NFL owners meetings: Here are some proposed rule changes that will be debated next week
Change is inevitable in most aspects of life, and the NFL is no different.
The league will discuss 17 rule changes and five bylaw changes at the annual owners meetings next week in Phoenix. Individual teams as well as the league's competition committee proposed multiple new ideas that will be voted on by the 32 owners and will need at least 24 votes to pass. These include alterations to penalties, replay, coaches' challenges, jersey numbers, kickoffs and playoff seeding.
Conspicuously, the Philadelphia Eagles' infamous quarterback push play won't be discussed, despite reports in February that it could be on the docket at the March meeting. Players weren't allowed to push or pull ballcarriers prior to 2006 before the NFL removed that rule. Now, teams like the Eagles use it in short-yardage situations — like on the goal line or on fourth down.
Here are some of the proposed changes being voted on:
Replay, penalties and coaches' challenges
Five rule changes involving replay were presented by three different teams. The biggest came from the Los Angeles Rams, who proposed that roughing-the-passer penalties could be reviewed by officials and/or a coach's challenge. This was an expected request from teams after a year littered with questionable roughing calls.
The Detroit Lions also proposed a rule that would allow officials to consult on penalty enforcement, while the Houston Texans want officials to be able to review failed fourth-down attempts.
The New York Jets proposed an expansion of the "crackback block" penalty for players in motion and blocking past the center. The competition committee also wants to make tripping a personal foul.
The Lions also proposed that coaches can challenge personal fouls and teams could earn a third challenge if they win only one of their challenges instead of both.
Emergency third QB
This proposal, also from the Lions, would allow teams to designate a third quarterback from its inactive list or practice squad to play in a game if both of a team's active QBs are ruled out.
The NFL stopped forcing teams to dress three quarterbacks in 2011, and thus teams stopped doing it. After the debacle of the NFC championship game when the San Francisco 49ers were forced to play an injured Brock Purdy and nearly had to play running back Christian McCaffrey under center, teams and the league might change their minds about a third quarterback. The 49ers also lost backup Josh Johnson to a concussion in the game and the team already lost Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries in the weeks prior.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones endorsed the rule change already, but this one allows teams to keep a third quarterback inactive unless an injury deems it necessary to call them up.
The competition committee offered two kickoff-related rule changes. The first would move the ball from the 20- to the 25-yard line on a touchback punt. The other would also put a fair catch on a free kick (kickoff or safety kick) up to the 25-yard line as well.
The Eagles offered perhaps the wildest alternative kickoff rule idea: It would allow a scoring team to maintain possession of the ball instead of kicking it off by giving them a fourth-and-20 play at the team's own 20-yard line. A team would be able to do this only twice in one game and only if they were losing. Basically, it equates to a successful onside kick ... except you're all the way back at your own 20-yard line on fourth down. Risky, to say the least. A similar rule is used in the newly revived XFL.
A report surfaced earlier this year that the Eagles planned to propose a rule that teams should allow players to use the number zero ("0") on jerseys. The seriousness of the proposal wasn't known, but now it's officially on the docket for the owners meeting.
The proposal would allow quarterbacks, place kickers, punters, defensive backs, running backs and linebackers the option to wear a zero as their number. Place kickers and punters would also be allowed to wear any number.
The Los Angeles Chargers proposed a bylaw change where wild-card teams could earn a higher playoff seed than division winners. Currently, the top four seeds go to the winners of the four divisions and the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds go to the next three teams in the conference standings (depending on tiebreakers).
The Chargers' amendment would give a higher seed to a wild-card team if that team has at least four more wins than a divisional winner and if the divisional winner finished with a sub-.500 record. If this rule was applied this past season, the Dallas Cowboys would have earned the fourth seed in the NFC over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they had four more wins and the Buccaneers' finished with an 8-9 record despite winning their division. The biggest difference here is that the Cowboys would get to play at home with the higher seed in this scenario.