The NFL rulebook is under constant scrutiny, as every single football fan (and players/coaches too) have their own thoughts and feelings about the rules. There have been some solid changes recently, such as once again allowing for touchdown celebrations and at least trying to fix the catch rule — we’ll see how it goes when the season starts in the Fall. There is a still a lot of work that could be done to improve, simplify, and make the game more entertaining. With that in mind, this article will take a closer look at 15 potential and suggested rule changes that the NFL should consider to make the league even better than it already is.
15. Ease Up on Protecting the Quarterbacks
Sure, it’s important to protect the quarterbacks in the NFL. Player safety is an important issue for every position. But we think the NFL takes it too far sometimes, and treats quarterbacks like they are made of glass. Some games it feels like players are penalized for even the smallest of bumps, or merely looking at QB wrong. We’re not saying that talented players shouldn’t be protected, but defenders are penalized far too often for fouls that barely even exist. Of course, a direct and hard hit to the head should be a penalty, but accidently laying a finger on a QB’s helmet shouldn’t warrant a penalty.
14. Eliminate Punts Over the 50-Yard Line
While we doubt this one would ever get approved, punting is definitely one of our least favorite plays in the NFL — especially with recent rule changes making it even less exciting. While we don’t think punting be removed totally from the game, we would love to see a rule that wouldn’t allow teams to punt when they are in their opponent’s half of the field. Make them go for it on fourth down, and kick that lengthy field goal. This would lead to more dramatic plays, which creates more entertainment. Plus it would be interesting to see how teams change their tactics if this was a rule.
13. Allow Instant Replays On All Penalties
Let’s face it, a lot of penalties that get flagged are barely penalties at all. It is a big problem and can often change the entire outcome of a game. Instead of dealing with the issue of wrong penalty being called, why not just make penalties reviewable? This would ensure the right call is made. Of course, not every single penalty should be looked at, but maybe have penalties be challengeable by a head coach or introduce a new protocol that would allow coaches to challenge a few a game, if they so choose.
12. Allow Players to Be Moving at the Snap
When the ball is snapped in the NFL, nearly every player on the offense needs to be still. While this is something most fans are used to seeing, those who have watched the CFL know there’s an alternative. In the CFL, there are much more relaxed rules about players being motion prior to the snap, which allows for a very different look and feel of offensive schemes. One of the biggest reasons we would love to see this implemented is that it would give receivers a running start and could lead to some huge plays. This would open up the playbooks for a ton of new plays, routes, and looks.
11. Custom Cleats Every Week
NFL players all wear the same uniforms (obviously), and sometimes it can be hard to differentiate one from another — unless you’ve memorized all the numbers. This could be somewhat alleviated by allowing players to wear custom cleats. However, the NFL hasn’t been very receptive to players wearing their own custom cleats. They’ve dished out plenty of fines for “non-approved footwear,” but they continue to market their own “My Cleats, My Cause” week for charity. We would love to see them relax on these rules and allow players to wear whatever kinds of cleats they want, every single week (keeping in mind rules around appropriate images and non-approved sponsers). This would allow players to express their own unique style, and also get their favorite causes and charities some airtime.
10. Shorten Regular Season Overtimes
A football game is already a grueling and physical battle for players, as they bash into other grown men for 60 minutes. However, when you add a 15 minute overtime to the mix, it can be horrible for players. Many are already banged up and tired after 60 minutes, so adding the extra quarter can lead to a lot of injuries and other player safety issues. The NFL should shorten it to around 10 minutes (or even 5), which would be an improvement. Alternately, they could explore playing OT in a 9-on-9 (or even 7-on-7) format, giving players more room on the field to make plays — it’s worked for the NHL! We don’t recommend shortening playoff games though, since those need a definite winner. But there’s nothing wrong with ending a regular season game as a tie.
9. Eliminate Kickoffs
While kickoffs can be very exciting to watch if they get returned for a touchdown, they are also one of the most damaging plays in terms of injuries. Players running full speed for dozens of yards and then smashing into one another is a breeding ground for all kinds of injuries. Recent rule changes now have most kickoffs simply being taken for touchbacks, so we aren’t too far away from it being a useless play already. Simply put, the massive chance for injury simply isn’t worth it for the amount of times that teams actually run a kick-off back. Just give the other team the ball and get on with the game. It will also save a bunch of time every game.
