The National Football League claims that the point of its 2016 rules changes is to “protect players from unnecessary risk while keeping the game fair, competitive and exciting.” And most of the eight permanent rule changes seem to do just that. See NFL rules article here to see all rule changes and their explanations.
But there is at least one rule change that goes a bit too far, in my humble opinion. It’s one of the rules on trial basis for the 2016 season. This rule is to have the free kick (kick-off) touchback spotted on the 25-yard line instead of the traditional 20-yard line. NFL owners are trying to discourage the kick-off return. The idea is that, teams will not want to chance a runback if they are readily given a chance at the 25-yard line as opposed to getting stuck somewhere behind it.
NFL media reporter Judy Battista provided statistics from 2015 that teams starting at the 20 had a touchdown percentage of 17.9 while teams starting at the 25 had a touchdown percentage of 20.8. NFL owners are trying to kill the kick-off, remove it from the game. I cannot fathom football played like that. Just start on the 25 after touchdowns and at the beginnings of each half? Where is the excitement in that game? It’s a stupid idea.
Fan and player both know football is a violent game, yet both still eagerly partake in the spectacle. The fans want to see exciting play. Removing the kick and subsequent return is a mistake. It will make the game a lot less exciting without the most exciting play in the game.
The NFL already treats quarterbacks like delicate flowers, and we accept it. Changing the rules to protect the QB alters the game but protects their investments. And again, with the moves to remove the kick-off from football, the owners seem to be protecting their investments.
Football is a dangerous job to have. Players go into this occupation fully aware of the inherent dangers. By no means is football anywhere near the world’s top 25 most dangerous jobs. According to David Pegg, the top two most dangerous jobs are: #2 deep sea fishermen and #1 lumberjacks. Football doesn’t make the cut.
Removing the kick-off is a radical and substantial change to the game. I am not suggesting that doing so would cause fans to leave the game in droves. However, I am saying that every time owners take a little bit of excitement out of the game, they are damaging the game’s integrity.
Football will never be danger-free. Playing football will always cause some players injuries. Some players will be injured enough to cause their exit from the game. Do we really need to keep removing the excitement from the game? Trying to remove violence from the game is a never-ending losing battle. The fan is the biggest loser in this rule change and others like it that keep chiseling away at our beloved football game.
Head injuries are the biggest target. That is readily apparent. What owners need to be doing is to enforce the fundamentals of the game. As a little 8-year old football player I was taught not to lead a tackle with my head. Watching NFL players today and you can easily see that they are not playing the fundamentals of the game. Watch the next DB attempt to tackle a receiver or running back. They lower their head and take a stab at immortality by knocking the snot out of the player and making the highlight reel.
Cut the players who cannot follow this fundamental way of playing the game. They are just hurting themselves and eventually, someone else.