Long time NFL Writer Peter King asked 25 people who have either worked in or covered the NFL in other capacities. He asked each of them one thing they would do to change professional football. Here are a few...what would your suggestion be?
Dean Blandino: Make Every Play Replay-Reviewable
I now think coaches should be able to challenge anything they want. Don’t increase the number of challenges. Put the onus on the coach to save his challenges. This would simplify the rule because you wouldn’t have to wonder what’s reviewable and what isn’t. Now that the league has added pass-interference to reviewable calls, we’re going to see the creep begin. Next year, they’ll add something else. By not opening it up to all things being reviewable, all we are doing is delaying the inevitable.
Pete Carroll: Kill Instant Replay
Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks
Get rid of—or at least decrease the use of—instant replay. I get all the reasons why we have instant replay, and technology has opened up a new world for us to get to this point. But I miss the human element of trusting the officials to make the calls in the moment and then the rest of us having to live with what they called. It was both fun and frustrating, but I really liked the game better when the officials were just as much a part of the game as the players.
Brandon Carr: Take Away Some Protection of the Quarterbacks
11-year veteran cornerback…with the Chiefs…Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens
He notes that he was playing for the Chiefs in 2008 when Tom Brady’s ACL and MCL were torn on a hit to the knee and then the rule was changed next year to say you can’t hit QBs from the knee down…
The rules protecting the quarterbacks are pretty tough for defensive backs. Think about it: a 185-pound nickelback blitzes and can’t hit the quarterback low because of the Brady rule, and he has to be careful about hitting him high to avoid hitting him in helmet. Think of that 185-pound DB trying to bring down Ben Roethlisberger, or 245-pound Cam Newton. He’ll hit him around the waist and might just bounce off. This game’s hard enough for the DBs. I think a DB should be able to tackle a quarterback [in the pocket] by the legs.
Mark Leibovich: Put Bad Ownership Up For a Public Vote
Chief national correspondent, New York Times Magazine. Author, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times”:
If I could change one rule in the NFL—and I realize this would never happen in the real world but what the hell—I would put in a rule that owners need to stand for re-election every five years. Anyone who lived in the jurisdiction where the team plays, or who purchased a ticket to a home game in the last calendar year, would be eligible to vote, either “approve” or “disapprove,” on the owners’ performance.
If an owner receives less than 35-percent approval, he or she would be forced to sell the franchise within 90 days, and that new owner would be forbidden from moving the team. As citizens in a democracy, one of the few remedies we have against corruption, incompetence, arrogance, etc. is to vote. As football fans, we have no such right. Instead, we are subjected to the monopolistic whims of unelected oligarchs in our communities. In many cases they are greedy idiots. They wield largely unchecked power over the fortunes of players, fans, local politicians, even their own “commissioner.” Until now.
See you on Election Day, Mr. Snyder.
Sam Farmer: Adios, Chain Gangs
NFL writer, Los Angeles Times
Do away with chain gangs. Use a laser to mark off 10 yards. I know there are far more important issues—concussions and off-the-field behavior among them—but this imprecise, anachronistic system of measuring first downs is silly. You’re only as precise as your most imprecise measurement, so the fact that officials guesstimate on first, second and third down, then suddenly get ultra-precise on fourth down is just wrong.
Referee Gene Steratore used the thickness of an index card to measure! It’s like marking and then re-marking your golf ball on the green. It’s an inexact science. I get that it’s very difficult to put a chip in the football and use GPS, because spots are determined when a player’s knee is down. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and the technology is available to create an exact first-down line. The league likes the suspense of running the chain gang onto the field and using every last link to measure. I get it. It’s theater. But it’s the theater of the absurd.
Sal Paolantonio: Send Replay Review Into Our Living Rooms
National correspondent, ESPN
I think the NFL should televise the instant replay review. That’s right: Make it part of the network broadcast. The payoff would be immediate and lucrative. One, it would turn an annoying stoppage of play into must-see TV. The audience would see and hear the on-field referee, the instant replay ref in the booth and league officiating guru Al Riveron in New York, dissecting the play. Ratings go up. Two, sponsor this segment. Cha-ching! That’ll get the networks’ attention. Three, a televised review would be the holy-grail of prop bets. The league’s new casino partners would love that action.
Eric Winston: Seed the Playoffs By Record, Not Division Title
President, NFL Players Association, and former NFL tackle
Ever since you were a small kid and you played games and they kept score, the team with the best record at the end of the season, before the playoffs, got the advantage in the playoffs. Then I get to the NFL, and it’s not that way at all. You get a massive advantage by being one of the top four seeds in each conference. You get at least one home game.
