The NFL Competition Committee should lock itself out

Despite the NFL lockout, the Competition Committee still found time to do some harm.

They can’t get the work of a deal done, but they can tinker with a game and make boneheaded rule changes. They should lock themselves out of their own meetings.

Several years ago the NFL moved the kickoff from the 35 yard line back to the 30. The reason was because touchbacks are boring. NFL kickoff returns are exciting. Players like Dante Hall, Devon Hester, and Jacoby Ford electrified crowds and gave opposing special teams coaches ulcers.

Yet too many players were getting injured on kickoff returns. Jason Sehorn lost a whole season returning a kickoff in a preseason game.

Yet most of the injuries were not due to the return men. They were due to the wedge.

For the uninitiated. the wedge is where four teammates would hold hands and run up the field together, providing a “wedge” for the return man. Only the most crazy, psychotic guys would want to try and bust up a wedge. Think Bill Bates.

These were violent collisions, and although they were not helmet to helmet, they still involved brutal hits at to speed. So the full wedge was outlawed last year. Players could only use a two man wedge. This year going into 2011 the NFL has outlawed that as well. This is fine.

What is not fine is that the NFL moved the kickoff back up to the 35 yard line.

As a Raiders fan I am fine either way. Jacoby Ford is a brilliant return man, and Sebastian Janikowski is fantastic with regards to touchbacks.

Yet as a purist of the game, more touchbacks is awful. The league moved the kickoff in the first place to increase scoring. More touchbacks reduces the excitement.

The league decided to move the starting line after a touchback from the 20 to the 25. This is even dumber. It just rewards the player for not trying to run the ball out.

For those who love 10 minute, 16 play drives (I don’t), it also reduces the field for those wanting to play ball control offense.

The NFL should have just eliminated the wedge and been done with it. Changing the kickoff is practically begging the league to become the Canadian Football League where teams can forego receiving a kickoff at all and just take the ball at their own 35 (at least the penalty of giving the other team one point is a very mild disincentive for taking a knee on the kickoff).

Either abolish kickoff returns or let the d@mn players play. There are plenty of ways to increase safety without screwing up one of the exciting aspects of the game. Even Deion Sanders could not make a touchback interesting. Taking a knee does not bode well for dancing afterward.

Leave the kickoff line at the 30 and send the Competition Committee to bed without supper. They should be banned from changing any rules until there is a guarantee that the game itself in 2011 will even be played.

This is what happens when guys and suits and ties micromanage a game on the field. Any day now the lawyers who gave us the “Tuck Rule,” the “ground can’t cause a fumble,” and the “when is a catch not really a catch” will chime in one what a kickoff actually is.

The committee at least left the “Calvin Johnson Rule” alone, which shows the brilliance of leaving well enough alone.

George Will once wrote that the wrost aspects of football were “violence and committee meetings.”

He was half right. The violence, when controlled and contained, can be glorious.

The only committee meeting that matters once the game is started takes place in the huddle, and it is the best kind of meeting when run by Peyton Manning. It is hurry up and get things done.

Let the players play. Don’t punish the return men. Let them do their jobs.


One Response to “The NFL Competition Committee should lock itself out”

  1. There is a relatively safe way to fix the kickoff injury problem, while making kickoffs more important and not just endless touchbacks, and with the 35 yard line rule. I say let defenders run unimpeded until the ball is received. Let defenders who can get 30 yards downfield, unimpeded, and can down the ball to the receiving team just by touch, anywhere past the 10 yard squib rule, regardless of whether it was touched by the receiving team.

    What do you think?

    I think it would slow down the kickoff in general, and create interesting new strategic situations and opportunities on the field.


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