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Ramblings of an Idiot: Rules Review

In a shortened off season without much to talk about one of the most discussed topics in football was the in placement of the kickoff spot. Vehement posts and countless comments piled high like stolen dorm room furniture on a college bonfire. There were arguments made for both sides of an issue that had almost no discernible effect on the entertainment level of the actual games. The NFL didn't collapse, people didn't stop watching the games because they had become boring, and the longer fields that teams had to traverse didn't devastate teams' ability to score.

The NFL was able to accomplish exactly what they set out to do (reduce the lopsided percentage of injuries on kick off plays) without ruining the game day experience. There were still plenty of exciting kick return plays. In fact, kick return specialists seemed to take more risks in attempting to run out kicks that really should have been knelt upon. All in all the NFL rules committee, as it seems, made the right decision on a rules change.

But not every rule in the NFL is a good one, and this off season the committee should get back in the board room (or bored room, if that's how you choose to imagine a rules committee meeting) and start reviewing some questionable regulations. There are plenty of NFL rules that serve only to make things way more complex than they need be. Simplification is the key to successful implementation and uniform enforcement if any game rule. The more complex or the more situation specific a rule becomes, the harder it will be for the players, coaches, and fans to get behind.

There's not much to simplify in a changing the kick off yard line. There aren't any special situation or stipulations that must be put in place for any specific types of kick offs. And it doesn't take 10 minutes of rewind and slow motion aided reviews to find out if the ball was spotted on the correct yard line. Simple, understood by all, and easy to enforce; That should be a goal for every rule change.

The Brady Rule:

Is an overly complicated, difficult to define, stupid rule that requires officials to make a split second decision on the direction of travel of a quarterbacks arm at the exact moment he's being surrounded, pulled down, and swiped at by a defender whose currently blocking the view of the person trying to make a judgement call. If it were a running back behind the line of scrimmage getting ready to pitch the ball, would we even be having a discussion?

Sure, we can stop the game and mosey over to a black tarp covered television screen to watch the tape from 5 or 6 different angles for the next 15 minutes (effectively killing the momentum built by one team or the other) but why is that a good thing? I can hear you all commenting now, "because getting it right is more important than doing it quickly." However, in the case of a football rule, 'right' is whatever the rules committee has defined it to be.

Couldn't this be made easier to call, and enforce by taking the quarterbacks intent out of equation? Make no mistake, this rule is about intent, not arm movement. Effectively, the rule says that if the quarterback had the intent to pass the ball, and the throwing motion has already started then a lost ball is not a fumble (it's an incomplete pass).

I say, it doesn't matter what the quarterbacks intent was. It doesn't matter if he wanted to throw a pass. It doesn't matter if he's already chosen a receiver. It doesn't matter which direction his arm is moving. None of that matters because it's not a pass until the ball has actually been passed. A legal forward pass is the act of one player releasing a ball through the air from a position behind the line of scrimmage to another player. Therefore, if the quarterback's hand is still touching the football at the time he or the ball are hit by a defender, it's not a pass. The play does not count as legal forward pass until the player in question has actually passed the ball. Any other situation results in a fumble.

There is no gray area. No need to air 15 more commercials while we review the play. And we completely avoid the torturous conversation by 3 guys in a booth trying to describe the slow motion review for the eleventh time in a row. Even if the play has to go to review it should only take seconds to resolve the matter. "Look! Right there, Eli's still squeezing the ball in his hand when Wilfork's 185 pound forearm (I'm estimating the weight based on the font size of the numbers on his chest) slams down onto Eli's shoulder." He's still holding it. So he hasn't passed it yet, so it's not an incomplete pass.

The Slide Rule:

Let me first say what a steaming pile of male cow excrement this particular stupid rule is. Can we all just agree that if any player is in the act of advancing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, then he is to be treated as a runner? We don't need any special set of rules for a quarterback that decides they want to run the ball.

If you're such a pansy that you don't think you should be allowed to be tackled, then throw the ball out of bounds and don't try to run it. The moment a quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage they no longer have to option to pass. Because they no longer have the option to pass the ball, they should no longer be protected by 'special' rules designed to protect a passer. They are now a running back. When the NFL decides to put in rules that allow full backs to slide feet first (for an extra yard) and then pick up a bonus 15 yard personal foul flag if a defender breathes on them too hard, then the quarterback slide rule should apply. Until then, it's a stupid rule.

Here's the new rule: If any player is carrying the football and actively advancing it beyond the line of scrimmage, that player is subject to being blasted in the mouth by a battering ram of a linebacker. If you don't like it, don't run it. The defenders don't care which way your feet are pointed, they are too busy targeting your skull.

The Playoff Overtime Rule:

If ever there was a rule that defined the phrase 'overly complicated,' this is it. The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of a regular playing time of a postseason NFL game. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to posses, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on it's initial possession or the initial defending team scores a safety.

The team receiving the initial kickoff must score a touchdown to end the game. If they do not score a touchdown on their initial possession, the rules revert back to regular season sudden death rules whereby the first team to score wins the game; Unless the initial receiving team scored a field goal on the opening possession of the overtime period. In the case the the initial receiving team scores a field goal on their initial possession of a postseason overtime game, the initial defending team will receive one possession in which they are given the opportunity to match or surpass the score of the initial receiving team. Should the score remain tied after the second team to have gained possession of the football in the over time period the game rules revert to regular season sudden death rules.

That's about as clear as mud. I'm sure we can all understand the rules given enough time to digest them, but that doesn't make them any less stupid. There is simply no reason good enough to implement a different set of rules for regular season and post season games. Name one professional sport other then football where individual game rules are different in the post season. I'll wait..... go ahead.... name one.....

I'm sure many of you reading this could come up with a rule that you think would make more sense. I'm not going to argue that I have a better idea than anyone else's idea. I'm just going to argue that the rule should remain consistent from the regular season to the post season. Put 15 minutes on the clock and play a 5th quarter. Change the rule so that the first team to score 6 points in the overtime wins if you're hell bent on taking away a winning filed goal kick on the opening possession. Have all the players march out onto the 50 yard line and measure dicks if you like, just make sure the rule is the same for every NFL game.

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