Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

NFL Owners Discuss Changes

The annual NFL owners’ meeting will take place in Orlando, Fla., this week, and a number of hot-topic issues and rule changes are slated for debate.

Most notably, the league will be discussing expanding the playoff field from its current 12-team format to 14, adding two games in the process. This move would effectively kill two birds with one stone. The additional games would prolong the season and add the television revenue that the league so highly cherishes.

The NFL Players Association, however, will oppose any such move because of the increased risk of injury that extra games would bring. Furthermore, an expanded playoff field would dilute the prestige of a postseason berth, something that does not seem to concern the ever profit-seeking NFL.

Another point of discussion at the owner meetings will be altering the rules regarding replay review. The Washington Redskins organization initially proposed allowing reviews and challenges for personal foul penalties, with New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick adding a proposal that every play on the field should be reviewable.

Belichick stated his views on the subject to the Boston Herald in December, saying, “I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls, but to say that an important play can’t be reviewed, I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of trying to get everything right and making sure the most important plays are officiated properly.”

However, opening up all plays for challenges raises questions about the speed of the game. Football games consistently take more than three hours, and really analyzing judgment calls such as pass interference penalties could be a lengthy process. The question of who reviews plays is just as important: Is the play reviewed on the field by officials or at the NFL’s New York office via satellite?

But on the other hand, aren’t the Redskins and Patriots right to try to eliminate bad pass interference calls? As a fan, one of the most maddening occurrences is when a receiver trips or embellishes contact and a flag is thrown; instead of an incompletion, the result is a spot foul and a first down. Games’ outcomes depend on these calls, and it is in the interest of all involved parties to get them right. It is highly unlikely that the owners will vote to allow the review of all plays, but including personal fouls would certainly be a step in the right direction.

A third rule to watch closely is the New England Patriots’ proposal to move extra-point attempts from the 2-yard line to the 25. The league has offered a counterproposal to move them to the 20-yard line, which nonetheless would change PATs from about 20-yard attempts to a more difficult 37. Under both proposals, if a team elected to go for two, they would still do so from the 2-yard line.

Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards summed up the change best, saying, “Obviously, you put more pressure on the kicker. And then there’s the decision the coach has to make. …What do you do? It’s one of those deals that’s good for fans. You have it coming down to a coach’s decision, and it’s going to be second-guessed.”

In all likelihood, the league will put the 20-yard PAT to trial during the preseason and re-evaluate the rule for the regular season. While the change will definitely add a wrinkle to game strategy, more traditional NFL fans will likely oppose the alteration when they see it in practice during exhibition games.

Speaking of exhibition games, the league intends to put an end to overtime during the preseason. This is part of the natural progression with regard to player safety and makes sense if some owners are serious about extending the regular season. There is also no significance to winning or losing a preseason game, and very few fans should be outraged when their third-string quarterback is slighted one more drive.

Not all rule proposals are selfless acts for the good of the league. Take, for instance, the Patriots’ proposal to raise the field goal posts 5 yards higher. The Patriots lost to the Ravens two years ago on a field goal that they did not believe crossed through the uprights, and the vengeful Belichick is certainly hoping that that never happens to him again.

For rules to be approved, 24 of the 32 league owners must vote positively — that is, a 75 percent approval threshold must be met. Training camp remains more than four months away, but the NFL owners’ meeting bear watching this week.


Matt Castaldo is a junior in the College. More than a game appears every Tuesday.

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