The NFL Competition Committee meets this week in an annual gathering to decide how to further complicate the game and confuse the fans.
We ask, humbly, if you must suggest changes to the owners for voting and enactment, please offer only those that will simplify the game.
As it stands, it’s not just the fans who don’t understand the rules and their administration and enforcement.
The officials don’t seem to, either. Coaches and players across the league are rendered incredulous every week over calls that seem nonsensical.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Dean Blandino, the NFL senior vice president of officiating, oversees rulings on game day from a central location in New York City where technicians monitor every play of every game.
And each week he is asked to explain calls and concede the botched calls or interpretations.
Although penalties were up, games were slightly quicker last season, and I tend to trust more sets of eyes in a control center than a guy under the hood on the sideline and somebody up in the booth.
But the problem seemed worse during the playoffs, when visibility — and the stakes — are higher.
The committee agenda reportedly includes:
What is a catch? Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant can’t be happy their names have been attached to dubious rules that nullified great catches.
Bryant appeared to make a key catch for Dallas at Green Bay in the playoffs. Although he took several steps after gaining possession, Bryant bobbled the ball and regained possession near the end zone.
Referee Gene Steratore needed 111 words to describe the call to nullify the catch to a pool reporter after the game. A soliloquy of that length means the rule is too complicated.
Two feet down, possession of the ball. Catch is good. Leave it at that.
What can be reviewed? In the Dallas-Detroit playoff game, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was flagged for what appeared to be an obvious interference, but it was waved off without explanation. It’s not considered a call that can be challenged and reviewed.
It should be.
What to do with the kicking game? They’ve tinkered with the kickoff and are flirting with changes to point after attempt kicks.
One suggestion is to move the ball back to the 20 for a PAT kick, but that would give you one point for what is, essentially, a 38-yard field goal, while granting three points when a team chooses to go for a field goal from the 2 (essentially, a PAT kick).
Also tossed about has been the idea of moving the PAT line of scrimmage to the 1 rather than the 2 in an attempt to lure teams into more 2-point attempts. As fans have been made aware, a play from the 1 is not a sure thing.
Who gets into the playoffs? The league’s owners apparently like the idea of expanding the playoff field to 14 teams, adding another wild card in each conference.
That’s an extra game of television and gate receipts, and will bring a dash more excitement in a few cities as wild-card hopes are cast across a broader list of contenders.
In such a case, only the No. 1 team in each conference would get a bye in the first round.
No objections here. An extra wild-card team would quell the valid complaints by 10-win teams like Philadelphia this year and Arizona last year, who had to sit home and watch teams with .500 records or below that won weak divisions.
The nine-member committee arrives at suggestions that are voted on by owners for ratification.
We can look back in Seahawks history for a coach who understood the value of seeking simplicity in the rules and administration of the game.
No-nonsense Seahawks coach Chuck Knox (1983-91) was vexed one time by miscommunication from the replay official in a booth to an official on the field. It resulted in an incorrect reversal that affected the outcome of a game.
Knox offered a solution. They should just get one of those big foam hands like the fans wave around to signify “We’re No. 1,” except instead of an index finger raised, they should have this one feature a giant thumb.
If the play stands, the guy in the booth points the thumb upward. If it’s reversed, he puts the thumb downward.
Ah, yes, simpler times. Back when a catch was a catch and rulings took fewer than 111 words to explain.