The NFL Competition Committee meets this Sunday to work on various points of interest throughout the NFL’s rule book. We’ve already seen commentary on one rule which greatly impacted the Cowboys last year. More interesting news is sure to come during the next few days out of those meetings.
With that in mind, here are three rule and policy changes I think would have a positive impact on the league. One is a rule change for during games and the other two are for roster management throughout the season.
No Limits for Successful Challenges
(Is it just me, or does Garrett look ready to go bust some ghosts in that picture? Anyways, moving on….)
The current rule for coaching challenges is that each team gets two challenges per game. If both of those are successful then you are awarded a third challenge. Three is the most you can have in any one game.
I think the rule should be that you get to keep challenging calls until you have two that are unsuccessful. Why should bad plays be allowed to stand based on some arbitrary rule? Aren’t the rules of football, and accurately calling games, far more important to uphold?
Now, I do understand and appreciate the concern for slowing down the game with allowing too many challenges. However, the average fan is going to be far more aggrieved by bad calls than the game running long.
With the “two strikes and you’re out” rule, struggling officiating teams would hopefully not be allowed to decide the outcomes of games. That is a far greater gain than whatever time-saving measures limiting coaching challenges offers.
Get Rid of Gameday Active/Inactives
Right now, teams’ have to select seven “inactive” players for each game. Those seven guys are usually a mix of players sitting due to health concerns (e.g. injury, rest) or inexperience.
The purpose of this rule was to help competitive balance between teams dealing with injuries versus those that are relatively healthy; trying to make it so that most teams had the same number of players to work with in each game. It makes sense to a point, but how much does competitive balance really change when one team is already missing key players due to injury?
Consider the alternative. Last year, Dallas carried running back Darius Jackson for most of the season. In Week 9, Jackson was inactive for the Cowboys 35-10 rout of the Cleveland Browns. Could he have played in the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand, and perhaps shown some things to improve his value to the team?
Losing the opportunity to give your young, developing players regular season snaps is no trivial matter. My argument is that it’s a much bigger loss than whatever positive effect the 46-man rule has.
Offer-Matching Rights for Practice Squad
Currently, the ten guys on a team’s practice squad are considered free agents. While they are paid by and work exclusively for a single team during their time on its practice squad, any other team can freely sign them to their 53-man roster.
I think the practice squad owner should have the right to match any contract offer given by a potential new team. You have spent time and money developing this player, and sometimes even a draft pick to originally acquire them. Isn’t an extra layer of protection warranted?
For example, Dallas spent a sixth-round pick last year on developmental tight end Rico Gathers. They knew he wouldn’t be able to contribute much in 2016 so he was put on the practice squad. Thankfully, no other team tried to poach him last year.
Let’s pretend that someone did, though. Faced with the prospect of losing Gathers completely, would the Cowboys have found new motivation to promote him to the 53-man roster? Perhaps they would’ve cut Gavin Escobar, who they clearly were ready to move on from, to make sure Gathers wasn’t stolen.
Rights of refusal and offer matching are hardly novel concepts in the NFL. They happen every year with Exclusive Rights and Restricted Free Agents. I think those concepts would be well applied to practice squad players.