Blitzing the NFL: A Look at the 2008 Rule Changes

Sean Crowe@CroweKnowsSenior Writer IApril 2, 2008

The NFL has made its annual rule changes. Per usual, the changes are both good and bad. 

The most publicized change is the new rule allowing a defensive player to wear one of those quarterback-style microphone helmets. 

I've decided to call them Belichick helmets. 

I agree with this in theory, but I’m not sure how it’s going to play out on the field. 

For one, you have different signals for the defensive backs and the front seven. Since you’re only allowed one Belichick helmet on the field at a time, you’ll still potentially have to send in hand signals to one group or the other. 

And I’m not 100-percent clear on how substitutions are going to work. I guess there will be a backup Belichick helmet. But for teams like the Patriots, who rotate their linebackers and have different guys making the calls depending on who's in the game, I’m not sure this is at all practical.

I can understand why this was voted down in the past—and none of the issues discussed previously have been resolved. 

But if it makes Spygate go away, then bring on the Belichick helmet.

Here’s a quick rundown of the rest of the rule changes for the 2008 season:

1) No More Push-out

Defensive backs will love this one. From now on, if a receiver catches the ball near the sidelines, lift him up and throw him out of bounds because the force-out rule is no more.

I can’t STAND this change. I understand not wanting to leave anything up to interpretation, especially for the “special” crop of officials the NFL currently employs. 

But seriously, instead of dumbing down the game for the officials, can’t we just get less dumb officials?

2) The ability to use replay to review field goal attempts.

Not sure why this wasn’t a part of the replay rule to start. Of course, I’m not sure how an official standing directly under the goal posts can screw up a field goal call either.

Now, if we can just make pass interference reviewable.

3) Teams that win the coin toss can defer their decision to the second half.

Pretty self-explanatory.  I’m sure Wade Phillips will figure out a way to screw this up in a playoff game.

4) Illegal forward handoffs past the line of scrimmage are now fumbles as opposed to dead balls.

I have to be honest here—I have no idea what an illegal forward handoff would consist of. I’m assuming a forward lateral? Can someone clarify this for me? 

5) No more five-yard facemask penalty.

Now this rule, I like. I’ve seen too many offensive drives undeservingly extended due to incidental contact with a facemask.

The five-yard facemask and illegal contact are the two most ridiculously inconsistently called defensive penalties in the NFL. 

Thankfully, the playoff reseeding idea was shelved.  The only way I would even consider reseeding the playoffs is if everyone played a balanced schedule. But when you have a division-heavy schedule, you need to seed based on division winners.

If someone plays in and wins a tough division, they deserve a higher seed than someone who wins a Wild Card spot in a weaker division. 

It’s not often (except in the NFC West) that an undeserving playoff team wins a division.

One of the highlights from the NFL owners’ meeting was a public apology from Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick to the rest of the NFL teams for Spygate. 

They reportedly left the stage to a standing ovation. Hopefully that’s a sign that the NFL has put Spygate behind it.

Of course, they are now going to force teams to sign a certified document every season stating that they don’t cheat, won't cheat, and won't stand for anyone else cheating. All teams have also agreed to random spot-checks throughout the season to ensure they're staying true to their word. 

I’m sure signing a certified document will stop all cheating in the NFL. Frankly, I’m surprised Bud Selig didn’t propose this to fix the steroid problem in MLB. 

Forget expensive tests, just make all of the players sign a certified document stating they won’t cheat.  It’s brilliant in its simplicity. If the players continued to do steroids—well, then they’re both cheaters and liars. 

They’d never be able to live with themselves.

I’m SeanMC.

SeanMC is a Senior Writer at Bleacher Report. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.