2015 Rule Change Proposals

Published on March 27, 2015 3:25 PM by dbo.

The rules committee has sent the following changes to the board of governors for approval:

Converts

  • Move the scrimmage for kicked converts to the 25-yard line (so a 32-yard kick attempt).
  • Missed kicked convert attempts are live and may be run back for a 2-point score by the defending team.
  • Justification: 99.4% of kicked converts were successful last year. Field goals kicked between 31 and 33 yards had a 81% success rate.
  • Teams wishing to attempt a 2-point convert may scrimmage from the 3-yard line.
  • Justification: 7 out of 23 or 30% of 2-point convert attempts were successful last year.
  • Option: Governors have the option of testing during the 2015 pre-season moving the convert attempt to the 10-yard line and increasing the score value to a 3-point convert for running or passing the ball over the goal line.

Open up passing game

  • Receivers and defenders would only be able to initiate contact within 5-yards of the line of scrimmage of a player directly in front of him.
  • Penalty: Outside of the 5-yard limit, normal illegal contact or pass interference would be called.
  • Justification: Provide more room for the offence.

No Yards

  • When the ball bounces on a punt return, the 5-yard penalty for no yards be applied in addition to the return.
  • Penalty: A 5-yard no yards penalty would be applied no matter the return (unless a score is made).
  • Justification: Increasing the conditions when the punitive yardage is applied to reduce the blatant no yards infractions when the ball bounces and therefore increase room for returners.
  • The five interior offensive linemen will be restricted from leaving the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked on punts.
  • Penalty: A 10-yard penalty for this infraction (unclear whether this applies on re-kick or advancement from point ball dead.
  • Justification: Decrease the number of illegal blocks and no yards penalties, while providing more room for the return teams.

Tempo

  • Offences may indicate to the Referee they do not wish to substitute, so the play would be blown in as soon as the yardsticks and ball are set.
  • Justification: Allow the offence to set the tempo of the game, giving them the opportunity to try to put the defence on its heals and limit the ability of the defence to slow down the game.
  • Remove the ability of coaches to request a measurement when there is less that 1-yard to go. Referees would measure when necessary to set the ball or determine if a fist down was made.
  • Justification: Speed up the game (my interpretation).
  • After a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team shall no longer have the option for the kicking team to re-kick. Instead, they will be limited to taking the ball where it went out of bounds or 30 yards in advance of where the ball was kicked, whichever is greater.
  • Justification: Speed up the game (my interpretation).

Video review change

  • Coaches would be able to challenge offensive pass interference in addition to the adoption of challengeable defensive pass interference added last year.
  • Justification: Provide level and consistent challenges for pass interference (my interpretation).

Opinion

Converts

  • Forcing teams to announce they are kicking for 1-point or attempting a 2-point score takes away an element of surprise and deception from the game. I’m sure it would be legal, but attempting a fake kick for a 2-point convert from the 25 yard line will likely happen once in a generation.
  • I would go so far as to move the convert scrimmage to the 15-yard line (a 22-yard attempt) and provide 2-downs to achieve the convert provided the team maintains possession of the ball (it is not kicked, fumble lost, intercepted, or incomplete). The only issue with this is the time it could burn off the clock.
  • I predict the governors choose to test the convert from the 10-yard line and increase the 2-point convert to 3-points during the pre-season, but do not implement for 2015.

Open up passing game

  • I approve if this truly provides receivers with no contact from defenders down field. A return to the style prior to 20-25 years ago will be welcome. There will be a long transition of pass interference calls as players adjust.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.

No yards

  • I believe this was in place briefly in the early stages of the adoption of the bounce 5-yard no yards rule. I would go as far as applying the no yards penalties in addition to all returns. If you are caught in the 5-yard zone and the ball is caught in the air, and the returner rips off a 20 yard return, without applying the penalty there is no deterrent to prevent breaking the rule in the future. As frustrating as it is to coaches, making that 5-yard radius around the returner free is key to opening up returns.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.
  • Restricting interior lineman downfield before the punt is a simple change that could drastically open up space for returners while eliminating penalties.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.

Tempo

  • This is welcome. How the ability to control the tempo of the game was lost to the offence is beyond me, but I for one will welcome the return of fast-paced offensive series.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.
  • In today’s age, coaches have enough certainty of the distance to go with artificial turf, clear markings and other improvements. There is no longer the need for them to call for measurements. This will speed up the game.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.
  • Removing the option for re-kicks on kickoffs out of bounds will eliminate a play being repeated and put offences on the field for more plays.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.

Video review

  • All the changes to improve the tempo, then this change that will slow things down. Combined with new contact rules, this could be used greatly. I believe this should be shelved for a year or two and reviewed for adoption again in the future once impact of the current changes are known.
  • I predict the governors adopt this rule change for 2015.

