The XFL has several experimental rules to add excitement, minimize the kicking game, and finish the game in under three hours. After watching bits and pieces of the first two weeks of XFL play, there are a few rules that I think could make it into the NFL.
Try for point
XFL teams don’t kick an extra point. Instead they can run one of three types of conversions. The team can snap the ball from the two-yard line to score one point. They can snap the ball from the five-yard line for two points. Or, they can snap the ball from the 10-yard line for three points.
As you can imagine, this creates several “non-traditional” looking scores. It also forces coaches to think strategically on a try for point. And, teams can get back into contention by turning a touchdown into a nine-point play if they convert a three-pointer.
Teams can still try a field goal on any scrimmage down.
The NFL doesn’t like the kicking try for point. That’s why they moved it to a 33-yard try in 2015. If the NFL Players Association agrees to minimize the place-kicker position, I can see the NFL adopting this rule in a few years.
The NFL seems to be intent on eliminating the traditional kickoff, due to head-injury concerns. The XFL has changed the kickoff rule to eliminate the full-speed, car-crash collisions that happen when the kickoff team meets the return team.
In the XFL, the kicker will kick the ball from his own 30-yard line. The kicking team lines up on the receivers 35-yard line and the receiving team lines up on their own 30-yard line. The lines cannot start blocking until the receiver catches the ball, or the ball has been rolling on the ground for three-seconds.
The pressure is on the kicker. He must kick the ball between the receivers’ 20-yard line and the goal line. Out of bounds kicks and kicks landing outside the 20-yard line results in a penalty. The receiving team will get the ball on the kicking team 45-yard line – a huge penalty. The penalty is worse if the kick goes into the endzone and is downed there. The penalty results in the receiving team getting the ball on the kicking team’s 35-yard line.
The rule forces the kicker to boot a returnable ball, but the kicking and receiving team lines make for less severe collisions.
The onside kick is still alive. Teams must declare that they want to do an onside kick. Then, the teams will line up in their traditional positions and we’ll see a traditional onside kick.
To me, this seems like a reasonable compromise – there is some type of kickoff, the objective is to have a kickoff return, and the positioning of the blockers makes things safer.
The NFL should avoid two XFL timing rules like the plague
There is only a 25-second play clock in the XFL.
The play clock operator will start the 25-second play clock after the officials spot the ball. This is to get more snaps.
Outside of two minutes in the half, if there is a play out of bounds or an incomplete pass, the referee will start the game clock and the play clock once the ball is spotted. This is to get the game done in three hours or less.
I don’t see the need for the NFL to adopt these pace-of-play timing rules. The current NFL game takes between 3:00 and 3:15 to play. The game is full of action, excitement and drama. I don’t hear a hue and cry for a shorter game.
The final two-minutes of a XFL half can get pretty crazy. On plays ending in-bounds, the game clock will stop momentarily – until the ball is placed ready and five seconds have run off the play clock. On incomplete passes or plays out of bounds the game clock will start on the snap.
The thinking behind the rule change is that a team with the ball and trailing have more chances to run plays and can use their entire play book.
In the first two weeks of XFL play, the officials had to take time to reset the clock several times. The mechanics of starting and stopping the clock rest with the game clock operator. This seems like a confusing, random rule to manfacture exciting finishes. NFL finishes are exciting enough – and the randomness of the game clock operator starting the clock (did he start the clock at 4.8 seconds or 5.5 seconds?) is a nit the NFL doesn’t need to pick.
While the games haven’t been “appointment TV” for me so far, I have enjoyed tuning in, seeing different rules and watching XFL officials auditioning for a NFL job.