The NFL Competition Committee has released their proposed rules in advance of the annual owners meeting that will take place in Phoenix on March 24-27.
Similar to some of the proposals submitted by the teams, the Competition Committee has also proposed changes to instant replay, including the review of pass interference, roughing the passer, and hits on a defenseless receiver. This is the first time under the current iteration of the replay system that the Competition Committee has proposed making fouls reviewable — with the exception of twelve men on the field, which has always been a reviewable play.
Playing rules proposals submitted by the Competition Committee
- Make permanent the changes to the kickoff that were implemented in the 2018 offseason
- Make forcible blindside blocks that are initiated by the helmet, shoulder, or forearm illegal, except those that take place inside the tackle box
- Change spot of enforcement on double fouls after a change of possession (essentially a team declines the opponent’s foul and assesses their foul and keep the ball.
- Make scrimmage kick rules apply only when the defense touches a missed field goal attempt in the end zone, or when either team recovers the ball behind the line of scrimmage
- Allow any foul on a touchdown to have their penalty enforced on the try
- For one year, make pass interference reviewable; make scoring plays/turnovers negated by penalty and all conversion tries automatically reviewable by the replay booth. An alternate proposal adds roughing the passer and hits on a defenseless receiver to be reviewable as well.
- Allow the replay command center to rule on an ejection on any action, not just a “non-football act.”
Team proposals don’t have much of a chance
Teams are responsible for defending and presenting their proposals to the owners unless the Competition Committee also is proposing a substantially similar rule. Seven of the nine proposals focus on replay.
In recent years, there have been proposals to allow replay to review all fouls or all plays (by the Patriots in 2015, Ravens in 2016, Bills in 2016, Bills again in 2017, Seahawks in 2017, Eagles in 2017, and Washington in 2019), all or certain personal fouls (Titans in 2015, another from the Titans in 2015, Colts in 2015, Washington in 2015, Washington again in 2018, Chargers in 2018, Washington again in 2019, Chiefs in 2019, Panthers in 2019, Rams in 2019, Eagles in 2019, and Seahawks in 2019), automatic first downs (Washington in 2015), delay of game fouls (Bears in 2015), and potential scores or turnovers by the replay booth (Chiefs in 2015); and to expand coaches challenges after the 2-minute warning and overtime (Patriots in 2015 and Ravens in 2016) and expand the number of challenges (Washington in 2015, Ravens in 2016, Vikings in 2016, Eagles in 2017, and Washington again in 2017). Those proposals in prior years have all failed.
The only replay expansion in the past 4 seasons was to centralize replay and to allow the command center to call for any legal replay and review ejections. Those proposals came from the Competition Committee, which only saw one proposal fail in that span (limiting coaches challenges to the first 40 seconds of a TV break). Since the Competition Committee is now proposing some of the changes suggested by the teams, there may be some new weight to these replay changes.
In addition to ones that have been tried before, this year’s proposals include expanding the replay official’s jurisdiction to scoring plays and turnovers negated by penalty and fourth down plays ruled short of the line to gain or goal line. There is one proposal that makes the most sense: to allow the replay official to review all failed conversion tries. Successful tries are reviewable, as they are scoring plays, and it makes sense to consider every conversion attempt as “a scoring play” by extensions of the touchdown play. This also eliminates an unusual quirk that a coach’s challenge is required on most failed conversion attempts, but is illegal if there is a turnover, even though that turnover has no effect on the game if the defense doesn’t score.
The final decision comes down to the owners who will be voting next week. As a result of these proposals, there is a chance we may see big changes in many aspects of the NFL that could impact the game for years to come.