I like the following new NFL rules because they bring more common sense and a move towards more of an offensive-defensive balance to the game. Whenever I observe new rule changes (in the NFL or NCAA football), what I enjoy most is watching coaches and players adjust their strategies and gameplay.
The NFL decided last April to allow coaches to make a choice if they win the coin toss at the start of the game—take the ball or defer to the second half, just as they do in college.
It takes effect when the Redskins visit the Giants Thursday night in the season opener, one of several new rules for the 2008 NFL season.
In the exhibition season, most teams have done it the old way—they have chosen to take the ball. But that may have been because coaches wanted to look at their offenses quickly so it could change when the games count and they decide they’d like to start the second half with offenses on the field.
“I think there are some advantages to deferring but we have played in an awful lot of games where, when we win the toss, we take the ball and we have done well in a lot of those games as well,” New England coach Bill Belichick said when asked why he took the ball at the start of Thursday’s game.
“I don’t know if there is anything to getting the ball and having first crack at it or giving it up and having that first possession in the second half.”
I like the coin toss rule change. Besides bringing an element of college football, I see some practical situations for which teams will defer to the second half and start on defense.
These situations include teams known for defense (e.g., the Chicago Bears), teams with a young, inexperienced quarterback (e.g., the Atlanta Falcons), and teams when playing on the road in loud, hostile environments. If a team has a solid defense, deferring may mean an early field position advantage.
The coin toss deferral is one of several new rules, most of them geared to defense after a decade of rules that generally helped the offense.
— Giving designated defensive players a radio in his helmet, allowing coaches to relay defensive signals just as offensive signals are relayed from offensive coaches to the quarterback.
A significant new rule to bring a offense-defense balance to the game.
— Eliminating the 5-yard penalties for incidental face masks. Only the 15-yard penalty for grabbing and twisting the mask will be enforced. In addition, officials will be on the lookout for offensive players who latch on to the face masks of defenders in an effort to take them out of plays.
I am suspending judgement/opinion for this new rule because it sounds so subjective for referees. My initial reaction is favorable because it should speed up the game with one less insignificant 5-yard penalty to worry about.
— Eliminating the force out rule. In the past, officials could rule a receiver whose feet had not touched in bounds had made a catch because a defensive player had forced him out. Under the new rule, a receiver must land with both feet in bounds regardless of whether or not he is hit while in the air.
“We feel that with so many levels of judgment that go into the force-out call, it creates a more consistent play when either you get your feet down for a complete pass or you do not,” says Atlanta president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee, which proposed the change.
This may be the most significant rule change, especially when I team is driving in the closing seconds in the 4th quarter, with no timeouts, and throwing sideline patterns.
I expect offenses will adjust with more crossing patterns and post patterns. When a team needs to run out of bounds, a QB play pump fake to a wide receiver on the sidelines and then throw to a running back in the flats.
Another possibility is that teams will send tight ends and running backs streaking on deep vertical patterns, using sideline passes to wide receivers as decoys.
— Extending instant replay to cover field goal and extra points and illegal forward handoffs.
One reason the rule was added was a play at the end of a game in Baltimore in which Phil Dawson’s 51-yard game-tying field goal attempt for Cleveland bounced off an upright, then off the support behind the crossbar. Officials first ruled it no good because they thought it had hit the crossbar, then conferred and made the correct call.
The Browns went on to win in overtime.
This is a good rule if it does not unnecessarily extend the length of a game and most importantly, referees actually get the call right.
— Muffed snaps will now be in play if they are not touched, allowing the defensive team to recover. In the past, they were ruled a false start.
Good rule. Centers/quarterbacks should be held accountable for muffed snaps.
What do you think about the new NFL rules?
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