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Is the integrity of the NFL rule book under threat in 2015?

It’s Week 15 of the NFL schedule, and we’ve had some incredibly close games played in the NFL. We’ve also had a


It’s Week 15 of the NFL schedule, and we’ve had some incredibly close games played in the NFL. We’ve also had a ton of officiating errors, significant questions over some rules, and even more laundry on the field than the players are wearing. The stats so far:    

YearAverage Penalties Per Team (Per Game)Average Penalties Per Team (Through 15 weeks)Average Penalties  Per team (Whole season)
20136.185.397.6
20146.286.899.2
20157.199.4113.6*

*Denotes a projection     In 2014, the NFL saw an average of 6.2 penalties per game, per team and a league average of 99.2 penalties per team for the entire regular season. This season has seen each team committing an average of 7.1 penalties per game (Teamrankings.com) which amounts to an average of 99.4 penalties per team on the season so far. This is up an average of at least 1 penalty per game since 2013, and brings up a projected total of 113.6 penalties per team in the regular season for each team once we reach the playoffs. Now last week we covered the NFL looking at whether there is an officiating crisis, and I’m going to explore this issue to see what exactly can be done to fix it. The NFL is the highest possible level of football in the entire world, however coaches and players are frequently seen questioning calls on the sideline, arguing with officials and often fighting on the field, because the rules are so complicated that even the professionals don’t understand, or can’t comprehend rulings on the field. So what can be done to make this easier on officials, for the coaches & players and for fans?  

  1. Cut down the rule book.

The NFL has the largest rule book of any sport in the world. It’s a complicated game of blocking, tackling, rushing and passing the ball, however the rules make the game even more complicated for Offensive linemen blocking up front, or Wide Receivers battling it out with Defensive backs. Whilst admittedly a lot of the rules have come into place to protect the players, the fact that there is now a committee for defining what is and isn’t a “catch” goes to show that even the pros don’t know what’s going on. By simplifying the rules, you make it easier for officials to apply them and to not have to debate their calls on the field, or be afraid to make the calls due to uncertainty.  

  1. Define a target zone for ALL players

If a player, who runs 40 yards in less than 5 seconds, is running down the field to stop another player, and can tackle this player at any height, he will go low. Players are always coached that the lowest man always wins in football, however this is causing more and more injuries to skill position players, and although medicine is improving to bring them back to the game, the rules are so unclear as to what is and isn’t a ‘safe tackle’ that players are tackling lower than usual because it isn’t attacking the head/shoulder area. Bringing in a defined target area for all players would lower the percentage of knee-high tackles that risk season ending injuries, and create clarity across the board as to what is and isn’t a ‘good tackle’.  

  1. Eject any/all players for fighting after the whistle

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Vontaze Burfict, Josh Norman, or Odell Beckham Jr. Each NFL player is an icon to young people, a role model. If your role model is fighting with other players outside of the rule book, they should not be allowed to continue to play. By the NFL allowing players to fight in-game, they risk even more injuries to the people who bring the money into the NFL through their ability to score points, make crushing hits and intercept passes for touchdowns. There’s really no place for fighting in this sport, and by the league glorifying it as two players “battling it out”, it makes it even worse. There should be no tolerance on any fighting in any game, in rugby you would be sent off for fighting, in football you would be sent off for fighting, you’re supposed to be a “professional”, Act like one.  

  1. Show less replays

To any armchair fan, they get a chance to watch slow-motion replays of virtually every play on the field, meaning they are able to complain about any play on the field as they’re not seeing it in real-time through the eyes of an official. Now people could say that the refs should wear cameras so that their mechanics can be reviewed at a later date, and this could be an option, however when referees are receiving threats to their life because they have to make the call on whether a catch is or isn’t a ‘catch’, you know that the replay is part of the issue.  

  1. A more transparent fine process

The NFL has given out some ridiculous fines this season and there’s clearly no process involved in what fine a player is given. I believe that if players are not being ejected for their actions on the field; especially when it comes to breaking rules that affect the safety of other players, they should receive hefty fines that are not only standardised, but show clear process. Odell Beckham Jr was fined $10,000 for his role in a brawl in the 2014/15 season, but received a higher fine of $11,025 for removing his helmet during a game later that season! So a player who physically broke the rules of the game by fighting with another player gets fined less for assaulting someone than they do for removing their own helmet. Come on man! KJ Wright on the other hand was fined $10K for fighting, which shows some consistency, however a hit on a defenceless receiver cost him $23,152, which Fitzgerald even asked the NFL to repeal. Now fines are designed to be a deterrent for players to commit fouls, but when a player makes a mistake in a game, other players are aware of it (see above). Fighting has no place in the NFL, and being fined less for it than removing your helmet needs to be addressed. By fining players with a clear process, the NFL will be able to show transparency to the public and in turn show the players that there is no place for breaking the rules.  

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Is the integrity of the NFL rule book under threat in 2015?

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