As the 2010 season is put to rest, the league and union are negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement. In addition to pay and benefits, there are structural topics to be debated, such as an 18-game schedule, fines, and player safety issues. While they're busy tinkering with things, here are a few other ideas they might consider.

American 'gridiron' football isn't a static, unchanging sport. It's been remade many times in many different ways. There used to be no passing, 3 downs to make 5 yards, various point values for scoring plays, blockers were allowed to lock arms, and the game lasted 70 minutes. Today's sport would be  unrecognizable to players and fans at the beginning of the previous century.

Here are some ideas, many borrowed from other leagues and other sports. I don't necessarily favor any of them (except for #5, which would be highly entertaining). I just think they're interesting.

The status quo has the power of inertia, so as you consider any idea for a rule change, imagine if football had always been that way and whether or not we'd want to change the game to the way it actually is now.

For example, there could be a penalty box for players flagged for helmet-to-helmet hits or other flagrant fouls. Offenders would have to sit out for, say, 10 minutes of game time. But unlike in hockey, his team could replace him on the field with a backup. Think of it as a short-term ejection. Maybe it sounds crazy to you, or maybe it's not crazy enough, but imagine if it had always been that way and we were considering eliminating that rule. You might feel differently.

Here are a few ideas to get things rolling. Looking forward to everyone's comments and own suggestions.

1. Penalty box - Deter unwanted behavior by hitting dirty players where it hurts the most, by taking them off the field.

2. Narrow the goal posts - Field goals are the least interesting, most random, but often the most decisive play in the entire sport. A single specialist rolls the dice in a classic example of sample-error theater. We should encourage fewer FG attempts and more 4th down conversion attempts, which are some of the most exciting and pivotal plays.

3. Reduce a FG to 2 points.

4. Eliminate the extra point - The XP is the vestigial appendix of American football. Seriously, what's the point? It's a foregone conclusion it will be made, and on the rarest of occasions it's missed, it probably won't affect the game outcome.  There are lots of ideas for replacing it:
- Must always go for 2-pt conversion
- 1 point for a try from the 1 yd-line, 2 points from the 3 (or 2 or 5 or wherever)
- A TD is always 7 full points, a team can gamble 1 point by attempting a 2-point try from the 2.
- A team can gamble up to 3 extra points (kind of like Final Jeopardy) by attempting a conversion. So if a team bets 3 points, it can score 9 on a single TD! A failed conversion attempt makes the TD worth only 3. How exciting would that be? Would you be getting up to grab another beer during one of those plays?

5. Here's my favorite idea: The player who scores the touchdown has to kick the XP.

6. Relegation - Just like in the English 'Association Rules' leagues, the NFL could be divided into different levels. Let's say that over the next 5 years, the top half the league in total wins goes to the A-league, while the others go to the B-league. After those 5 years, A-league teams and B-league teams never play each other in a season. The playoff teams and Super Bowl champion only come from the A-league. Each year the bottom 3 (or 4 or whatever) teams in the A-league swap places with the top 3 (or so) teams in the B-league. That would keep things exciting for a lot more fans. The fans of the 12 teams both sides of the bubble would be riveted through the final snap of the season. Also, there would be fewer blow-outs, as the match-ups would tend to be more even. The A and B teams would always get the same share of the overall revenue they now do, to help maintain competitive balance.

7. Adopt the Rouge from the CFL. Watch that video and tell me that's not the most awesome thing you've ever seen on a football field.

8. Adopt other ideas from the CFL, such as the wider field and deeper end zones.

9. NCAA-style replay rules - It seems so much faster and at least as accurate.

10. Challenges available until you’re wrong - Why should a coach forfeit a challenge if he was right?

11. No coin flip in OT - This is one of my long-held pet peeves. No matter how contrived the NFL makes the OT rules, why does it have to start with a coin flip? Why not award the flip based on home field? Home field advantage is already an accepted part of the game, and playoff teams have to earn home field during the season. This way both teams, as they head toward a potential tie in regulation, will know who would have the advantage. If I'm marching down the field to tie things up with a FG, I might be more aggressive knowing I would start OT on defense. If I need a TD to tie, I might just go for the 2-pt conversion knowing I might not ever get the ball.

