Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Too Many Rules

Austin Collie caught the ball. He took two steps forward, was in the process of taking a third, and hunched forward to protect his ribs. He was hit by Quintin Mikell on his shoulder, and bounced sideways into Kurt Coleman. Because his head was lowered, his helmet struck the helmet of the second player. He was knocked unconscious by the force of the blow and dropped the ball.

Instead of ruling it a catch and a fumble, the officials decided the pass was incomplete. (This is normally reviewable.) Because the pass was ruled incomplete, Collie was determined to be a defenseless receiver, and any contact to the helmet is illegal, which resulted in the flag. (Penalties are not reviewable, so it no longer matters if it was actually complete or not, because the 15-yard penalty and automatic first down cannot be overturned, even if the penalty is based on an assumption that replay can prove incorrect.) The penalty was initially called on Mikell, who neither contacted Collie with his helmet, nor contacted Collie's helmet. (It was later changed to Coleman.) The head referee explained his reasoning after the game, and claimed the penalty was justified, even though replays clearly showed he was wrong. The NFL reviewed the film, and supported its officials saying they had "called the play correctly", but their actions spoke louder than their words, when they refused to fine either Eagles defender.

Confused yet? You're not the only one.

The NFL created this mess because it has too many rules. The NFL has to stop trying to legislate every possibility, and instead provide broad standards that can be interpreted through the common sense filter of officials. Get rid of the endless technicalities, and allow the referee to determine which roughness is unnecessary. By attempting to make every decision black-and-white, and take all the judgment out of officiating, they've created a complex set of contradicting rules which serve no purpose well, and often make little sense. Instead of promoting safety and fair play, they add to the arbitrariness of football outcomes, while confusing everyone involved.

And fines for dangerous hits shouldn't be the province of NFL executives at all. Set up a board of players with the power to levy fines, and let them police themselves. If the players aren't willing to stand up for their own safety, it's not the NFL's business to try and legislate it.


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