2007 NFL Rule Changes
Result of 'Clarifications': Mayhem, Chaos, Anarchy
A week ago, I wrote about a segment on Patriots All Access that showed the New England Patriots coaching staff getting educated on 2007 NFL Rules changes by NFL supervisor of officials Johnny Grier. If the coaches' reaction is any indication, they'll have their work cut out for them trying to explain it all to the players.
Every year, the NFL tweaks a few rules for whatever reason. Recommended by the NFL Competition Committee and voted upon at the owners' meeting in March, the league changed several on-field rules and endorsed a couple coaching employment changes for 2007. (There are also several "slight" changes highlighted by Grier. Those are at the end of the story.)
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn't look too pleased with some of the interpretations Grier gave him as they watched film clips from previous games and discussed how a given rule would be applied. Grier said things like, "Well, I would do such-and-such," implying that there's a measure of subjectivity.
Let's start with the changes spelled out in the league's official release.
One of the coaches asked if spinning the ball would be a penalty. "Spinning the ball. No problem," Grier said. It has to be a "blatant spike in the field of play," which implies that spiking out of bounds might be OK.
Oh, yeah. I see this being applied fairly and evenly. "Well, he didn't really spike it." "It looked like a spike." "It's hard to tell if that was a spike." "Well, he actually spiked it on the sideline, so it wasn't technically in the field of play."
I've always been an advocate of handing the ball to the official or just leaving it on the ground. Flipping the ball away (usually forward) in an effort to make the ball harder to spot, or emphatically placing the ball away from an official in some childish power play slows the game down and is done with unsportsmanlike intentions.
I'm sure some nitwit will appeal to the players' union and try to make it a nonsensical freedom of expression issue.
If what we saw between Belichick and Grier was accurate, this rule likely will have to be changed again in 2008. Let's just hope the league finds a way to call this evenly before the season starts. And let's hope the Patriots coaching staff just eliminates player behavior that could result in potential infractions.
The first part sounds straightforward and involves no change beyond the severity of the penalty. I don't remember seeing many calls for this, so it will be interesting if we notice more calls or just think there are more because of the 15-yard punishment.
I didn't think the second part included a change, but the implication is that if a quarterback muffs a snap, then defenders will have more leeway in pass coverage and will be able to chucking and block potential receivers downfield, whether the quarterback is in the pocket or not. I'll try to get some clarification on this.
The only little glitch I see in there is "for an excess timeout." I remember last year something about a player calling for a timeout, but the officials didn't actually grant it (even though they stopped the game) and so it wasn't a penalty. Seemed a little thin, and I don't see how the above language avoids that, but we'll see.
Coaching Employment Rules
Stuff Not in the League's Release
In addition to the changes announced by the league, Grier mentioned several other "minor" adjustments -- a couple that don't seem so minor.
And I guess the whole "makes an athletic move" is completely out the window. Mark my words, this will create a multitude of controversies, and Phil Simms won't know what's going on.
Grier showed a clip of a play after which No. 50 "gets in the face" of an opponent. The opponent responded in kind. Belichick asked whether the penalty should be on No. 50 (for being the aggressor) or whether it should be offsetting penalties. Grier said he would have called one penalty on No. 50, "but if they got both of them, I wouldn't have any problem with that either. In my opinion, (No.) 50 starts this."
Well, I have a problem with it. And it's the same problem with a lot of these penalties. The officials miss half of this stuff, and the aggressor usually gets away with it. Most of the time, the answer is up to the coaches instilling discipline in their players, an area the Patriots have been generally successful. But when you have Troy Brown called for taunting last year, I have a hard time trusting the "judgment" of a lot of these officials.
The good news is that the league is actually trying to get a handle on this, which Grier admitted, "we let this kind of behavior get out of control a few years ago." Not that it was under control before that, they just pretended it wasn't happening.
Then again, "in-your-facing" was outlawed last year. Obviously that didn't work.
OK, Wrap It Up
Actually, I thought there was going to be a re-clarification to last year's clarifications of offensive holding, but no such luck. Apparently, it's OK to haul defensive tackles and linebackers out of the middle of the line on running plays. I guess the right people didn't see it as a problem.
I concede: No system is perfect. But with stuff like taunting, if they had nipped it in the bud, they wouldn't have this problem, and they wouldn't be like the rest of society, making new rules and laws to account for the lowest common denominator. As for the other changes, there just seems to be too much "well, it's a penalty, if the quarterback is in the pocket, and the receiver is more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and the sun is in Aries ..."
I don't know when things got out of hand, but a lot of it has been since the onslaught of "protect the quarterback" rules, which have never been applied consistently across star power and pay grades. Either way, there will be much controversy surrounding these changes -- at least among fans -- this season, and there will be another slew of tweaks next season.
All Access, On Demand
As for Patriots All Access, I think I was just lucky to have run into it last week. The next Patriots All Access will be when New England opens training camp in late July. However, if you have Comcast, this episode is available under Sports & Fitness -> NFL Network -> Patriots ON DEMAND -> Shows -> All Access -> All Access Minicamp.
There is also a segment on the team traveling to New Orleans to pay respects to former teammate Marquise Hill, who died Memorial Day weekend in a jetskiing accident.
Additional segments include a very general overview of minicamp, a mention of fan voting for the Patriots Hall of Fame, a one-on-one with Belichick and Mike Lynch of WCVB-TV, a utterly useless "favorites" interview with Kyle Brady, and a one-on-one with Lynch and Rodney Harrison.
And there are commercials and a final "segment" looking ahead to segments planned for future All Access broadcasts. All told, there's probably about 15 minutes of actual programming in the 30-minute .. um, thing.
What do you think of the 2007 NFL rule changes?
This poll is closed
Great. They're crystal clear and fair to everyone.
Good. They make sense and will benefit the game.
Average. Some are good, some senseless.
Fair. As usual, I'm more confused than last year.
Poor. Just leave them alone!