There are lots of other interesting options for how to decide who starts with the ball in OT:
-A yard-line bid, either sealed or an open auction a la Name That Tune
-A split-the-cake method, where one coach picks the kickoff yard-line and the other chooses whether to kick or receive
-And so on. There are a million other ideas here.

12. Player weight limit - It's hard to believe any human being is naturally larger than 300 lbs. They do it in boxing and wrestling. It would be healthier for the players. The linemen would be quicker, more athletic. It might help the running game become more exciting.

13. Total team weight limit - There's a salary cap, so how about a weight cap for the entire roster?

14. No roster size limit - If there's a hard salary cap, why shouldn't teams be able to dress 60 guys on Sunday? Teams would have different philosophies, quality vs. quantity. If you sign a big free agent, you might have to get by dressing 45 guys.

15. Eliminate the draft - The draft is almost a sport unto itself, and it provides grist for us to talk about in the spring. But if there is a hard salary cap, what's the point? If all teams must limit the total resources they spend on players, why shouldn't new rookies enter the league as free agents?

16. Official scorers - Allow the game scorers the discretion to call interceptions as tipped, by his own receiver or by a defender. They already do that in a way with forced and unforced fumbles. In baseball, the scorer awards errors, so why should football be different? This would give all fans a clearer measure of which QBs are making poor throws and which are victims of their receivers bobbling the ball 10 feet into the air.

17. One foot in-bounds.

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54 Responses to “Change”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Replace the players with 6'5" 270 lbs. plastic men. Then electrify the whole field so it vibrates for each play. No more union troubles!

  2. Anonymous says:

    loving 6 and 10.

    owners would never let 6 happen.

    10 will be poohpoohed as slowing down the game.

  3. Steven says:

    I've supported 10 since the challenge system has been in place.

    I've been inclined to deem the loser of the opening coin-toss the winner of any overtime coin-toss. My brother has proposed having them continue play from where the fourth quarter finishes; if you tie the game at the last second, you're at a disadvantage. I don't care for your suggestion of giving it to the home team, but I like some of the auction ideas, probably more than most fans would.

  4. Steveo says:

    At first when you mentioned about extending the endzones, like the CFL (I am a Canadian and CFL fan) I thought "what are you going to do, put the goal posts 20 yards back from the goal line?" and laughed at how dumb that would be. Then I realized that would change the dynamics of field goals a lot. An extra point would be ~28 yards instead of ~18. It would certainly make going for 2 more appealing, with decreasing the likelyhood to make the extra point and making it easier to make the 2 point conversion with extra field to work with. Also it would make field goals less common as realistically you would need to get to around the 25 yard line to attempt a field goal. Though I see this as a tough one, because, from my memory, there probably isn't enough room in NFL stadiums to add an extra 20 yards to the field.

    One rule change I would like to see adopted from the CFL is allowing forward motion before the snap of the ball. I would love to see receivers at full speed crossing the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Running backs hitting the holes faster on interior runs. The quality of Offensive line play in the CFL is so bad that the running game can't take advantage of this because generally they can't run plays to specific holes. CFL running usually just has the Offensive line try and push someone and the back finds any opening that exists. Adding this aspect would also probably increase the value of small, quicker offensive linemen. But I think this rule change would change offensive and defensive strategies a lot, and in a good way, opening up more possibilities on offense.

    I also love the relegation idea. It would increase the excitement of the teams at the bottom of A-league at the end of the season. You could also have B-league championship the weekend before the superbowl and use it to replace the probowl.

  5. James says:

    Abolish taking a knee at the end of a game by allowing defenses unlimited time outs unless the offense makes a first down this would also eliminate the paradox where it is sometimes better to allow the opponent to score a td or it is better to fall down at the 1 yard line, run down the clock and kick a fg rather than score a td

    I agree the ep should be abolished and replaced with a compulsory 2 pt attempt

  6. Nate says:


    Yes! Just continue OT where the 4th quarter left off! Simple, fair, and exciting ... I can't understand why this idea isn't gaining any traction.

    - Nate

  7. Dan R says:

    My personal rule change that I'd love to see, but will never be implemented is dynamic scheduling, pseudo-monrad style. It does have some downsides, namely a list of opponents and game dates that isn't determined as far in advance and teams don't play as many teams in a season.

