Anyone who watches the National Football League (NFL), and has watched it for most of their life, complains about three things: Too many rules, too many flags, and how all of the above often prevents the players from playing the game. Most who watch the game, blame NFL officials, but it’s not their fault. They’re just following rules developed and handed down by the NFL’s Competition Committee (NFLCC), and those rules are so numerous and restrictive that when officials don’t throw flags players complain, because they’ve become so accustomed to so many flags being thrown that when they’re not the players are shocked. We all are. In some ways, I think NFL officials would welcome a new rule by the NFLCC that takes some of the burden off them by reversing the current trajectory of annually adding so many rules that it inhibits the fans’ enjoyment of the game. Let the players play the game to determine the outcome. No one should remember the officials who called the game.
Somewhere, in the recent history of the NFL, the NFL’s Competition Committee (NFLCC) realized that they went too far making rules in favor of the offense. They realized that were making it almost impossible to play defense without some sort of penalty being called. It’s one thing to institute rules that protect players from injuries and potential injuries, but offense-friendly rules progressed so much that some former defensive stars of the NFL said things like, “I’m just glad that I don’t have to play in the modern game.” The NFLCC decided, in their infinite wisdom, to correct that by instituting more rules, this time on the offense, but that only resulted in more flags, tons of them. There are now so many flags thrown a game that not only does it inhibit the game, but it gives the officials far too much power in determining the outcome of games, power I would guess officials would gladly relinquish. Rather than pass more rules to counter the counter, I suggest that they institute the words sizable advantage into the 2023 NFL Rulebook.
Anyone who has watched the NFL for as long as I have, have blindly accepted meaningless ticky tack penalties for most of our lives. We’ve seen them so often and for so long that we accept the idea that officials are going to make certain calls. We’ve accepted certain penalties for so long that we’ve never questioned if a twitch by a left guard, for example, gives the offense an advantage on that play. If there is no advantage, and the left guard returns to a stationary position, the 2023 NFL should not require that the official throw a flag under the new, 2023 no sizable advantage rule. Does that twitch gain the left guard an advantage on a D-lineman, or does the D-lineman gain an advantage, based on the idea that the left guard just tipped him off regarding what direction the play is headed in? In my sizable advantage rule, if a referee throws a flag, a three panel replay review board would determine, via expedited review, if the offense gained a sizable advantage by the movement. If they decide there was no sizable advantage, the officials pull the flag. One asterisk: if a D-lineman spots the twitch, they can come across the line and force the official to throw the flag, but they run the risk of the officials missing the twitch. Whatever the case, if that twitch that doesn’t draw the defense offsides, the twitch rule needs to go.
My new “sizable advantage” rule would receive applause and boos throughout the league, as officials would be saying it, both ways, often. The call would be “expedited review claims that the offense did not receive a sizable advantage for the infraction, no penalty.”
The same process would apply to the “two men in motion” and “illegal formation” penalties. As long as both players become set before the snap, no “two men in motion” men in motion penalty. As for the illegal formation penalty, one definition of it states that someone on the end of the line has to be on the line of scrimmage. As we saw in the latter Washington vs. NY Giants game, a touchdown was called back because a receiver was about a half a yard off the line of scrimmage. Say what you want about that penalty, but Washington received no “sizable advantage” by one of their receivers standing a half yard off the line of scrimmage. That particular play was a run up the middle, and the receiver played no role in it. The referee would then say, “Expedited review has declared no sizeable advantage for Washington on the illegal formation call, no penalty, touchdown Washington.”
If I’m in charge of the NFLCC, I instruct the official on the field to throw a flag if the official believes a sizable advantage could’ve occurred on the play, and that call is subject to expedited review to determine, after the play, if the team that committed the infraction received a sizable advantage by doing so.
In some instances, officials follow the current rulebook regardless the circumstances, and they slow the game down by doing so, in my opinion, because calling innumerable ticky tack rules often diminishes the game. The officials also make subjective errors all the time, and when they make such errors “we” call for more replay reviews. I don’t know why a fan would require more replay reviews, but I understand that they, officials, and the NFL in general, want to get it right. If there are more replay reviews, they should all be by the new “expedited review” process we’ve witnessed in the playoffs in 2023. Expedited reviews can also be used to determine if the letter of the rules applied in this case, or if the subjective, discretion officials might be called upon to make when it comes to determining sizable advantage. The NFL needs to hire three officials in the review room to make expedited reviews of various calls like, hands to the face, illegal contact after five yards, and all of the “ticky tack” holding calls on the offense and defense to determine if they provide a sizable advantage to one team or the other. If the advantage cannot be determined in an obvious and expedited manner, with a very specific and short time limit, the officials should probably, and unfortunately, default to the call on the field, as they do other replay reviewed calls.
The old adage “The best official is the one you don’t remember” went out in the NFL about 20-30 years ago. The typical, modern NFL fan thinks that NFL officials currently wield far too much power in the game, because there are far too many rules that we’ve accepted for so long that we no longer question whether or not they provide a sizable advantage. I suggest the NFLCC steer the NFL in the opposite direction, for the first time in NFL history, and limit the number of penalties called in a game. As long as the penalty doesn’t result in an injury, or the possibility of an injury, I say the NFLCC starts to review the number of penalties called and invokes rules like this one to diminish them in 2023. The modern NFL game is currently inhibited with far too numerous flags and replay reviews, seeking some sort of perfection. My new “sizable advantage” rule would, in my opinion, let the players play the game. My guess is that the modern NFL official would not only see the logic and approve the sizable advantage rule, but they would probably go behind the scenes to encourage members of the NFLCC to approve it.