the current option of settling for OT. Plus, more importantly, tie games would make the final standings more precise, so we wouldn’t need to use so many wonky tiebreakers.

      Speaking of tiebreakers…I am strongly against using conference record to break any tie. It gives a team more credit for beating a celler dwellar in their conference than a juggernaut in the other conference. Like this year, an AFC team would get more credit for beating the Raiders than they would for beating the Seahawks. That just seems really counterintuitive to me. I’d prefer to simply go with SOS or SOV as the first tiebreaker; that feels the most fair.

      • In addition to the advantages you mentioned, I am always bothered by the fact that teams playing an even game are then punished by increased risk of injury and increased fatigue from having to play up to 25% more football. It may be that a week is enough recovery time that the extra fatigue doesn’t matter, but the simple fact that there are more plays means that they are at risk of more injuries, and that just strikes me as horribly unfair to do to teams just because they played to an even score after 60 minutes.

        It also seems bizarre to me to claim that an overtime win or loss is the same as a regulation win or loss, but that’s not necessarily an issue with overtime.

  • GmanS05

    One thing I’d like to steal from Australian Rules Football is how they use the NAB Cup (their pre-season) to test out proposed new rules. Want to see how eliminating the extra point would change the game; Why not use the 64 preseason games to find out before committing to make the change?

    • Dave

      That one in particular would be tough as the teams often go for two anyway in the pre-season. To really understand a change like that you would need the teams to have something on the line to be sure how it would alter decisions. Maybe a partnership with the UFL or the CFL for rules testing? The NHL often asks the American Hockey League to trial rules, for example.

  • Red

    I would not extend the end zones, because offenses in today’s game already have enough advantages. However, instead of moving the goal posts back ten yards, I would just remove them altogether, and eliminate the field goal from the game of football. I hate field goals, and here’s why:

    1) Placekicking has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the game
    2) Kickers bear no resemblence to actual football players
    3) The option of field goals allowes coaches to be conservative on 4th down
    4) Field goals have too much leverage in deciding games
    5) Field goals make game winning drives too easy and boring; there’s nothing worse than a 40 yard drive against a prevent defense followed by a 40 yard GW field goal. Talk about anticlimactic.

    • Richie

      Another suggestion I’ve heard is adding a crossbar to the top of the goal posts, so you have to kick through the “rectangle”.

      • Danish

        I like that. Would also eliminate any good/no good controversy: You just put a soccer-style net in it.

      • JeremyDe

        I think that is what they have in arena league. Good idea, I like that.

    • Arif

      But you could say this about a lot of the game.

      1. Punting has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the game
      2. Punters bear no resemblance to actual football players
      3. The option of punting allows coaches to be conservative on 4th down
      4. Punts have too much leverage in deciding games
      5. Punts make game winning drives too easy and boring; there’s nothing worse than a winning team putting up a 10 yard drive against a defense followed by a punt. Talk about anticlimactic.

      1. Passing has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the game
      2. Quarterbacks bear no resemblance to actual football players
      3. The option of passing allows coaches to be aggressive on 2nd down
      4. Passes have too much leverage in deciding games
      5. Passes make game winning drives too east and boring; there’s nothing worse than a 40 yard drive against a prevent defense followed by a 40 yard GW field goal. Talk about anticlimactic.

      1. Returning (interceptions or kicks) has virtually nothing in common with the rest of the game
      2. Returners bear no resemblance to actual football players; they are often undersized
      3. The option of returning allows coaches to be conservative in the 4th quarter
      4. Returns have too much leverage in deciding games
      5. Returns make game winning drives too easy and boring; there’s nothing worse than a team putting up a 10 yard drive against a defense followed by a winning return. Talk about unfair.

      Football is great for the diversity of skills required of it. Let it continue to be great.

  • JeremyDe

    Not a rule change, but this was on reddit (linked on dailysnark today). I remember drawing up a similar map when I was 10-11 years old (just after becoming interested in the nba) and after 5 minutes of being done, throwing it out because I realized this was a horrible idea it would be for the NFL. Putting it here in case someone else likes this idea. http://dailysnark.com/redditor-creates-concept-nfl-division-map/

    Also, maybe a 3-point conversion after a touchdown from…say the 10 yard line? Not sure I like this one either. Or if the 10 would be the right spot, but just throwing it out there.

    • Justin

      The guy who created the new divisions doesn’t understand TV contracts.

      • Richie

        How would this be a problem with TV contracts? If the divisions make more sense, the contracts can be divided up different than the current AFC/NFC format.

    • Red

      I like it. I’m definitely in the minority with this stance, but I think division rivalries are overrated. Playing the same teams twice a year is only fun if both teams are really good (like SEA/SF right now). Otherwise, I get tired of seeing the same opponents over and over. I actually enjoy interconference games the most, because they’re matchups we rarely get to watch.

  • Angus M

    I’m Canadian and I’m not sure I like the idea of a larger end zone, the CFL has the larger end zone, but they have 1 less down to get in. As a fan of the NFL, I don’t want rule changes that substantually change the game, I want rule changes that make the game more exciting without losing the feel of the game we have today. I don’t like the idea of getting rid of the extra point try after a TD. Hell, I didn’t and still don’t like the fact they moved the kick off up (as fans ,we lost too many exciting plays). But, that doesn’t mean change can’t be good !
    My changes would revolve around the number 2. Who says the goal posts need to be in the field of play. By moving them back 2 yards (and every stadium has the room), it’s a little tougher for field goals and extra points. Second, make the goal posts narrower. Maybe 2 feet narrower? Open to debait on that one. And third, add 2 yards to the width of the field (again, every stadium has the room).I don’t have stats, but I’m guessing players on average are 2″ taller, 20 pounds heavier and far less body fat than 40 – 50 years ago. Ever team now has a Conditionong Coach. 40 – 50 years ago, conditoning before training camp was basically being told to give up smoking before camp.Bigger, better conditioned players should have a little more room to play.