    What if an 18 game schedule was divided into 3 blocks of 6 games, each lasting 7 weeks (off week during each, so marketing/tv time for the regular season is actually 21 weeks, more $ without more work?) Furthermore, what if the list of opponents for each block was dynamic?

    A group of 4 teams would play home/away against every other team in that group, giving 6 games for each team. Start the season with all divisional games for the first seven weeks so that some of the older rivalries happen every year.

    Then inside the same conference, pair up the best team from each division with each other, the second best with each other, etc and play another block. The third set of games could have a known advancement chart in advance, likewise into the playoffs. Maybe the best of the third grouping has all teams with a clinched playoff spot, but the only the best 3 get byes, best one gets a 2 week bye? or something similar to push that group to really play?)

    Considering doing this, the second grouping of games from last season would look like this

    NE/Pit/Ind/Oak (they were 6-0 in AFC West, maybe even fan favored in this group because of that...)

    NYJ/Bal/Jac(or Hou, tied 3-3)/SD

    Mia/Cin/Hou(or Jac, tied 3-3)/KC


    Phi/Chi/Atl/Sea(or SF, tied 4-2)

    NYG(or Dal, tied 3-3)/GB/NO/SF(or Sea, tied 4-2)

    Dal(or NYG, tied 3-3)/Det/StL/TB


    With each team in those groups playing each other twice, that's a lot of good games.

    It is possible to determine home/away status a bit in advance by assigning all teams from one group the same schedule in the next round. Since the advancement chart is known it would work regardless of who advances, which allows the stadium to be booked in off weeks through the first 2/3 of the regular season. Only a 4 week loss of possible bookings (the 4 empty weeks in the last third which aren't known until 7 weeks into the season, but still at least a 7 week lead time)

    Another downside is the reduction in number of opponents. Each team would play 9 teams twice, instead of 3 teams twice, 12 other teams once in a "simple" 18 game schedule. This would increase the time it would take for teams to rotate through a given stadium/locale, but it would increase the quality in an informational sense of all games. While not seeing Dallas in Carolina might hurt revenue locally, league revenue should be up as the televised games would be better (and last even more weeks)

    The downside of 21 weeks is that if the playoffs start around the same time, the season would start in the beginning of August, pushing back or shortening training camp, etc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Relegation would be great for baseball, but I really don't think it's needed in the NFL. On the other hand, if they add a bunch more teams and let kids turn pro a couple of years earlier, then a 2-tier structure might really make sense.

  9. L.R. Gibson says:

    I've been saying the NBA needs relegation ever since I started watching the EPL a few years ago. It's terrible that you have to watch the Bucks vs. the Warriors in a meaningless game in March. The NFL probably wouldn't benefit but I agree that it should be looked at for baseball.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I like the idea of limiting the kicking game. Since the object of the game is to score touchdowns, the value of a kick should be more the closer it is attempted to the goal line. So, a field goal from inside the 10 would be 3 points; from 10-25 yds 2 points, and outside of 25 yds 1 point. It would open up the game.

    If you're trying to limit the energy of collisions by limiting the size of players, it would be more effective to limit the speed of players by adding weight, as they do in horse racing.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In a parallel universe:

    A football fan has a horrible idea! "Instead of having the player scoring the touchdown kick the extra point, we should just have a kicking specialist that would score the point every time! This would make extra points really easy, and make it so that offensive players wouldn't be as athletically diverse! As we all know, football is too exciting.

    "Also, let's take away the penelty box! If a player does something dirty, he'll just keep on playing! It will be awesome!!!"

    only crickets respond...

  12. Anonymous says:

    Super Bowl on Saturday Night...easier for kids to stay up and watch. Teachers nationwide rejoice! Church's nationwide protest.

    If we have extra points, adopt the college rule that a return the length of the field is worth 2 (or more if you want) points. Rare, but exciting play.

    Player ejected for two personal fouls/unsportsmanlike foul. Misses next game PLUS the next game against the team that he committed those fouls.

