It happened again, just like the groundhog coming out every spring, as do the NFL team owners for their annual meeting, including voting on issues and rule changes.
During the past few weeks, just like every year at about this time, the owners and the NFL’s competition committee have made changes. Some of them we all find perplexing, others completely absurd, and once in a while a good move for the league, teams and players.
While we need changes occasionally, change for the sake of change can ruin things. Looking at the popularity the NFL has achieved in the last couple of decades, too much change could cause the fans to turn away, creating a downward spiral of followers. With the changes made in recent decades, some say now the game is not what it was in the 60s or 70s when the ground game ruled and good running teams won games on a balance of offensive and defensive efforts to stop the running game, while the passing game posed more risk.
The completion percentage a good passing team could call excellent back then was in the neighborhood of 51.4 percent, in comparison to now. Things moved up quite a bit in this area, to let’s say 64 percent. Some of the leading quarterbacks have put up consistent records 10 to 15 percent better than back then week after week.
Even passing while it rains will now produce numbers are much better than back in the old days. Running the ball was safe and ball control ruled, just like it still does, but seldom would a team come back from a two-touchdown game lead to win, after three quarters were expired. Today, teams are regularly coming back in 5 to 10 minutes off the clock, and making it look routine.
This is the kind of change the older fans shrug their shoulders at, yet they sit down on Sunday afternoons all season long; perhaps only out of habit? League overseers might want to change with caution, so as not to lose their popularity or TV ratings in the U.S. and around the world. They get together to see what kind of changes can be dreamt up. It has changed the game over time, and can get aggravating at times.
Some of the old-timers like me are complaining that the game is not what it was. The changes of the 1980s paved the way for the sensational “90s, with passing to daylight becoming the earmark of the Brett Favres and John Elways, on the heels of Montana under Joe Walsh. Suddenly a three to four hundred yard afternoon was no giant passing milestone anymore, rather an average afternoon in San Francisco, then New England and Green Bay.
We recently learned of 13 new rule proposals, with some of them seeming borderline whacko, such as the kickoff change yo-yo. During the last few years making a move from the 40- to 35-yard line was adopted. We have occasionally seen our kicker here and a few others kick off into the end zone, even with the 5 extra yards.
Proposals are out to go back to the 40-yard line, under what grounds, I have not seen, but that Washington team proposed it. The headlines should change from, “NFL Changing …” to, “Ping-Pong Rule Changes.” I say this after seeing them going back and forth, like Yo-Yo’s. I say kick off from the goal line. Change of possessions otherwise at the point it happens, such as an interception or fumble recovery.
Kick-offs after a score should be from the last yard possession of the ball. On a score it has to be the goal line being crossed. Field goals could be a whole other book to debate. The most glaring needs are seen so often during the past few years come when seeing players that are bigger, faster and stronger than they were just 10 years ago lying on their backs, getting onto a gurney to be taken straight to the hospital.
Even those who walk off on their own effort then find out a ligament or other ailment keeps them from playing for nearly a year. In some cases, it takes a 12- month recovery only to find out they are now playing at a level not skilled enough to compete in the NFL, then they are out of a job as a football player.
It is now illegal for a player to lower their helmet in the tackle box. The spearing that took out players with one play and one pop, fracturing bones, landing the helmet on jawbones, and in some cases knocking the player out cold. This rule is restrictive to natural instincts, some defensive players could dispute.
While both offensive and defensive players are subject to penalties on this matter, the defensive players coming off a 7-yard dive, head first with the crown of the helmet landing first on the tackle is the shameful play the league and players union endorsed for player safety.
Restricting this type of player’s instinct must take effect. Not only are players injuring others, they are also injuring themselves in the attempt to whack the ball carrier. Too far is too far. Ever since seeing one of your team’s best players being knocked-out by a human rocket, has any fan thought this is good football?
Those who did surely do not understand the game of football.
Games are played to compete as entertainment. In competing, we must follow conduct guides that underscore the safety of the players. Those guidelines are essential on any level of play, from Pop Warner to the NFL; safety must be kept as the most important aspect of the game. As civilized fans, we must support these rules. The sacrifices players of any age make of themselves in becoming skilled, mental and physical football players deserve the due respect through the rules of the game, to keep not only yours and my children, but neighbors, friends and relations of ours, right down to the pros we see on Sunday afternoons all season.
It almost appears that those who back not incorporating this type of rule into the books, are from an untamed society of wild animals. I do not know what sense it takes to go out to injure another player when a good hard legal hit is making a statement on its own.
Maybe these are the lazy ones who don’t work hard enough to play at the level of true athletes. Maybe it is a form of mental derangement. Whatever … it is not a part of any game of football. Teams with players and coaches who preach injuring opponents should be removed from the league.
Another ruling that will be in effect for the 2014 season is the rollover from the sides of another player. Known as a form of a block to some, knee and leg injuries are common occurrences with this type of play. The roll-over from behind rule has been in effect for a few years, and adding the “sides” of players gives added insurance since the limits that joints and cartilage can move without injury is minimal from the sides more than any other point of attack, it also serves the players well, as an add-on.
The traditions we have held in the game is to first be good people. Many coaching staffs are put together under the grounds of having honestly in leaders within a team of honest players, who in their personal make-up willingly do the things to make themselves the best there is.
These are the real winners, and our children are served well to follow these rules not only on a football field, but also in their schools and on the street, in the malls, or wherever they socialize. The NFL and teams that entertain its fans also deserve to give the best image they can, through their governing body.
It’s time our society stopped glorifying those who get money by any means they can find, and turn the clock to a time when true respect was granted to those of virtuous, self-imposed beliefs on and off the field, as well as front offices, and the fans in the stands.