Analysis

With the new convert proposals, the CFL is opening the discussion rather than ignoring the discussion across all football until they find themselves forced to be a follower of the NFL’s changes, which it should never do. The convert proposals have received all the attention, but the other proposals combined, which have little to no impact on the tradition and scoring of the game, will add more offence, speed and excitement to the game than radicalized new convert rules.

Converts take place 5-6 times a game, is watching someone miss a convert from 32-yards out 20% of the time more exciting? This is the same 32-yard line the team gets 3-points for kicking a field goal, now they get only 1-point? The difficulty does not meet the reward, and the inconsistency of the scrimmage point is not consistent with the rest of the rules of football. Returns will rarely be in play as kickers will be able to reach the end line on many missed kicks in normal conditions.

The option to move the convert to the 10-yard line has more merit, is less radical of a change and I think will result in more multi-point attempts and successful ones. For that is the goal, not to eliminate the single point, but to make the multi-point attempts more frequent. By increasing their value and their success rate, the whole risk/reward evaluations will have to be thrown out and new ones developed. That is why there has to be a balance between the difficulty of the kick and the difficulty of a multi-point attempt and the value of the reward.

Ultimately, with these changes and coaches adopting strategies to exploit offences, the game can shift towards higher scoring, more offence and big plays. If coaches choose not to exploit the rules, to focus on defensive loopholes and tricks to slow down offences and shun wide-open, shootout football, then we will continue to see what we have today.

The game didn’t shift this way solely because of rule changes. Unsatisfied with defensive strategies to slow down offences, defensive coaches stretched every rule, forcing officials to flag them on every play or let the standard change. In the board room, subtle efforts to not restrict defensive play on the edge, while eliminating the deterrent of penalties like no yards so they can coach players to break the rule, eliminating room for returners. Add improved coaching, strategies and players and the pendulum has been swinging towards the defensive side for a couple decades. Now is the time to send the pendulum back. It’s a perfect opportunity for offensive players to make a name for themselves with the new opportunities these changes will bring if adopted and enforced.

The Process

All the proposed changes this year are great suggestions with obvious targeted impacts on the game. I can’t say any are an overreaction to reduced scoring last year. These are the changes the rule committee can propose and the board of governors decided to adopt or reject.

Changing the game fundamentally, such as scoring on converts, overtime, or other fundamentals of the game shouldn’t have changes suggested at a rules committee level and sent to the board of governors for approval. These changes to the fundamental core of the game need a longer period to discuss the issue, propose options and their expected effect, choose the best proposal, test during pre-seasons before deciding to implement. Changing a fundamental rule of the game has long term effects and is not easily removed if it doesn’t work out, so certainty of its merit and effects must be known.

I would suggest a high-level process such as the following for these types of core rule changes:

  1. The Board of Governors must direct the rules committee to look for a solution for a specific issue. For example, please review the convert situation to increase value of the play and encourage more multi-point convert attempts while maintaining a success rate that keeps interest.
  2. The rules committee takes a year to study the issue, proposes numerous options to consider, runs those proposals through fan focus groups to see if they have the desired effect, before selecting a proposal for trial.
  3. The board of governors decides to accept the proposal for trial during the next pre-season, and possibly two pre-seasons to determine the effect on the game.
  4. Based on the success of the trial, tweaks may be made to the rule change before being sent to the board of governors for final approval and adoption into the rule book.

This process is appropriate for the seriousness of changing core components of the game. The league should codify into the constitution or by-laws the core components of the game that the committee cannot propose changes for without a request from the board of governors. Those core components would include scoring, number of downs and distance, field size, and players on the field.

I believe the league still has a rules committee by-law that prevents rules rejected one year from being resubmitted for up to two or three years afterwards. I’m not sure if this still is in effect or the exact restrictions (can the proposal be modified?) in place, but it seems it could prevent rules from being rejected and sent back for further refinement. Sometimes the premise of the rule is good, but the execution of it is not. In the case of the converts, if both options were rejected, could converts not be discussed, or these two options, next year? It seems there needs to be a more collaborative process and a faster feedback loop for the process of adjusting rules.

Ultimately, the changes are for the fans, to increase excitement in the game, shorten the game and make the game experience more fan friendly rather than tedious to meet the current social experiences people want. If you actually observed fans, you wouldn’t find too many instances of fans on the edge of their seats for a 32 yard field goal attempt. Many might duck away to concessions or switch channels unless it is the last play of the game. I think one would want to be certain about the excitement such a change actually added to fans before adopting such a change.

Another procedural change I think is requires is for the rules committee to provide complete written rule proposal additions or changes with their announcement. The written rule can show much more than the summaries, and no rule change should be sent for approval without the exact rule as to be inserted being written. Flaws and loopholes in written rules will be more easily identified with more eyes on the actual proposals. While some of them will not be approved, having them visible as proposals to all shall do no harm if they are not accepted into the rulebook.

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2015 Rule Change Proposals was published on March 27, 2015 3:25 PM by dbo.

2,244 words.

This article is categorized under Game and tagged with rules.