    Allow practice squad players to suit up the last 2 weeks of the season without losing practice squad eligibility for the next season. Better paycheck, and some playing time for the players. Teams get to see how these players do, and rest injured/worn-out players at end of season

  13. Joseph says:

    I think relegation would weaken traditional geographic rivalries, not to mention size of divisions and the possibility of a team from say, LA, playing in the east, or a London team playing in the West (by replacing a team from that division). I know it works great in soccer, but I don't think it would work as easy.
    For example, here in Mexico, there is a yearly exchange of the lowest team (cumulative 3 yr total) with the champion of the 1A level (like AAA baseball). However, there are 3 groups of 6 teams each, which change EVERY TOURNAMENT! Every team plays 17 games, and the schedule is the same (EVERY WEEK), with the exchanged teams exchanging schedules as well. The only schedule difference is home vs away (which alternate every tournament--so once you play 8H & 9A, then the next 9H & 8A). I don't know how the EPL and other European leagues do their scheduling, but iirc it doesn't have divisions--it's just one big group.
    Having the player who scored attempt the extra point would be VERY interesting--for example, if a DL returned a fumble, you could see the team going for 2. But I wonder how much of an effect it would have--I would think that most skill-position players could kick an extra point without much trouble. And some players who regularly score lots to TD's would become proficient at it. I think this would also make the kicker position become one of two things--either with an emphasis on accuracy for FG's, or with an emphasis on leg length for kickoffs.

  14. Brett says:

    Teams should be allowed to buy extra downs and timeouts. Let's say each extra down costs 2 points and extra timeouts cost 1 point. Imagine if the Steelers had this opportunity in the Super Bowl. After their failed 4th down attempt at the end of the game they could have bought a fifth down and extended the game. They'd be down by 8 instead of 6, but they'd still have a chance to tie. Kind of an outlandish idea, I know, but it would be really interesting to see, and it would encourage teams to go for it more on 4th down.

  15. Anonymous says:

    How about a 10 minute non-sudden death overtime? Or whatever time is enough to expect a few drives and you can't run out the clock.

  16. Anonymous says:

    An idea that will never fly: everyone plays both ways (offense/defense). I'm not sure how you would enforce it, but can you imagine teams trying to find a place to hide Peyton Manning or Tom Brady on defense?

    I'm not sure if this idea would reduce injuries (by requiring defenders to be more skilled and less purely violent) or increase them (by keeping everyone on the field longer).

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think it would be fun to have a post-season tournament for the 20 non-playoff teams. Almost like an NIT for the NFL.

  18. Anonymous says:

    A circular field with a continuous endzone running around the perimeter

  19. Erik Jensen says:

    I like #5 for extra points. But I don't see the need to adjust field goals. What needs adjustment is coaching philosophy and that will happen eventually. Here are other ideas:

    1) Slowly reduce the play clock, maybe 1 second per year for several years. This would make it more watchable and punish the behemoths.

    2) Use college overtime rules. It puts the team that goes first at a disadvantage, but it makes it very exciting.

  20. Unknown says:

    Eliminate the Pro Bowl game and have the players selected to Pro Bowl weekend sent to Hawaii where they choose among sports they can sign up to play. So Pro Bowl weekend would consist of, for example, a basketball game, a volleyball game, a softball game (for the lineman), maybe soccer, etc. Who wouldn't watch that?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Instead of actually playing the Pro Bowl, have EA Sports simulate it on Madden and then televise it as though it was real.

  22. Brian Burke says:

    Or have the actual players control themselves on the Madden Pro Bowl. Embarrassed to say, but I'd watch that.

  23. Florida Danny says:

    i'm a major fan of the relegation idea, but don't think it would work in the NFL. think MLB is much better-suited for it what with the already-established "B league" (aka AAA ball), and the reality of bottom-feeding teams that either never win or don't even bother trying. imagine if the consequences for KC, PIT, etc. not even trying to contend was relegation. survival of the fittest would take hold at that point. if relagation was a possibility for the marlins, would they be hoarding cash rather than spending it on players? probably not.

    NFL football just doesn't seem to work this way at all anymore. in the past 3 yrs, ARI's made a super bowl, CIN's won a division, DET's had a 6-win season, OAK's had an 8-win season, and STL's had a 7-win season. i just think injury luck + the presence/absence of a franchise QB is far more influential in football than the "penny-pinching owner and GM care more about solid gold commodes than about championship rings" phenomenon that you see in MLB, and that deserves to be punished via relagation. and make no mistake, relagation in soccer is interpreted as a punishment as much as it is some quaint idiosyncratic way to keep the fans interested in late-season games involving bottom feeders (see juventus fc ca. 2006).

