Proposed NFL Rule Change

In my unending quest to be of service to humanity, I bring the following proposed NFL rule change to your attention.  But first, a little background.

Righting a Slight Wrong

I love football; I’ve been watching it avidly since I was less than 10 years old. I consider it the greatest team sport in the world, and want to see it thrive. To that end, I think there is an inequity in the rules that should be rectified.

First, the rule in question is Rule 14, Article 2, Section 1:

“If a distance penalty, enforced from a specific spot between the goal lines would place the ball more than half the distance to the offender’s goal line, the penalty shall be half the distance from that spot to their goal line.”

credit: n0cturbulous

In other words, if you commit a 15 yard penalty within the boundaries of your own 30 yard line, it will actually cost you less than 15 yards. Thus, the offender is penalized less harshly than if the foul occurred outside their own 30 yard line.  In other words, the defense actually has less to fear from a penalty the closer the offense gets to scoring, and the offense has less to fear from a penalty the closer they are to their own goal line.

Over the years, the rules of football are changed to balance inequities. For example, once the forward pass became a formidable weapon, defenses routinely engaged in pass interference to avoid giving up big plays. In response, the NFL changed the penalty for defensive pass interference so that the ball was awarded to the offense at the spot of the foul, regardless of how many yards were involved.

I believe the “half-the-distance” clause creates an inequity that could be remedied in the following manner. We will keep the rule as it stands, but add the following qualifier:

If the “half the distance” rule is enforced, then the offended team, (the team against whom the foul was committed), is allowed to “bank” whatever yardage they would have been rewarded had they been farther from their own goal line.

The banked yardage accrues throughout the game and may be used when the team has the ball one time in each half. Once a team has used their “banked” yardage in a half, they will no longer accrue excess penalty yardage.

So how would this be used? Let’s say Team A has accrued 16 yards in their yardage bank during the first half of a game. They are driving to score near the end of the half, and notify the referee that they wish to exercise their banked yardage. Before the next play is run, the referee advances the ball 16 yards. If the additional yardage gives the team a first down, then a first down is rewarded. The only thing the banked yardage cannot be used for is to directly score a touchdown. A team may use banked yardage to advance the ball as far as the defense’s 1-yard line, but no farther.

Other questions:

Q. Can the defense use the banked yardage to back up the offense?

A. No, it can only be used by the offensive team.

Q. When is yardage added to the bank? 

A. Immediately after the team that is supposed to benefit from a penalty is “short-changed” some amount of yards due to the “half-the-distance” rule.

Q. Can a team use part of their yardage bank during the 1st half and carry over the remainder to the 2nd half?

A. No, all accrued yardage must be used at one time. Any unused yardage is forfeited at the end of the half.

Expected Effects:

  • Teams will use their banked yardage to score more field goals at the end of each half. Knowing that accrued penalty yards will be used to help the other team score, teams that are better disciplined will benefit more by giving fewer accrued yards to their opponents and thus suffering less than more penalized teams.
  • Commentators will criticize coaches about their misuse of banked yardage as much as they criticize coaches for their misuse of timeouts.
  • There should be a slight decrease in major penalties inside a team’s own 30 yard line.

Let’s make this happen. I’m looking at you, Bill Simmons.