The NFL annual meetings are underway in Orlando, Fla., bringing with them the obligatory photos and speeches.
Perhaps most important, however, are the rule changes the owners will consider. The NFL Competition Committee has formally proposed 13 rule changes this year, as well as eight bylaw proposals and one resolution (allowing teams to close or open retractable roofs at halftime.)
None of these rules is a sure thing, but chances are there will be some important differences next year when the Dallas Cowboys suit up on week one.
The most significant of these proposals involve the much-maligned extra point. After Roger Goodell’s public comments, this was hardly surprising. The New England Patriots have suggested that the line of scrimmage for PATs be moved back to the 25-yard line, turning the kick into a 43-yard field goal try.
Commentators and kickers alike have disparaged the proposal, saying it punishes kickers for being good at their jobs. And that’s essentially true. As one of the league’s best kickers, Dan Bailey probably feels that way.
But if Bailey stays in form, moving PATs could actually give the Cowboys an advantage, since they just locked up long-term a kicker whose value would increase exponentially.
It’s unlikely that New England’s extreme proposal will pass, but if it does the Cowboys will thank their lucky stars for signing Bailey when they did.
Also on the table was a move to vertically extend the goalposts by five feet, making life easier for officials when kicks sail above them. With Bailey, this rule wouldn’t impact Dallas much, but everyone wins when the call is right, and this change will probably pass.
Speaking of getting calls right, one proposed change would have fixed cameras positioned at all boundary lines, like sidelines and the goal line, to make it easier for officials to see when they’re crossed.
I’m shocked this hasn’t already happened. A league that so prides itself on replay could at least do itself the favor of good camera angles. Less likely to go through is the Washington proposal that would allow officials to review personal foul calls. No NFL referee wants his judgment calls scrutinized in slow motion, even though some fouls like facemasks and helmet-to-helmets would be easy to see.
Which brings us, finally, to the so-called NaVorro Bowman rule that would allow officials to review the possession of a loose ball. It’s named, of course, after the 49ers linebacker who suffered a gruesome knee injury while recovering a fumble, only to have the ball wrenched away and awarded to Seattle. On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer—Bowman clearly had possession of that fumble, and it would have been easy for replay to see this.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in a vast majority of loose-ball situations. Usually when a fumble occurs, a mass of humanity jumps on top of it and it’s impossible to see the struggle for the ball.
Coaches challenging such plays would find that no amount of video evidence could overturn the call—there’s just nothing indisputable about eight guys wrestling.
Every once in awhile, a case as obvious as Bowman’s will pop up, but for the most part I think this rule, should it pass, will lead to delays and few overturned calls. But that may be the price to pay for getting things right.
Overall, this year’s crop of changes is unlikely to affect the Cowboys as much as it will the league in general. We’ll have to wait and see which ones Jerry Jones and the other owners like, and which will be shelved before they ever see the field.