In the hopes of eliminating what was considered one of the great evils at the time–alcohol, the U.S. enacted a complete ban on the production and dispensing of alcohol in 1920. Yet, instead of lowering the overall consumption of alcohol, just as many (if not more) people consumed what was now an illegal product. Outlaws like Al Capone and other eventual HBO TV stars, produced and distributed booze for the thirsty masses, leaving a trail of violence in their wake. So, an action taken upon to decrease the consumption of alcohol, not only didn’t help, but produced numerous negative effects instead.
And, back when the Brits ruled India, they were concerned with the number of venomous snakes in Delhi. In hopes of decreasing the population of the deadly snakes, the government offered a bounty for every dead snake. Although, at the onset, it was a successful campaign, some “entrepreneurial” colonists decided they could make an easy buck by breeding more snakes, killing them and offering them to the powers that be. That in itself raised the amount of snakes in the area, but additionally, once the government caught wind of this, and scrapped the program, the now worthless snakes were all let free. Thus, another case where intervention to cause change, resulted with indirect reaction.
My personal favorite, is the story of Barbra Streisand suing some dude over an embarrassing photo he possessed. At the time of the suit, only 6 people had seen the pic (2 of which were her lawyers). Once the suit was made public, just over 400,000 folks had seen the photo. Hello, I’m earth, have we met?
So, as you can see (and sometimes very few can without the lenses of hindsight), sometimes the best-intention-ed actions cause, not only unintended consequences, but even sometimes negatively direct ones…
That brings us to the NFL, and a few of their recent rule changes, and my predictions on what the actual effect(s) they’ll produce. Here are a few that jump out to me:
1. Moving the starting point for an offense, from the 20, to the 25 after a touchback (on a kickoff)
So this is both a prediction looking at the upcoming season, as well as one, (like the cobras) that will have indirect results.
Frankly, this one baffled me…I really can’t see how owners made this mistake. Like 90% of rule changes of late the goal here is player safety, and the thought process is less Kickoffs, arguably the most dangerous play in football, where 20ish players are running full speed at each other, with large head starts, the better. So the competition committee, looked SOLELY on one side of the equation, that is, the return team…their thinking was, if they reward the team with 5 more yards, the return men would be less likely to take a return out of the endzone, but take a knee (more touchbacks). The issue here, is it takes two to tango…what will the Kickoff team think – “Oh, if I kick the ball far/out of the endzone, they other team gets 5 extra yards…yeah we are just going to stay away from that end zone and probably pop the ball up (causing, likely, pretty vicious hits).
When you look at kickoff stats over the past 2 years, you see that with a team starting out at their 20, on touchbacks, just over 3 of every 5 kickoffs were NOT returned, even tho the NFL average kick distance (top 35 kickers) is just to the goaline, and the top 17 kickoff specialists in the league can get the ball AT LEAST to the goaline. However, with that kind of leg power, the kickoff being moved up to the 35, and the “running start distance” for the kickoff coverage team being limited to 5 yards, I think kickoff teams will see this as more disincentive to kick for distance (i.e. touchback distance), than (or before) the return team has a chance to increase the amount of kneel-downs in the endzone. In other words, although the hope was to decrease collisions, we’ll see more as a result of this rule change.
It actually kind of reminds me of this rule we had at my fraternity in college for beer pong…think we called it “air ball”…basically, if the shooter misses all the cups, and the balls hits nothing/sails over the cups, the SHOOTER actually loses a cup/had to drink a beer. The rule was put in place to quicken the game (the faster the rate of cups being lost, the quicker the game, the more games played), however, what we found was it made shooters more timid, or conservative, with their shots, so the game would take longer…you know just like the new kickoff rule.
2. Moving the extra point back to the 25 yard-line.
This one we all saw last year. So, both in “not-freshness” and not being as indirect of a consequence of the first rule change (and next) this one’s a little bit different. If you were in a (non-man) cave last year, the NFL moved the (all but) automatic extra point kick from the 2 yard-line, to the 25…making an automatic kick/grab-a-beer-o’clock for most, into a somewhat critical part of the game. PATs (Point After Touchdowns) made last season dipped from 99.3% (2014) to 94.2% (2015)–a sizable difference when you think the average team kicks 2.5 XPs per game, you’d have to watch 57 games, or 3.5 seasons to see one missed (by any one team), yet now happens in less than every 7 games. Hence, the rule worked. The PATs became less automatic, Joe 6-pack stayed glued to his big screen and the advertisers saw a higher rate of commercials viewed. Everyone comes out ahead!