  • Laverneus Dinglefoot

    I will probably not have much agreement on this one, especially since I am one of the weirdos who loves football but doesn’t have a favorite team. I would get rid of 8 teams to bring it down to 24, and then increase active rosters to 75 or so. This would increase the potential number of active players each week while concentrating the talent across the league. This idea is probably better suited for the talent-diluted NBA, but I don’t know how many people outside Buffalo and Jacksonville would really miss those teams. It will never happen, but I can dream.

    • Laverneus Dinglefoot

      Oh, and I would get rid of the draft and allow rookies to choose where they play.

      • Richie

        I’m torn on this. Would a bad team like Jacksonville ever be able to get any of the top players to sign there? I assume that even if they didn’t, they would still acquire talent each year and eventually regress towards the median to the point where top players wouldn’t absolutely refuse to sign there.

        But, now that the draft has become a huge event unto itself, I can’t imagine the league ever eliminating it.

        • Laverneus Dinglefoot

          I suppose that is what makes it an insane idea. Although Jacksonville is a bad team now, it is in a city with pretty good weather and a state with a favorable tax situation. I can’t say the same for a team like Buffalo. I have just always found it odd that I could graduate at the top of my class from business school and have my choice of where to work, but if I am at the top of my class in college sports, I have no choice.

          • JeremyDe

            I don’t think those are equivalent situations. Graduating at the top of your class in a top business school allows you a skill set that allows you to choose a company (possibly among several business-related fields) that you want to work in, assuming that the company you choose is currently hiring. Once you are in that company though, they could assign you to any department that they see fit.

            If you are a top quarterback, you have one field (pro football) and one company (nfl) where you can work. And essentially you are getting hired by the individual department in that company. If a top quarterback could decide that he wanted to go play professional tennis or baseball, then he would have the same ability as your MBA. If you consider the NFL to be a singular entity, then the draft makes a little more sense.

            Not saying it is right, but I’d imagine certain teams would suffer in a complete open NFL free agent market, similar to how 2/3 of the NBA teams suffer in the regular free agent market now. I know there are huge differences between the NFL and NBA, but prior to free agency in the NBA, I think fans in 15-20 cities ‘know’ that they are not landing anyone important.

            • James

              If you want another example look at soccer. Only 6 or so teams out of the 20 (and more than 20 if you include the lower level leagues) have even an outside shot at winning the championship, because those top 6 outspend everyone and get the best talent.

              Now if the proposal is get rid of the draft while keeping the salary cap… I don’t know what that would do. Could be interesting.

            • Laverneus Dinglefoot

              I won’t pretend to fully understand the corporate structure of the NFL cartel, so I really don’t know if my example was a proper analog or not. If they maintained a cap, as James stated below, there could still be some competitive balance. Speaking of soccer, I also like the idea of leasing players. That way a team could rent Tony Gonzalez and give him a shot at a title. Obviously this is also an insane idea.

    • Richie

      I don’t think dropping down to 24 teams would really make much of a difference in the level of play. There’s always going to be a couple of teams that are worse than others due to luck, injuries and bad drafts/player acquisitions.

      I think it was Brian Burke who suggested on the Advanced NFL Stats podcasts that the league should just eliminate the cap on roster sizes. They already have a salary cap. So why not just let teams have as many players as they can fit under the cap?

  • Richie

    there’s no reason for the end zone to be ten yards deep

    I would guess this is just a carry over from the early days, when the passing game was virtually non-existent. And it just hasn’t changed.

    A 20-yard field goal would drive Aaron Schatz and Brian Burke crazy; destroying their statistical models. hehe

    the clock stops on a play that does not gain yards.

    Never heard of this one before. I like it from the standpoint of preventing kneeldowns. I don’t like it from the standpoint of come-from-behind. With the change, if a team is down by 4 with 30 seconds left, if their QB gets sacked, the clock stops, and gives them another shot. The defense made a great play, and is essentially penalized.

    How about: if a team is leading, the clock stops if there is no gain?

  • Richie

    Crazy idea – I believe there is a rule that prevents people on the sidelines from using computers. Would the game be better or worse if coaches could use computers to calculate win probabilities in their playcalling decisions? This seems like a possible rule holdover from the early days of computing when some teams might be able to get a bigger advantage. But now with technology ubiquous, it wouldn’t be an issue.
    Or is there a concern that it would just make the game too technology-dependent?

  • Red

    Another simple change that would balance the game: allow contact with receivers for 10 yards past the line of scrimmage instead of five like it is now. This might take away some of the underneath dink-and-dunk passes and force QB’s to throw deep more. It could also put more emphasis back on the running game, which any football purist would love.

  • Laverneus Dinglefoot

    This is hardly original, and I think I got the idea from a Bill Simmons article about basketball. He suggested the legacy roster spot for players you couldn’t picture in another uniform; the spot would not count against the cap, so a team could resign one legacy player so he could eventually retire with his team. There would have to be some nuances to the rule to prevent teams from just always giving it to the most expensive guy on the roster, but it would be nice to see if done correctly. I don’t want to see Tom Brady, Jason Witten, or Steve Smith play anywhere else. It could have allowed Chicago to keep Urlacher last season as well.

    • JeremyDe

      I like this a lot. I can see some potential pitfalls, but in general, I think most fans would appreciate the concept. As a Washington fan, 3 of my favorite players have been London Fletcher, Darrell Green, and Art Monk. The fact that I watched 2 seasons of Monk playing as a Jet then an Eagle made me sick to my stomach.