It’s no secret that the NFL has serious issues in just about every facet of officiating the game. The rules are imprecise, often impossible to understand or even explain, the officiating has been horrible and the replay system indecipherable.
To make matters worse, the league regularly admits that mistakes are made and yet nothing is done about it. New Orleans Saints fans are convinced a bad call cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. Even though there is far less impact in the standings, Chicago Bears fans are still irate that the NFL stole Zach Miller’s final touchdown.
Enter the Alliance of American Football (AAF)
Give credit to the AAF for not standing pat and trying to just copy the NFL’s bewildering rules and review system. Instead, the new league is really shaking up the rules and trying many alternative ideas.
Some of these ideas have nearly universally been hits with both the fans and the media. Some others? Not so much.
Here’s a basic rundown of some of the most important rules / procedural changes between the AAF and the NFL:
- No kickoffs - all possessions begin on the team’s own 25-yard-line
- No one-point kicks, all conversions are two-points from the three-yard-line
- Sky Judge who can review any/all obvious missed calls and call a penalty from the booth
- Reviews from a replay official at each game
- Transparent reviews - viewers get to see all conversations between the replay official and the field refs
- Shortened play clock (35 seconds instead of 40)
- No onside kicks, teams can choose to try a 4th and 12 from their own 28 under specific circumstances
- Two coaching challenges per game, no extra challenges if you are right on your first two
- No TV timeouts
- Limited pass rush. You can pass rush no more than 5. If caught doing more, it’s an “illegal procedure” penalty with a 15-yard automatic first down penalty.
- One overtime possession for each team. Possession starts first-and-goal from the 10-yard-line. No field goals. If the game ends up tied after the overtime, it’s a tie game in the regular season. Postseason, overtimes are repeated until there is a winner.
- In game player treatment is handled by league staff, not team-hired staff, to insure consistency and for player safety.
I asked my fellow Windy City Gridiron staff members if any of them cared to offer opinions about which one rule they would pick to bring over to the NFL for next season. I then asked if there was any of these rules they would LEAST like to see the NFL implement.
Here are the responses:
Erik C. Duerrwaechter
For: I’m choosing the sky judge. This is an easy “must have” from me. I’m not just referencing the Rams/Saints game, I’m referencing how bad officiating has been in regards to pass interference and holding. It’s about time the league develops a check and balance system for it’s own refs.
Against: Limited pass rush. Listen, if you want to send all 8-9 players in the box on a blitz, that’s your call. Any decent OC will have a hot read ready for those types of blitzes anyhow.
For: It’s going to sound like a cop-out, but I honestly want the NFL to adopt ALL of these rules. For the most part, I have been muttering these things for years, but having seen them in action this past weekend, I can honestly say it would make for a better product. The NFL has virtually phased-out the kick-off anyway, might as well just end it altogether. Same thing with on-side kicks and extra points. I would MUCH rather watch the offense and defense than the special teams units. Extra officials and transparency? Yes, please! More action with a shortened play-clock and virtually no commercials??? Oh...yeah! I think we can all agree on the player safety portion as well. The teams should have their own staff, but they should be supervised by league doctors as well. We all know that teams and players are skirting the current rules on game day.
Against: There are 2 that I can do without: limiting the defense to 5 rushers and the “college overtime rules.” I love aggression from defensive coordinators and would hate to see that eliminated from the game. I also can’t stand college overtime. The amount of back-and-forth in the games just isn’t great football, although it does make for “high drama.” This would also open the door for a quarterback to have 8, 9, even 10 touchdowns in a game. I think that’s a little ridiculous. Just give each team 1 possession and then move to sudden death if there is still a tie.
Lester Wiltfong, Jr.
For: I like the way they review plays. The Sky-Judge, the transparency of the review, and the ability to get bad calls right is a must. I don’t think everything should be automatically reviewed, that would take FOREVER, but if the on field referees ever have a doubt they should be able to call up for an assist.
Against: I like the idea for the limited pass rush in the NFL for weeks one and four of the preseason, that’s it. I get why it’s needed in the AAF, but that’s not needed in the NFL. I’m also not a fan of the no-kickoffs rule and their overtime rule is trash too.