  24. Anonymous says:

    ESPN or someone could probably do the Pro Bowl/Madden idea, even if they kept the original game...and probably get better ratings than the Pro Bowl itself. Heck, do an All Star team by division and have a knock out tournament. Would love to see how a combined AFC North defense would do.

    Relegation would be a good idea for the NBA and NHL. Not sure it would work for the NFL.

  25. Florida Danny says:

    other thoughts & ideas:

    totally think a combo of 9 and 10 is a no-brainer, and honestly i don't understand why it's not already a part of the game. the ncaa system works fine, and doesn't seem to prolong the games in any noticeable way, so what's the argument against putting it all on the replay official upstairs, allowing that official to stop the game whenever he wants, and also allowing coaches to have 2 challenges per game, with further challenges awarded until they get one wrong?

    using GPS to spot the ball accurately also seems like a no-brainer. how much could that possibly cost? also, something i haven't heard argued in the context of using technology to increase the accuracy of spots is that if the spot is iron-clad correct, there'll be no need for these pointless spot challenges, and never again will anyone be justified in claiming "that was a terrible/generous spot!" i mean, announcers must say that at least 5 times a game, and bad spots are right up there with PI and holding in terms of officiating decisions that fans/coaches/players most love to cry about.

    another idea is to reduce the play clock to 25 seconds during the last 5 minutes of the game. the whole purpose of a play clock is so that team's can't just sit on the ball in perpituity, bleeding the entire game away. hence the play-clock related penalty called, "delay of game." so it's pretty curious to me that, on the one hand we have a 40-second play clock prohibiting "sit on the ball," for 58 minutes, but then in the last 2 minutes, when a team's motivation to "sit on the ball" is highest, we have a 40-second play clock that enables a team to exhibit the very game-ending behavior that the 40-second play clock is designed to prevent.

    in the NBA, where there's also a play clock, the "victory formation" doesn't happen because trailing teams can foul (quasi-)intentionally. however, even if a team were able to somehow avoid getting fouled for the entirety of a full possession, the MOST time they can kill is 24 seconds per possession. in the NFL, a 40-second play clock spread out over 3 inter-play periods (with 20 or so seconds of actual play time) means you're talking about an NFL team being able to kill 140 seconds PER POSSESSION. that's almost 6 times as much per-possession killing time as in the NBA!

    incidentally, i don't see how a 25-second play clock in the final 5 minutes could have the unintended consequence of increasing delay of game penalties for the trailing team. they're scrambling to score, so they're going to be in hurry up anyway. no negative 25-second play clock effect there. so, if the only team it would affect is the one that's trying to "kill time," but that's what play clocks were invented to prevent anyway.

    the only argument i can see against it is, "well, coaches just have to save their timeouts for the end of the game." but doesn't that kind of reduce the margin of error for the entire second half to basically zero? it's like, ok, halftime finds you down by 7, so now you can't use a timeout for any other reason because you've got to save them just in case you're down at the 2 minute warning. you slip up and use 1, the game ends 45 seconds early; use 2 too early and it ends 90 seconds early; use 3 too early, and game's over at the 2-minute warning. that just seems an odd position for the rules to put a coach in, especially in light of the fact that time outs are attached to challenges. therefore, 3 timeouts seems to me to be overconstraining in several ways.

    so, as a compromise, i say reduce the play clock to 25 seconds for the last 5 minutes of the game AND give coaches an extra timeout in the 2nd half. at least that gives the trailing coach a 1-timeout margin for error.

  26. Unknown says:

    Love a lot of those ideas.

    Being a Manchester City fan, I'm a big fan of the relegation idea, as well as the idea of a B-league Bowl. Although there should be some sort of motivation (other than a chance at the Super Bowl) for being in the A-league, it will make the game at the bottom of the table far more exciting, and teams fighting for a chance to enter the A-league will get a huge upsurge in fan interest as the bandwagon starts filling up.

    Of course, there's no chance the owners will agree to this, but one can dream.

  27. Unknown says:

    Also, the NFL needs a gridiron version of the AHL.

  28. JD Mathewson says:

    I like a lot of these ideas but am dead set against relegation. Too much luck in a 16 (18?) game schedule for a bad record in one season to mean anything.

  29. JD Mathewson says:

    How about this: 6 points for a safety, but the scoring team must surrender possession. Treat it like a pick 6.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Number 10 and 11 are by far the best ones.