Examples: In 2011, Pittsburgh was 12-4 and finished second in the AFC North. The Steelers, seeded fifth, had to play a wild-card game at 8-8 Denver … In 2013, the Niners were 12-4 and finished second in the NFC West. Seeded fifth, San Francisco had to play on the road at fourth-seeded Green Bay, 8-7-1.
I say you can’t control how good the other teams in your division are. Let’s say the division winner is 13-3, and you’re 12-4. This league is supposed to be about excellence, being the best. The best should get the spoils at the end of the day. And a 12-4 team being seeded below teams that might be 9-7 or whatever … it’s just not right. It’s a matter of fairness, which is what the NFL should be about. We have a landscape where it’s not fair right now, and it should be fixed.
Lindsay Jones: Be More Progressive About Players Using Marijuana
National NFL writer, The Athletic
It’s beyond time for the NFL to completely overhaul its drug policy, especially with the way it punishes players for using marijuana, so that’s where I would start. The league’s drug policy, collectively bargained with the NFLPA, is growing increasingly out of date with norms across the country, and the fact that many players live in states where possession and use of marijuana is legal for adults but still considered a major offense by the league is problematic.
As we learn more about the medical benefits of marijuana, it makes sense that the NFL should be a leader in trying to find new and safer ways for players to manage their pain, rather than continuing to criminalize marijuana use. This isn’t to say that players should be allowed to smoke at team facilities. And they should be punished for violating other laws (such as driving while impaired). There is a lot the league and the players association can do to make the league’s marijuana policy more progressive.
Chris Nowinski: Eliminate Tackle Football Until High School
Co-founder and CEO, Concussion Legacy Foundation
Football is in a precarious position. The more successful a player is, and the longer he plays, the more likely he is to develop CTE. It’s called a dose-response relationship: The more years of tackle football you play (the dose), the higher your risk of CTE (the response). The NFL can reduce CTE risk for players by lowering the dose, but changing the NFL game further wouldn’t be expected to make a big difference.
The biggest gains would be made by changing the way children play the game. But slight modifications are probably not enough, just like adding filters and lowering tar in cigarettes, which the smoking industry told us would prevent lung cancer, were not enough. The NFL’s best chance to dramatically reduce CTE risk for players but still have a pipeline of talent is to back efforts to only allow flag football before high school and retrain high school football coaches to virtually eliminate head impacts in practice. Those two changes alone could probably ensure most NFL players, even the successful ones, don’t develop CTE. Football could soon face a reckoning. What if we discover that 75 percent of NFL players have CTE? If CTE is the price for success, how long will it be before most Americans decide their son will never play? The time to change how the youngest players play is now.
Terez Paylor: The NFL Must Loosen Its Vise-Grip on Highlights
Senior NFL writer, Yahoo Sports
One underrated thing that I believe could help everyone, from reporters to fans to the NFL itself: loosening up the league’s restrictions on the utilization of highlights and GIFs…
The NBA promotes its players and teams by letting news outlets break down X’s and O’s using league footage—unlike the NFL, which aggressively targets organizations that are not rights holders. You can’t even embed the NFL’s videos from its YouTube channel on web sites because the league won’t get a direct click. Allowing more news groups to use the footage to create smarter fans will only improve fans’ understanding of what teams are doing on the field, and help keep the focus on how amazing these athletes are and how special the game of professional football really is.
Rich Eisen: Give the Ball Back to the Offense on Fumbles Through the End Zone
Anchor, NFL Network, and host of “The Rich Eisen Show”
If I could wave a wand for NFL change, I’d get rid of the antiquated rule that makes a fumble into and through the end zone a touchback and a change of possession. I know the end zone is hallowed ground, but why should a ball fumbled out of bounds at the one-inch line remain with the offense while a fumble that occurs two inches further down the field, one inch into and through the end zone, goes to the defense? Under the current rule, the defense that likely performed poorly on the drive gets bailed out by a lucky bounce of the ball.
Neil Hornsby: Shorten the Game
Founder, Pro Football Focus
I would propose that the clock run on incomplete passes till the last four minutes of each half. Then the clock would stop on incompletions. I love the NFL, obviously, but the games are too long, and there are many dead periods in games.
There is no reason a football game cannot be played in two hours and 35 minutes, or 2:40. The NCAA is far worse; it’s ridiculous to stop the game on every first down. Who wants a four-hour football game? One of the things I loved about watching the Alliance of American Football games this year was the speed of the game. It just makes the game more enjoyable when you’re not sitting around, sitting around, sitting around waiting for the next play.
So, if you could change something of Notre Dame football games, and college football in general, what would you add? Take away?
Let me know!