(1) Touchbacks on kickoffs will now be set at the 25 yard line (not applicable to punts); and
(2) Players who are flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will be ejected.
These rules are both ridiculous, mainly for the same general reason: they were both passed in response to a public relations issue, but do nothing to address the actual problem.
Let us first address issue number (1). The decision to move kickoff touchbacks to the 25 yard line was added in the name of player safety. Roger Goodell came out saying (and I am paraphrasing) that kickoffs are the most physically violent collisions in football and that it is from these plays from which most concussions arise. Hence the extra incentive for players to take a knee.
This is a stupid rule, because it will either make the problem worse or best case scenario, they have created another useless play. Let me explain:
Kicking teams will not be deterred by the extra 5 yards and will continue to kick the ball out of the endzone. This combined with the receiving teams’ extra incentive to take a knee, means that there will be another precipitous decline in kick returns, relegating the kickoff to yet another meaningless play. Which is odd because last year they altered the rules to make meaningless play more competitive ( i.e. the extra point).
Kicking teams, not wanting to concede the extra 5 yards, will start kicking for height and hang time with the intention of forcing the receiving team to field the ball out of the endzone with the expectation that the kicking team will be able to make the stop prior to the 25 yard line. This rule, as applied, would actually INCREASE the frequency of contact on the kickoff plays, thus rendering the rule ineffective and potentially more dangerous.
The other thing that bothers me about this rule is that it is cowardly. If Goodell and the owners truly believe that this play is so dangerous, then they should have the balls to say so and get rid of it altogether. This rule change is nothing more than a token measure that the NFL can use as mitigation in future lawsuits and as a public relations concession.
The second rule is even more ludicrous. Automatic ejection after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. This rule came about from a couple of high-profile and violent hits on national television: Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown and Odell Beckem Jr.’s hit on Josh Norman.
Here is the problem: neither man was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. They were both flagged for unnecessary roughness. In fact, only one player all of last season accrued two unsportsmenlike conduct penalties in one game; Brian Orapko of the Tennessee Titans. Aaaaannnnddddd…..officials already have the ability to eject players at their discretion. So this rule is completely useless.
One more point about this particular rule. The only reason that this rule even came to fruition is because the head of officiation, Dean Blandino, did not have the intestinal fortitude to publicly say “our officials made a mistake; they should have ejected Odell Beckem Jr. and Josh Norman out of the game for their continued misconduct.” And boom!!! You do that, story ends and everyone moves on.
By the way, both of these rules are on one year trial periods; just like the extra point rule was in 2015. And while neither of these rules are overly burdensome or game-intensive, they become two more reasons to look at the NFL and scoff.
The mighty mountain that is the NFL is slowly crumbling away and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.