  31. Anonymous says:

    A lot of these are great. No brainers: 1, 4 (TD is just 7 unless you want to go for 2), 9, 12.

    Some of these are problematic, though. I like the concept of relegation but it doesn't work with a salary cap & revenue sharing. Everyone's already on a level field. What's to stop a wretched team's owner from just continuing to get his cut but live in the B-league? Without revenue sharing, teams are motivated to put out a good product to get more return money.

    Any idea that doesn't randomize who starts with the ball in overtime (such as idea 11 or the comment by S) could be trouble. You want to make sure you don't give a team the incentive to hold the ball in the 4th and play for overtime, which could happen if they know they're getting the ball first in OT with a fresh set of downs or something. I'm not really a fan of the "both teams must have possession" tweak the way it is - you want teams fully motivated to avoid OT.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I also like the idea of a return to 2-platoon football. I think it will reduce injuries by forcing teams to field players who are more physically fit and versatile.

    My idea: teams may make a maximum of one substitution after each play. This will force teams into a 2-platoon system but still allow specialist quarterbacks.

  33. Anonymous says:

    (1) Encourage onside kicks: kick off are from the 50 yard line, and all touchbacks and kicks out of bounds come out to the 50 yard line. Also, reduce the restraining line on kickoffs from 10 yards to 5.

    (2) Move the hash marks out...a lot. Move them to about 3 yards from the sidelines. That will make field goals much more difficult unless teams plan ahead.

    (3) Sick of seeing quarterbacks run around for a few seconds and then throw the ball out of bounds because nobody's open? Spot every incomplete pass at the yard line where the pass was thrown from, not the original line of scrimmage.

    (4) Fix overtime. Make overtime quick--each team gets 4 plays from their own 20, the one that makes the most yards on the 4 plays wins. Here's the catch--have overtime before the game, not after. That way, we know that one team or the other won't play for the tie, because the result of the overtime is already known. Find a sponsor (The Miller Lite Pregame Overtime Challenge) and it will give people reason to be watching the game and cheering right from the start.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I dont like Relegation for the NFL.

    >>15. Eliminate the draft - The draft is almost a sport unto itself, and it provides grist for us to talk about in the spring. But if there is a hard salary cap, what's the point?

    I think this would hurt the weaker teams, and harm their ability to improve. No one will want to play for teh bad team, it will be less fun, and detrimental to their career, thus bad teams will have a hard time getting good players.

    The current system rewards good drafting and salary cap management. I think it probably makes for a better league overall.

  35. Vince says:

    I like 2, 9, 11, and 16 as changes that could actually happen.

    If they eliminate the draft, they could still give bad teams an advantage for signing rookies: have the league subsidize their rookie salaries (out of shared revenue). The worst team in the league can get 10% off any rookie they sign, and the best team in the league could have to pay an additional 10% tax to the league on top of the salary that they pay to rookies.

    So last year if rookie Sam Bradford signed with the last place Rams to make $10 million/year, the Rams would only have to pay $9 million of that and he would only count $9 million against their salary cap (the other million that Bradford makes would come from the league). But if the champion Saints signed him to make $10 million/year, the Saints would have to pay $11 million, $10 million to Bradford and $1 million to the league, and he would count for $11 million against the cap. The other teams would be in between based on the order of standings - the second-to-last Lions would've gotten about a 9.4% subsidy, the third-from-last Bucs would've gotten about an 8.7% subsidy, and so on. Or maybe they could just do it by record instead of ranking (each win subtracts 1% from your subsidy/adds 1% to your tax)?

  36. Jacob Stevens says:

    I've heard relegation suggested many times before. The thing is, it sort of presumes the capabilities of teams to be less dynamic than they currently are. Teams can turn it around in a big way in a year. Relegation would make the NFL closer to the NCAA's BCS that presumes small conference teams can't be as good.

  37. Tarr says:

    S, and Nate, yes. JUST CONTINUE THE GAME. I've argued about this one many times here in the past, and I've reached the point where I am 100% convinced this is the best solution. Everyone who thinks this is a bad idea is just plain wrong. If this was the way that OT worked already, then nobody would even THINK of changing it; it would just seem very obvious and correct, like the forward pass.