8. Add the Rouge
Adding more ways to score is always a welcome addition to sports. Thankfully, there is a method used by the CFL that could be very interesting in the NFL. A rouge is worth a single point and occurs when a team legally kicks the ball through the end zone or the other team doesn’t return it out. This could make missed field goals and punts a lot more important than they already are and could lead to a ton of drama in the late stages of a game, which is always good for the league.
7. Unlimited Challenges (If the Coach Wins)
Challenges are instrumental in the NFL and many other leagues. Refs make mistakes, and challenges allow for teams to double check those calls with the help of high speed and high definition replays. In the NFL, the rules allow for two challenges for each coach, with a third being rewarded if both of the first two are successful. While that’s all well and good, we feel that there should be the chance for unlimited challenges if the coach continues to get it right. So if they are win the third challenge, they should get a fourth and so on. If the refs continue to make mistakes, why not keep correcting them?
6. Remove the Franchise Tag
Every offseason, we hear a ton of potential free agents that remain with their current teams due to the franchise tag. This designation allows a team to essentially keep a player for an extra year if certain conditions are met. While some players don’t mind being tagged, others want more than a measly one-year commitment. Someone like Le’Veon Bell is worthy of a multi-year, nine-figure contract. Instead, the Steelers will pay him $14.5 million in 2018, with no guarantee of future earnings. Many players (rightfully) feel they deserve more than what they get from the franchise tag. So while it is awesome for team owners, most top-level players don’t like it. You can expect it to be a point of contention in the next CBA.
5. Seed Playoff Teams By Regular Season Record
The way seeding works in professional sports can get a bit weird. This goes especially for the NFL, as each of the eight divisions in the NFL are guaranteed at least one playoff team, with the winner getting an automatic postseason berth. This means good teams are sometimes screwed out of a playoff spot because of the division they play in, which the winners of trash divisions get an undeserved spot. Instead of having each division send one team (and having two wild card spots), each conference should just send their top six teams to the playoffs based on their records. If one division is over or under represented, too bad.
4. Offense Should Keep Possession on Fumble Through the End Zone
This has long been one of the worst rules in the NFL and we hope it gets rectified soon. If a player dives for the pylon or goal line, and the ball slips out of their hand and goes into the end zone and then out of bounds, the defense currently gets possession of the ball. However, if it rolls out of bounds at the one-yard line, the offense keeps it. It makes zero sense as a rule and the offense should keep the ball on any fumble out of bounds (except out the back of their own end zone, obviously).
3. No “Accidental Fumbles” On Punts
While a muffed punt by the returner should definitely be considered a fumble, far too often we see a blocker accidently (and unknowingly) touch the ball with his foot or leg, which results in the ball being live. We believe it should simply be a dead ball, as it is tough for these players to block world-class athletes, while also keeping tabs on where a bouncing ball may go. This accidental touch can lead to a huge shift in any game, and we believe it shouldn’t. Also, with players on the kicking team trying to push blockers into the bouncing ball, it makes it even more difficult.
2. Get Rid of Thursday Night Games
While having an extra night of football on TV is great for fans, there is no secret that players are not a big fan of playing on Thursday Nights. It messes up the week of game planning, and even screws with the week after as teams are forced to move around practices, film time, travel, and game prep. Teams who play are coming off only a few days rest and are usually quite banged up, which has led to some “less than superb” games taking place on Thursday. Injuries are also more prevalent during these games and with player safety a huge concern, Thursday games should be gone.
1. Add Balance to Defensive Pass Interference
The NFL almost got this one right this offseason, but it’s unlikely this rule is changed, at least not this year. Currently, defensive pass interference is a spot foul, which means a deep pass and a bit of contact can turn into a massive gain for the offense (and a huge penalty for the defense). This is quite unbalanced, especially since offensive pass interference is only a ten-yard penalty. The NFL should balance the two by making defensive pass interference a 15 yard penalty at the most, no matter how far the ball is thrown — there’s no guarantee the receiver would have caught the pass anyway!