What I couldn’t shake, was the fact you could still go for 2 points from the 2 yard-line. That is, the logic is sound…its far more difficult to cross the plane of the endzone with the football, than kick it through goalposts 23 yards further away. This all created a more exciting play, and offered us different end game scores than the norm of 14, 24 and 31–however, I couldn’t help but think, there’s gotta be a way to take advantage of this? What is it that “designates” you are going to kick (25 yard line – 1 point), vs. run/pass (2 yard line – 2 points) it in? Then, as I was playing Madden, and trying out all their fun new gimmicks in this year’s version, I decided to run a fake kick (after a touchdown), just for kicks (yup, that pun’s intended), and realized its the dumbest thing you can do in the NFL, since you are setup at the 25 yard-line. They are so dumb, they are at a point where they are extinct. And sure, the fake PAT, as it was…was crazy rare, but you’ll never see it in an NFL game ever again, because why would you? So, that got me thinking…back to the old rugby days, and watching Josh Kraemer, an All-American football player at Ripon College, and arguably the best rugby player I have ever seen, dropkick a 45 yard field goal in practice. So I thought, why not drop kick the extra point in the NFL? I know a few fans have seen Flutie do it for the Patriots some years back, and maybe some even know its how kicks were converted in the first place…but lets look at this for a second…
I would assume the yard line they set you up in, is dictated by having a holder on one knee or not…so lineup with your drop-kicker (think of, from a rule standpoint, 5 wide shotgun). Yes, its a lost art in the NFL…but think of the advantages if an NFL team were to find an athletic rugby player (we saw it in San Fran using one as a return man last year), to be a “2Pt. Specialist”. NFL games are decided by less than 4 points quite frequently, so a team that can turn 1 point into 2, could have a decided advantage. No, the dropkick would NOT be worth 2 points, but you would be able to lineup at the all-too easy 2 yard line again, likely getting back (close to) those 5.1 successful percentage points you lose by moving back another 23 yards. Plus, you have a wide array of 2pt. conversion options (think FAKE DROP KICK, YES!!!), not to mention one extra blocker, if you went with a straight-up extra point attempt (since the holder is not needed…for those unfamiliar, a drop kick looks just like a punt, but you let the nose of the football bounce against the turf before you kick it). I really feel like its a no-brainer, not to mention something that would add another level of excitement to the league, which of course, is the greatest indicator if the corporate giant (NFL) will “endorse” the change.
So to sum up, here are reasons why to drop kick an extra point:
1. Eliminate 1/3 components needed in a PAT (snap, hold, kick)…hold is now gone.
2. Reduce distance of 1 point kick 23 yards
3. One extra blocker
4. (For first team to implement) Give an opposing team something extra to prepare for this week (i.e. less time given to other components of the game)
5. All sorts of 2 Point, fake dropkick, etc. plays back in the fold
3. Eliminating “Probable” from the approved terms to describe an injured player’s status before a game.
This one has been relatively well documented already, given that this just happened in the 2016 off-season. If your’e unfamiliar, the NFL requires teams to report injuries to the NFL, other team and yes, the media (who can actually question the validity I found out when doing research, see here). Teams use “tags” to designate the likelihood a player will participate in the upcoming game this week: Out, Doubtful, Questionable, and Probable (0, 25, 50, 75% likely to play, subjectively determined by the coaching staff/what they would like to disclose to the NFL)–well, that was last year. This year, they decided to eliminate Probable. So, as you can expect, just about everyone is now being listed as questionable, or 50/50 for every game. Now, I’ll admit, this one isn’t as much a prediction of what will happen, rather, one I think they need to change very soon, given the pressure fantasy football is putting on the game (like it or not). Here’s how I’d do it:
Rule change one: You can list a player as out, or you have 2 options: Probable/Doubtful…make the team make a decision (no 50/50 option, that’s the one we should have eliminated, if we wanted to make change)…based on what I have seen over the years, a large number of the injuries, when being honest, would fit these categories.
Rule change two: To be clear, this is not one I personally like, BUT if its decided, we need to be more accurate with our injury reporting, why not hold the team accountable? Maybe, (using the rule above), give a team 5 “mulligans”/mess-ups, whatever you want to call it. In other words if you list someone as probable for a week, and he doesn’t play, you get a “notch?”…same thing with doubtful, and if the player plays. 5 of which over a season, you lose a 7th rounder (something along those lines).
*Bottom line, you change a rule, yet allow for a 50/50 scenario to be a “scapegoat” for a coach, they will use that almost exclusively.
Only time will tell if any of these changes will bring desired effect, or more dead cobras…for now, its fun to guess.