10 Subtle Changes That Would Make The NFL Better

-John Turner

The NFL doesn’t often make changes to its brand, but each year the competition committee and league owners meet to explore just that. Usually when the league decides to make changes they aren’t exactly earth shaking. The league likes to “protect the shield” and preaches “league integrity”, and as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. However I have identified a few things the league seems to consistently get wrong in my opinion, and now that the regular season is over it’s a pretty good time to talk about them. So, in no particular order here are the top 10 changes I’d make if they were to put me in charge.

Change the play clock from 40 seconds to 35.

Denver Post

One of the things that can get a bit annoying for fans outside of America is the constant starts and stops of an NFL game. Obviously teams want to get different personnel packages in and out due to down and distances, but a ten second reduction would never really be noticed. I’d prefer the clock to be reduced to 30 seconds however that might take some repetitions at 35 before making that move at the NFL level. This keeps the game moving at a more steady pace and likely encourages more no huddle. The XFL used the 25 second play clock and the CFL uses 20. The big difference we as fans would notice is likely the live broadcast of the game won’t be able to show long replays of the previous down like they normally do. It’s pretty common that between nearly every play the commentators like to show us at home what just happened on the previous play from an Xs and Os perspective. They use their magic pen and draw on the screen or slow mo a spot to see if it was or wasn’t a catch. Sometimes they like to take us back to show a guy’s celebration after making a play or disappointment after not making one, etc. Then you have the camera pan to the coach to see his reactions be they good, bad, or indifferent. All these things that happen between the plays are some of what makes the game special and helps tell the story. My only argument is that it can all be done in five seconds less time.

Move to an 18 game schedule.


17 is a song by Winger, not an amount of NFL games that should be played in a season.This was the first year the NFL moved to playing a 17th game and I believe it’s inevitable it pushes for an 18th. Some players expressed their displeasure about it, but the reality is that the league took away a preseason game in trade so really it’s the same amount in the end. Remove another preseason game and play 18 in the regular season. Another gripe came from the fans. Many fans were quick to mention records would be broken more easily, and said new records should have an asterisk next to them in the event of as if we as fans own these records. As much as I love Jim Brown and what he did in 1963 in just 14 games(1,863 yards at 6.4 per carry), I know that records are meant to be broken. It’s the legends that stand the test of time. We have photo and video that we can go back and help enjoy and remember these legends and moments. So I don’t get hung up on records, obviously. Just glancing at the calendar the season could start on Labor Day weekend and end on January 8th. That still allows for three weeks of playoffs with the championship game played on January 29th, the Pro Bowl on February 5th, and the Super Bowl to be played on Presidents Day weekend. I don’t know about you guys but that sounds pretty good to me. If the CFL can do it, surely the NFL can figure it out.

Consolidate the Kicker and Punter positions to one roster spot.


No, I don’t get excited about kickers and punters. Either get a kicker and teach him how to punt, or get a punter and teach him how to kick. If an NFL roster can only have 48 active players on game day, I’d prefer to have my 47th player be able to be on offense or defense depending on the game plan for that week. Some teams find one or the other that is pretty good at their job and they hold on to him. Justin Tucker for example may never play for another team in his career. Then we see other teams go through three, four, and even five kickers in a given season. Sure, if you make a kicker punt, he may not get it as far down the field as a natural punter would and verse visa. If I’m a coach, I’d say give me an extra football player and I’ll do my best to keep punts down. After all they aren’t football players, they’re kickers and punters. The Patriots’ team doctor once told Bill Parcells before a game that their kicker was going to be able to play today, but he wouldn’t be in top form. Bill’s answer, “Well he don’t have to play doc, all he’s gotta do is kick”. Lastly I don’t want to hear anything about how kicking and punting is a different leg motion and how they’re people too. In this circumstance, less is more.

Put a microchip in the ball and use it for the right reasons.

