Season is ending, and we're weeks until owners meet to discuss new rules. As usual, player safety will be at the head of the discussion, but there's more than that.
Sooner than later, kickoffs will be automatically replaced by the receiving team starting on their own 20. Given the biggest danger factor in kickoffs is that everyone is on full speed, a punt at least holds a few people back, so my idea is to have a... puntoff to start play, where the kicking team on their own 35 must either concede the ball (by punting) or advance to the 50 in one play. It still allows trickery, such as finding punters with a decent arm (or turn decent but not great college QBs into pro punters) and try to get a pass good for a first down, and the equivalent of an onside is fielding the full offense. And then, he can still surprise punt it, while still allowing the returning team to take one home.
Right now, even the penalties are skewed against the defense - no offensive penalty automatically kills a drive, while many on defense result on automatic first downs. My suggestion: all post-snap offensive penalties (so excluding false starts, illegal formation, etc) carry a loss of down along yardage. It's blatantly unfair that, for instance, a DPI results on a lot of yards (often in the excess of 15) and automatic first down, whole OPI only sets the offense back 10 - which can be more of a nuisance than a drive killer on first or second down. Taking both yards AND the opportunity to make up for them would put both offense and defense on the same - or at least similar - level.
Idea: start calling them. Right now, it seems the only way to have an offensive holding called is either being a low-end team or drag the pass rusher to the ground. It's often argued that an official can spot holding on most plays, and don't for the sake of fluidity of the game (which I don't totally disagree with), but there were cases of egregious holding in front of the officials that went unpunished. If the NFL wants to get rid of the image that some player and teams are protected, maybe calling more holds - those that, you know, exist would be a good start.
After the tuck rule game, there was a lot of fiddling about when a QB fumbles or "passes" the ball. My idea is simply: if the QB can't make the ball cross the line, it's a fumble, doesn't matter the position of the arm. On the other hand, if the hand was empty, but the motion was enough to carry the ball a good 10 yards (like the Bears-induced idiocy on the Packers game), it's a pass. One could also add the pocket (to protect agains misthrown screen passes going as fumble), but if the QB fails to connect a simple pass and the RB to cover the ball, heck, I think the defense is entitled to recover it. Either treat the whole backfield or just the pocket as a fumble zone makes a lot more sense than a frame-by-frame analysis of the play.
Automatic reviews and challenges
This has been one of my pet peeves this season: The Bears had a handful of plays very close the goal line that might not have crossed the line, but also might have. With some teams, it seems that all it takes is any part of the body crossing the goal line to have a zebra sprinting from the sideline with both arms up. I understand that. calling a TD might be a problem in the automatic review if the plays isn't clear enough, but there's clearly two weights and two measures in these plays. My suggestion: get rid of the limit of challenges. Coaches can call challenges as long as they have timeouts, each failed challenge continues to take a TO away. There should be a official review if officials disagree on any call - the failmary was a laughable exercise on lack of coordination, but that happens a lot more frequently than the haters' ball that followed suggested.
Apparently, the league is moving towards making the point after a true gimme, with the option to forfeit and go for two. As seen in the stupidly entertaining Lions @ Eagles under heavy snow, forcing teams to go for two all the time would make the game more exciting.
Trimming the rulebook
This will apparently also be on the discussion. The NFL has suffered on the weight of the rulebook, and slimming it down and clarifying the patchwork that makes up the current rules could help the process.