When the NFL owners hold their annual winter meeting in Palm Beach, FL Monday morning, there will likely be a large gulf between what the owners talk about and what the fans and media want them to talk about. The big stories of the past couple months have been the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, that may reach into other clubs as the investigation continues, and the substantial penalties assessed to the salary caps of the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. Both teams have filed grievances that will go to arbitration and, if the situation isn’t resolved to the teams’ satisfactions, they could file lawsuits.
Those stories are not expected to consume nearly as much time as several new rule change proposals. The first would reckon the regular season overtime rules to those currently used in the postseason. In other words, if you liked Jeff Triplett’s explanation of the rules in the playoffs last year, you could get a lot more of it. The other change is like unto the first, in that you’ll spend a lot more time heading to the fridge while the officials figure out what is going on.
The instant-replay proposal would make all plays with a turnover automatically reviewed, without a team having to use one of its challenges. The league previously made all scoring plays subject to such automatic replay reviews. A separate proposal would have all replay rulings being made by the replay official in the booth, instead of by the referee on the field.
Given that, last year, each team averaged a bit more than 1.5 takeaways each game, we can expect that this new rule will result in 3 more times a game will completely stop while an official, either on the field or in the booth, reviews what is usually a clear-cut play.
But perhaps this will be a good thing. More stoppages in play mean more chances to get into the game-day snacks and check what else is on television. So perhaps the league has gotten so confident in its product that it’s willing to lose some of its audience to hockey or all-day Finding Sasquatch marathons on Animal Planet. That’s bound to make the sport stronger, right?