For: The Sky-Judge seems like the easiest thing to add and the most meaningful in terms of fairness to the game. There will always be issues in human error but this would allow the league to avoid those catastrophic calls / non-calls like the Saints / Rams debacle. The non-obvious one that I’d like to see implemented is the replacement for the onside kick option. I don’t know if 4th and 12 is the right distance, but certainly a play like that makes for a much more exciting and interesting play than the onside kick. I’m not totally ready to abandon the kicking game like AAF has done but if you’re going to do it, why not go all the way and replace every kickoff with the 4th and 12 idea and require the team to punt the ball away? That way you could use a fake punt to convert for the 1st down in lieu of the onside kick.
Against: The overtime rules in the NFL are fine, but if you want to ensure a possession for each squad, just take out the “TD ends the game” rule. Starting at the 10 yard line is just silly. We seem to have such issues with ties in this country. If we’re really opening it up to reduce ties, I suggest a similar system to the penalty kick shootout in soccer. If teams are tied after the 10 minute overtime period, teams will face off in a shootout. The shootout will be a direct snap to a player from the 10 yard line who has to beat a defensive player into the end zone. Best of 5 wins, no repeat of offensive or defensive players. If you’re tied after 5, you continue 1 at a time until you find a winner. I’d love to see a game come down to linemen carrying the ball.
For: All have their merits and it’s hard for me to pick against TV timeouts, although it is nice to have a break to grab another beer, check Twitter, grab a snack, etc. but I think the Sky Judge is the easy call but since others have said that I’ll go with no onside kicks.
Onsides are hard to recover to begin with and obviously there have been some very dramatic onside recoveries (Second half Super Bowl XLIV) and miscues (Brandon Bostick, lol @ Green Bay) that are forever remembered but for the most part it’s what comes afterward. Getting an extra possession would certainly add an element to the game that has not been seen before. It would be interesting to see what playcallers would do in that situation, as well as defenses. I would want to better understand the circumstances around when it’s used though.
Against: I think the pass rushing rule would be dumb. Yes, we all hate the roughing penalties and we all have those moments of “How is THAT roughing?” but blitzing is a part of the game and it’s what still gives defenses an edge. If we’re limiting pass rushing then we really might as well start having Pro Bowl type games with massive scoring and no tackling. At that point, OL and DL are neutralized to a point where it should just be 8-man football.
For: I think (as does seemingly everyone else) that the NFL outta implement the Sky Judge. I love the concept -- it helps correct egregious stuff like the PI no-call that happened during Rams-Saints. While the SJ ought to be more limited in how often they call penalties, I think an official with instant access to the camera angles has become a must in modern football. The official’s transparency is also enthralling, but I consider that a separate manner altogether from the simple existence of the SJ.
Two other rules I’m also in favor of are getting rid of kickoffs/onside kicks and shortening the play clock. Shortening the play clock means more football for everyone (which is a win) and kickoffs simply aren’t what they used to be anymore. Frankly, getting rid of that nasty opportunity for a broadcast to cut to 2 commercial breaks back-to-back would allow more time to review important plays without lengthening the overall football experience. Kickoffs and subsequent returns were fun while they lasted, but now they’re just injury-riddled relics of a bygone age.
Against: The rule I’d least like to see implemented is the removal of the extra point. I’m a big fan of placekicking and think it adds drama to football, so the removal of the one point option would actually take away some of the consequence involved in going for two. I’m willing to make the extra point harder (and was a big fan of moving it back to a 33-yarder), but would hate to see it gone.
For: I’ve gotta admit, after watching some AAF games now I am in favor of a LOT of these rules. I’m going to answer this question two different ways though. I personally would like to see the kicking changes (all of them) in the NFL.
Having said that, I’ve got to be honest, there are times in the NFL when replay decisions are so absolutely bonkers that it makes me question the integrity of the game. Therefore, I think the healthiest thing that the NFL could do is implement the Sky Judge & transparent replay system. Let everybody see what the in-stadium replay official is viewing, and hear what they are explaining to the judge.
Against: The NFL doesn’t need any more limits on the defenses attacking Aaron Rodgers. Reducing our ability to maul Aaron Rodgers by limiting pass rushers makes no sense in the NFL. I get why the AAF has it, for now... they don’t want all of their quarterbacks to be injured as teams try to develop offensive lines. But that rule (except as Lester said, in the preseason) makes no sense for the NFL.
So there you have it, Bears fans!
That’s what we think. Tell us what YOU think! Spill the beans!