Imagine you are a defensive end blitzing the quarterback. Here you go swimming around the guard on third down in the fourth quarter of a tight game. You see the quarterback’s leg and you dive for it, causing his pass to sail incomplete as he falls to the ground.
He just got a first down.
This is just one of the new rules approved by the NFL today in order to protect our precious players so that they can play 18 games of watered down football sometime in the future.
Now, along with not being able to touch the QB just one millisecond after he releases the football and not being able to incidentally have your helmet get too close to his, a defender can’t tackle the QB at or below the knees. They now have an area about the size of an MLB strike zone that they are allowed to hit the QB.
Other rule changes have been made that will effectively limit onside kicks and kickoff return yardage in order to prevent injuries, yet Goodell wants to extend the season to 17 or 18 games in 2011, thus causing more injuries.
The rule that limits onside kicks is that the kicking team cannot bunch too many players on one side of the field. While onside kicks certainly pose a heightened risk for injury, they are used so rarely that it does not matter much in the scheme of a season. The benefit alloted by attempting a comeback victory far outweighs the costs.
On kickoffs, the receiving team is not allowed to use a blocking wedge of more than two people. The wedge is the default blocking scheme for kick returns (at least according to Madden and to this Fox Sports article), so this change should decrease yardage per return and decrease touchdowns by extension.
One change that did make sense is that now defensive players cannot hit a defenseless receiver with their arm or shoulder to the helmet, and offensive players cannot deliver a block to a defender’s helmet using a forearm, shoulder, or helmet.
But overall, these changes have the result of making the games less competitive and adding to much governance.
As for adding extra games, 16 is already enough. If you’re concerned about injuries, why add extra games?
Another terrible change that Goodell is thinking about is expanding the playoffs to include 14 teams. The NFL has done it right, only having the top third of the teams make the playoffs. The playoffs are supposed to be for the best. The NFL shouldn’t water down the regular season and the playoffs just to make a little extra money. (Well, they should, I guess, if they want to make extra money, but I probably won’t pay as much attention to it if they do so.)
It shouldn’t become like the NBA where half the league makes the playoffs. They have teams with sub .500 records making the playoffs, and the NFL has in the past had teams with 9-7 records make the playoffs, so already they are almost there without expanding the playoffs.