Yahoo Sports

If Covid-19 has companies inventing a chip to embed under humans’ skin so they can allegedly be scanned for the purpose of health records, I can’t see how the mighty NFL can’t figure out how embed a chip in every ball for the purpose of accuracy. There are so many things a chip could do to enhance the game. The first thing that comes to mind is ball placement. I bet if you added all the inches up by inaccurate ball placement you could probably reach the moon and back. A chip with the adequate software could tell you exactly where the ball was when the runner was down. Circumstances like did the ball cross the end zone? Did the runner have total control or was the ball moving? Was the quarterback’s arm moving forward(In a passing motion Tom)? Where exactly did the ball go out of bounds on the punt(This one drives me nuts as there is no way in hell the referee can convince me he got that right)? Was it a forward pass? Was the ball snapped before the play clock ran out? Who recovered the fumble in the pile? Did the receiver or the defender make the catch on the 50/50 ball(Screw that tie goes to the receiver crap)? The chip is not only for the purpose of accuracy, but it would help remove the element of human error. It puts an end to coaches having to challenge certain calls by referees that are made at game speed. It quite frankly gives the players more opportunity to allow the play on the field better dictate the results.

Get rid of overtime in the regular season.

NFL Officiating

This one might ruffle some feathers. I am likely in the slim minority here, but I actually love when a game ends in a tie. Each team has 60 minutes to score more points than the other team. If you can’t beat a team after an hour’s worth of football you don’t deserve to win. What’s so bad about a tie anyways? I’d love to see an 18 game schedule with a team making the playoffs with an 10-4-4 record. Ties would not only impact the playoff race but also the draft positions as well. If you’re a coach with the ball nearing the end of regulation, I’m pretty sure taking a knee to head in to overtime is now out of the playbook. Also the NFL overtime rules suck. There’s a reason every other league on the planet has a different set of OT rules. The reason is because the game should already be over. Win, lose, or draw right? The only circumstance where overtime is needed is in the post season, where the game continues on to the 5th quarter. I wouldn’t even have a coin toss. Just flip to the other side of the field like teams normally do between quarters and continue on. After 15 minutes if the game is still tied, play a 6th quarter. It’s not that difficult. All these fancy additions and rules that aren’t part of normal four quarter games are useless. Once the 5th quarter begins you are at the same yard line as you were at the end of the 4th, but on the opposite side of the field. No new timeouts are awarded as you carry over however many you had at the end of regulation. If you were out of timeouts, well then I guess you’re shit out of luck, aren’t you? Big picture is that there aren’t that many games that go to overtime anyway, so there wouldn’t be that many ties. Just enough to piss off some degenerate gamblers.

Fix the coaches’ challenge and replay system.


Another thing that chaps my ass is that some plays aren’t reviewable. Some plays are reviewable, unless it’s in the last two minutes. A coach has two challenges per game unless he gets them right, in which case he gets an extra one. A coach loses a challenge, he loses a timeout. If you’re already out of timeouts you cannot challenge a play, even if you haven’t used any challenges before. The call on the field seems to be a factor in whether or not a play is overturned. In the last two minutes all replays are done upstairs. Can’t challenge a missed/non call(Saints vs Rams playoff game), or a penalty. Can’t challenge anything after a play was ruled dead due to a whistle that shouldn’t have been blown at a certain time. Every scoring play is reviewed upstairs and you can challenge certain aspects of said play, however if the play looked as if it was a touchdown but wasn’t ruled a touchdown, the booth will not automatically review the play, and depending on whether or not there was a penalty on the play, AND what exact part of the play is now in question will determine whether you may or may not challenge said ruling on the fucking field. False starts are judgement calls made by the refs and are also not reviewable. If a play is whistled dead due to false start, but the ball is snapped and a play that doesn’t count happens anyway, any penalty that occurs during said play doesn’t count, unless its something like unsportsmanlike conduct, but that doesn’t matter because none of it is reviewable, right? Does your brain hurt yet? Have every play reviewed upstairs on every down kinda like college football does by a committee of eyes in the sky. There has to be away to not allow the officials on the field to dictate the outcome of the game.

Less commercial breaks.

Pop Culture

The average NFL game has between 70-75 commercials across roughly 20 commercial breaks. I completely understand that the NFL is the most watched programming on TV and therefore is going to sell a lot of ad space, but I think the timing of some breaks could be tweaked. For instance, I don’t think we need a commercial before and after a kickoff. I’m actually fine with breaks at the change of possession, but outside of that it becomes too much. It goes back to the first issue with too many starts and stops. If you look at most sports played outside of America you’ll notice that they are, for the most part played at a non stop pace until the end. I realize football isn’t the type of game built for that style, but I don’t think anyone would complain if there were less breaks that went a little longer than they normally do. Instead of the 20 breaks being about two minutes long, just make it more like 10 breaks that are three or four minutes long. This would allow teams to better make adjustments to the game plan and set up a series of synchronized plays. So I’m not asking for less commercials, just use the breaks more wisely. We don’t need a break while they review a play or when a player goes down. There are plenty of changes of possession that occur during a game and that’s more than enough to satisfy all the sponsors that purchased ad space. The one spot I would keep a break at is the two minute warnings. I suppose I’m just so used to that particular break that I can’t imagine a game without it.