    I like the idea of narrowing the goalposts; this is a natural reaction to the improvements in kicking accuracy, just like moving back the kickoff was a natural reaction to longer average kicks.

    I definitely agree with allowing unlimited challenges as long as you have time outs, and with taking the replay out of the hands of the referee. Put three officials in a booth, surrounded by HD screens that have every camera feed at once. Give them their own technician who can start showing them replays of the previous play (from every angle, simultaneously) the moment the play is dead. They'll generally have a decision (let majority rule among the three) within seconds of getting the call from below about the details of the challenge.

    Relegation works great with the soccer leagues in part because there's a bunch of leagues (EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A) that are competing against one another. The NFL, with no real competition, is more like a collective, which is why the draft is good and relegation wouldn't work all that well. Ironically, Europe's sporting league structures are much more of free-market than those of North America.

  38. Ian Simcox says:


    Agree with you 100% about the 'live' video officials. In football in the UK we keep having debates about video refs and I've never understood why you couldn't have a guy watching on the telly who could signal down, just like the two pitch-side assistant refs do now, when he sees something.

    You can see so much more from the telly and with the technology these days you could have one live monitor and another on a permanent 2 second delay, so he could instantly double check what he saw and signal down.

  39. James Sinclair says:

    Yes, they should absolutely eliminate the draft. I still remember when I was, like, 12, and first learned that rookie salaries are influenced by draft position and that teams can trade up or down to get whatever pick they want. I thought, "wait a minute, why even have a draft?"

    "The current system rewards good drafting and salary cap management. I think it probably makes for a better league overall."

    The current system rewards bad drafting. From 2002 through 2011, the Detroit Lions have had the following first-round picks: 3, 2, 6, 10, 9, 2, 15, 1, 2, and 13. So many opportunities to add a top player to their roster, and all that happens if they screw it up is that they get to try again next year. (Reminds me of when the Slam Dunk Contest rules were changed to allow players as many tries as they needed.)

    Sure, the Lions are an outlier, but they aren't the only team that shows up in the top ten year after year. If the draft is good for the weaker teams, then why don't the weaker teams seem to benefit from the draft?

  40. Tarr says:

    James, two possible answers:

    1) The top draft positions are not as awesome as you might think. In other words, that "reward" for bad drafting (which is really a reward for bad everything, not just bad drafting) is not all that great.

    2) As I implied above, there's a reason the bad teams are bad. Having better picks doesn't protect you from making lousy free-agency decisions or hiring bad coaches. Correlation (i.e. high draft picks following high draft picks) does not imply causation.

    The reason I think the draft is helpful is because it's fairly equitable, or at least, more equitable than the results would be of pure free agency. It's one of many policies (including the salary cap) that have led to the current era of parity.

  41. James Sinclair says:

    Yeah, I completely agree that there isn't necessarily causation here, and I admit to lazily ignoring that in my first comment.

    As for your last point, I'm all in favor of equity, but I don't see how a league that already has a salary cap also needs a draft. Having the #1 pick essentially forces a team to spend $12 million on one player, but what if they'd rather spend $3 million each on four players? They can, of course, by trading down, but the draft seems like an unnecessary obstacle toward teams doing what they believe is in their best interest.

  42. foodmetaphors says:

    From Anonymous..

    "(3) Sick of seeing quarterbacks run around for a few seconds and then throw the ball out of bounds because nobody's open? Spot every incomplete pass at the yard line where the pass was thrown from, not the original line of scrimmage."

    I love this, not for every incomplete pass.. but more specifically that it only applies when it doesn't hit an eligible player/defender and at that point it would be a spot of the foul penalty. would apply to throwaways/intentionally grounding to stop the clock or just any poorly thrown ball. at that point if a defender reaches the qb and hits their arm but the ball comes out with the arm moving forward and goes nowhere, it'd be just as good as a sack.

  43. Anonymous says:

    #16 is not a rule change, it's just a reclassification of statistics. It's no different that adjusting how QB rating is determined or any other stat.

  44. Brian Burke says:

    Thank you. Brilliant observation. Notice the title of the post is not 'Rule Change.' It's something else.

  45. MJ says:

    I wish I didn't read this post, because now I'm disappointed that the NFL isn't *better*.

