Rex Ryan apparently can’t get enough of throwing that little red flag that he and the NFL’s 31 other head coaches carry with them on the sidelines during games.
If he has his way, he’ll likely find more reasons to do so, because the Buffalo Bills are proposing that NFL coaches be allowed to call for replay challenges of all plays except scores and turnovers, which are automatically reviewed.
The proposal was submitted in advance of next week’s annual league meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is on record as wanting all plays to be challenged.
The Baltimore Ravens submitted a similar proposal to the Bills’. They want to expand reviewable plays and for each team to get three challenges per game rather than the current two, with a third awarded if the first two are successful. The Washington Redskins are also proposing that each team gets three challenges, and making personal fouls subject to review.
A total of 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners must approve any proposal in order for it to pass. In some cases, proposals are modified before being approved.
Among other proposals that the league will consider next week:
• Any player who is twice penalized for one of three personal fouls (throwing a punch or kicking an opponent, using abusive language/gestures or taunting) will be ejected.
The NFL’s Competition Committee considered personal fouls of any kind, such as grabbing the facemask and roughing the passer, but realized that including them in the standard for the ejection rule could open the door to an overly punitive response to some borderline calls. There are instances where “people just grazed a facemask, but we’d call it a foul … would we want that to be an ejection?” Competition Committee Chairman and Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said during a national media conference call Thursday. “And I think our answer to that was, ‘No.’ ”
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, who was also part of the call, pointed out that there were 75 unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties in 2015, 25 above the average of the previous five seasons.
• Placing the ball on the 25-yard line, rather than the 20, after touchbacks to further discourage kickoff returns. This is a safety-related measure taken from the college game.
“The kickoff is a play that we continue to look at,” McKay said. “We think that this is a good change that motivates teams to make good decisions as to when they’re going to bring out (of the end zone) and when they’re not.”
• Making the chop block illegal. It’s another safety-related measure, although McKay said, “We don’t get a lot of injuries per year (from chop blocks), but we think that the position that the player’s in just doesn’t appear to be fair, that he’s subject to that low block when he’s fully engaged with an offensive player.”
• Making the increased distance of point-after kicks from 20 to 33 yards, implemented on a one-year experimental basis last season, permanent.
• Eliminating overtime from preseason games. This is another Washington proposal.
• Allowing plays to be directly communicated into the helmets of the quarterback or a designated defensive signal-caller from the coaches’ box rather than from the box (if that’s where the coordinator chooses to sit) to the sideline to the field.
• The Ravens are proposing that players wear jersey numbers “appropriate for their positions.”
Surprisingly, the NFL is not going to address perhaps its most controversial rule of all: the one determining what is or isn’t a catch.
Vincent said that the league enlisted a number of opinions, including those from current and former players and game officials, in extensive reviews of the catch rule.
“We must have watched over a hundred clips going back to the Bert Emanuel days to the infamous Dez Bryant (play),” Vincent said. “It’s a three-step process: possession, two feet down, and the time of possession. And the safety element, which is extremely important to us. The rule allows us to protect the catcher. It was unanimous that the three-step process and the way the language is stated today is appropriate.”
McKay added that part of the reasoning is there are roughly 18,000 pass plays in a season, and that officials get the vast majority of them right.
“We do end up with, let’s say it’s a group of four plays, maybe it’s as many as six, out of all of those in which we look at it frame by frame and say, ‘Maybe (the official) got that wrong,’ ” McKay said. “But in reality that on-field official is officiating an awful lot of passes every game and getting them right.”
He shared more statistical nuggets from the ’15 season: the average margin of victory was 11.06 points per game, the lowest since 1995, with home teams winning only a little more than 53 percent of the time; records were set for average yards from scrimmage (705), passing yards (487), and completion percentage (63), and points per game (45.6) were the fifth-highest of all time.