Fix punts and kickoffs.


The XFL and the CFL seem to have gotten the kicking and punting game mostly right. In the NFL over 60% of kickoffs result in a touchback. Thats too many. I liked the idea in the XFL that if the kicking or punting team kicks the ball in or through the end zone the receiving team gets the ball on the 40. It made the kicking team kick it in to the field of play and force a return. The kick returner, much like in the CFL would have a five yard halo around him, meaning no defender can come within five yards of the receiver before the catch is made. I also believe on both punts and kicks the balls should be live balls as long as they go 10 yards or more. If the rule on an onside kick is in place for the ball to travel at least 10 yards before a member of the kicking team can recover it, the same should be made available on a punt play. Currently in the NFL no player on the punting team can recover a punt unless it’s first touched by a member of the receiving team. I vote we keep it simple and make them all live. The halo rule incentivizes the catch and the long touchback keeps teams from being willing to kick it too deep. It makes the kicking game mean more. After all the game is still called football. With these tweaks to the kicking game we should finally see an end to the most boring play in football, the fair catch. Oh and I almost forgot. Allow defenses to bring back “the stack” on field goals and extra points. Player safety my ass, they’re insured.

Get rid of the coin toss.


It’s a tradition that is just so outdated, and I really don’t see the point in it anymore. The game is about as physical as possible as far as a sport is concerned, and yet we open it up with a meaningless 50/50 gamble to determine what exactly? Bill Belichick has made deferring a popular choice that almost every team opts to use now so the actual toss has become irrelevant. Just ask the visiting team if they defer or not and move on. I forgot to mention that they typically have a commercial before and after the toss more times than not. Especially in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. I bet we get about six to eight minutes of commercials before we get our first action in this year’s big game. If they want to bring out the captains and shake hands at the 50 when choosing kick, receive, and field direction so be it, just leave the coins out of it. At least in basketball we get a tip off and in hockey a face off. They at least incorporate part of the actual game in to the opening act. However the coin toss has absolutely nothing to do with football.

Allow more flexibility pre snap.


Last one is full of stuff that has always bothered me. Let’s start with a player with a certain jersey number having to check with an official to be an eligible receiver. Good God man that is worthless. If a defensive tackle comes in and lines up as a fullback or a tight end, who cares? Just let the team run the play for a good, bad, or indifferent result. I’ve seen teams put offensive player in to defend a Hail Mary and I don’t recall them ever checking in to do so, so let’s get rid of that. Allow more than one man in motion at the same time all the way up to the snap of the ball. I’m not saying forward motion like in the CFL or Arena, but teams should be allowed to motion as many non linemen laterally as they like in order to get a slight edge. Players on defense are allowed to move all over the place at will, so why not guys on offense? Allow every player on the field to have a built in head set. This would help players get set up faster and know their assignments sooner, Yet another thing the XFL got right. Ease up on false start and illegal formation penalties. Nothing is more boring than seeing these two penalties too many times in a game. It seems as if subtle movements like an offensive lineman pointing at a certain defender is ok, however if a defender is mimicking as if he is going to rush and a lineman flinches, it’s a penalty. Man goes in motion from one side of the ball to the other outside of the tackle teams run the illegal motion risk for having too many men on the line of scrimmage due to improperly covering up the tackle… wait, what? Just stop ruining the momentum of the game by calling needless penalties that nobody cares about. Trying to explain these types of rules to fringe fans is harder than a vibranium dildo. Just get rid of them.

That’s all for this one folks. Do you agree with any of these? Drop a comment below and let me know. It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.

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Feature photo: SI

One thought on “10 Subtle Changes That Would Make The NFL Better

  • January 13, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    Preach, f***ing preach.

    Way too many dumb, boring penalties slowing down the game. It’s the biggest impediment to my Aussie friends watching the game is the slowness of play with too many commercials and the insane number of penalties with rules that seem tedious and meaningless.

    Nail on the head John.

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