  46. Jonathan says:

    1) Do something to make passing more difficult. It'll never happen, but I'd like to return to an era where passing is hard, running the ball is more effective, and defensive battles are more common. As it is, QBs seem to determine way too much for a team sport that involves 22 starters.

    2) Scrap the current draft system. Replace it with a rolling system where each division gets the top four draft picks every eight years. Then the next year they get 29-32, then 25-28, etc. If bad teams can't rebuild, tough cookies. It's weird living in a world where and Indianapolis Colts organization's fortunes are largely predicated on having a horrible season sometimes in the nineties. It's also weird rooting for your favorite team to lose in some situations.

    Last two minutes: the clock stops automatically if you get tackled behind the line of scrimmage. This will prevent comeback drives from grenading due to a sack, and (more importantly) get rid of the stupid kneel down play. Seriously, you don't see the Yankees walking three batters in a row in the ninth inning to clinch a victory, do you? Or imagine Kobe tossing a layup into his own hoop in order to ice the game. It's uber lame.
    4) Make SOS or SOV the next tiebreaker after Head-to-head. This would have two benefits: it would give a better indicator of who actually had a better season, AND it would confuse everybody trying to follow the tiebreak procedures, annoying everybody in the world except for me.
    5) Give teams five timeouts at the beginning of the game, to use at any time they choose. You can burn a few in the second half, or you can save all five for the end of the game.
    6) Anything that makes division titles mean less, I'm all in favor of.
    7) I don't care how you want to do overtime, just let it start with anything other than a coin flip.
    8) Free gerbils for the offensive and defensive MVP of every game.

  47. Eric says:

    the draft:
    1. I think the draft often penalizes the worst teams with a salary cap burden. If you don't believe me, how often do you see the team with the top pick trade out of it into multiple lower picks? I think teams often try to do this, but there are rarely any takers.
    2. If we abolished the draft, would the worst teams be penalized? They would in baseball, but in a salary cap league they should have more cap room to sign good rookies or veterans after they cut underproductive players. Conversely, the good teams would want to hang on to good veterans so they should have less cap room.

  48. JMM says:

    Eliminate regular season overtime.

    This would encourage playing to win.

    Incorporating ties into standings would be an improvement over the silly stats they use now to calculate playoff seedings.

  49. Unknown says:

    I think the obvious overtime solution is to do it just like extra innings in baseball.

    Each team will go on offense until someone fails to catch up.

    It could be argued that this gives an advantage to whoever goes second, but I don't really think that's true as long as you're viewing the game as both an offensive and defensive one.

    The only way a field goal could instantly seal a victory is if it has already been earned by that same team's defense denying the other team the ability to score. If the first team scores a field goal, they must accept that they could still lose if their defense gives up a TD, or continue the stalemate if their defense gives up a field goal.

    As for challenges, I don't get why coaches have to spend challenges. That implies it is the coach's responsibilities to quality check the refs. All challenges should be from the booth and they should not be limited in quantity. An expedited system should be in place in order to not make the game take forever. I really like the technology idea, RFID chips and GPS seem in order.

    As for the play clock idea mentioned earlier, I like it, but with some modification. In the last 5 minutes, the play clock should be 25 seconds if the clock is running, but 40 seconds if it is not. This will accomplish the idea of preventing teams sitting on a tiny lead, closing out a potentially riveting ending to a game, but doesn't harm the hurry up offense by limiting huddle planning when the trailing team does stop the clock.

  50. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful column! I honestly thought that I was the only person in America who had these kinds of fantasies.

    I like about every doggone change proposed. But the ones regarding relegation, bidding on starting field position and betting on the conversion play are nothing short of inspired brilliance.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Tilt the field 15 degrees from horizontal, so that one team begins advancing uphill (while the other is of course facing downhill). It changes at the quarters and half, as now.

  52. barbooda says:

    One suggestion and the stats I think will lend credibility to the change.Field goals over 50 yards should be worth 4 points instead of 3.If your thinking that teams will purposely lose one yard to make a fg 50 instead of 49 check the stats you will see the difference.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Since we all know the PAT needs an overhaul I think the solution is #4 no doubt, you said it yourself and you're right: I wouldn't be getting up from the tv during any of those plays. The game would be much more thrilling through and through and add more competitiveness.

  54. Justin says:

    Brian, for most practical purposes, #10 has already been in place for about a decade. If both challenges are successful, a coach gets a third one.

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