NFL Must Eliminate Archaic Traditions
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
No matter how well the methods of a business are working in the present, the best organizations embrace change and learn to evolve in anticipation of the future. A professional sports league like the NFL is no different, especially when the game of football itself has evolved so much in recent years. Peyton Manning threw for 55 touchdowns this season, beating the previous record by five, and no one was nearly as surprised as one might expect.
I believe several new rules must be implemented to reflect the changes the sport has undergone.
First, and least controversially, the league should eliminate the extra point. I can’t think of a decent reason to keep the PAT, other than that ever-annoying quip, “It’s tradition!” Some will say that we are losing the real meaning of football and the current game’s ties to its past, but those ties disappeared long ago. Punters and kickers used to be among the most important members of a team, which might provide a legitimate reason for why we call it “football.” Extra points were never a sure-thing in the old days, but kickers missed a grand total of four extra points in the entire 2013 season.
The only PAT I can distinctly remember is one from Week 11 of the 2012 NFL season in a matchup between the Patriots and Colts. The play stands out only because Rob Gronkowski got injured on the play, and it essentially cost him the rest of the season. If a diehard NFL fan like me can’t remember more than one PAT, is it really necessary? Give every team seven points for a touchdown unless they elect to attempt a two-point conversion, which would work the same as it always has.
Second, adopt the penalty box idea from hockey. The next time that either Brandon Meriweather or Bernard Pollard delivers a helmet-to-helmet blow — sure to happen the next time either steps on the field -—the impending 15-yard penalty and fine from Roger Goodell might not suffice, especially if the offensive player is injured. A few weeks ago in the divisional round of the playoffs, New Orleans Saints safety Rafael Bush delivered a dirty hit on Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin walked away uninjured, but it looked as if he had been concussed. A friend of mine noted that the play and subsequent penalty could have actually been worth it for the Saints if Harvin had been unable to return. Bush, a good safety, would still have been able to play that day while Harvin wouldn’t. But if Bush had been removed from the game for a quarter or a half, then that might change how we, and more importantly, the players, think about delivering such a hit.
The league also should eliminate the three and four-point stances for linemen, despite protests from football traditionalists. In the trenches, offensive and defensive linemen start with at least one of their hands on the ground ☺—hence the name of the three or four-point stance—and their heads down. If I were to design a starting position with the goal of causing head injuries, I think this would be the one. Many linemen start off every play by colliding helmet-to-helmet with their counterparts, which, you know, might not be a good idea.
Obviously, forcing linemen to start a play with their hands off of the ground would be a major change, and it might actually decrease a player’s strength when driving forward on each play. Anyone who says that isn’t a loss is lying, but it’s a necessary loss. Our president just said that he wouldn’t let his son play professional football, and thousands of other parents are starting to think the same way. I wish that such changes weren’t needed, but the NFL might be extending its life as a business and retaining its appeal to the masses by implementing such rules.
Lastly, the NFL must ban kickoffs. If you hate me for this one, then you have company, because I hate myself for writing it. I love kickoffs. I love how Devin Hester was seemingly 90 percent of the Bears offense in 2006, and I loved the surprise onside kick in the 2009 Super Bowl between the Saints and Colts. But, again, times have changed, and we can’t deny that forever. We’re entertained by watching a game that robs players of the careers that they have worked their whole lives to achieve, and kickoffs injure players more than any other kind of play.
The potential good news about such a rule change is that kickoffs already matter less than they used to. Now that the kickoff point is the 35—yard line and not the 30, a guy like Devin Hester could never have as much of an impact today as he did in 2006. Since kickoffs already matter less, let’s just finish the deal. Non-surprise onside kicks should stay, and so should punts. But each drive after a score or at the start of a half — unless the “kicking” team elects to try an onside kick — should start at the 20. It is extremely unfortunate, but begrudgingly necessary, that the NFL take a little bit away from the game we love in order to protect the players who make it great.
Tom Hoff is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. Down to the wire appears every Friday.