No reseeding for the playoffs -- good. Elimination of forceouts without permitting receivers to only need one foot in-bounds -- lousy.
RADIO RECEIVERS FOR DEFENDERS: This was necessary, if only for fairness between sides of the line of scrimmage. Yet if you put the receiver in the helmet of a collsion-intensive player like a middle linebacker, I'm still skittish about the reliability of the device. Back in 1956, Paul Brown experimented with a radio receiver in George Ratterman's helmet, and the quarterback would later recall that opponents did everything possible to destroy the helmet's technology -- even though his cranium remained inside the headgear.
Might as well start my collection of thoughts with some unvarnished opinions:
RADIO RECEIVERS FOR DEFENDERS: This was necessary, if only for fairness between sides of the line of scrimmage. Yet if you put the receiver in the helmet of a collsion-intensive player like a middle linebacker, I'm still skittish about the reliability of the device. Back in 1956, Paul Brown experimented with a radio receiver in George Ratterman's helmet, and the quarterback would later recall that opponents did everything possible to destroy the helmet's technology -- even though his cranium remained inside the headgear. Stringent roughing-the-passer regulations preclude such actions on a quarterback's helmet today, but what's to stop some miscreant offensive lineman from providing an extra blow to the head to the defender with a radio receiver in an unregulated scrum near the line of scrimmage, where poking and puking are standard operating procedures?
JUST SAYING 'NO' TO RESEEDING: If you're going to have divisions, you have to make winning them mean something. The NFL's scarcity of games and the need to ensure that every team plays each other at least once per four-year span means that an elimination of divisions is unfeasible. There's no better solution here, I'm afraid. In baseball, the sport could -- and should -- eliminate divisions and keep league standings only, which would hopefully remove the stain the grossly unfair unbalanced schedule has left on the sport. But in the NFL, there's no better option unless the league wants to take the schedule to a minimum of 19 games -- one each against conference foes and four against teams from the opposite conference -- thus permitting a reasonable basis from which divisions could be eradicated, simply allowing the best four teams in each conference to host postseason games. But doing that would eliminate the multi-million-dollar trade of selling commemorative hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and steins for winning divisions, so we can forget about that ever happening.
FORCEOUTS: Above all else, rules changes should offer balance and fairness. This is not the case here.
Two decades ago, many basketball coaches insisted that the installation of a shot clock -- then shown at 45 seconds -- must be accompanied by the three-point field goal. In 1986-87, it was, but many of those same coaches pushed further, for a 30-second shot clock that would allow for closer alignment with international rules. Either way, it was clear -- for an effective balance in the sport, basketball could not have a three-pointer without a shot clock.
Removing the force-out rule while continuing to require two feet inbounds for a reception -- this is an unbalanced alteration that will hamstring offenses in the red zone, nullify some spectacular grabs and -- most importantly -- add a potentially dangerous element to the game, as there is no recourse for a defender shoving a receiver into the oblivion of photojournalists, on-field personnel, mascots and business=type hangers-on in sportcoats and ties.
Want to eliminate the judgment call? Wonderful. I'm all for anything that removes subjective judgment from sport. (That's why I'm not fond of figure skating, gymnastics, freestyle skiing, diving and other Olympic sports that are overly reliant on the opinion of observers, rather than more objective qualities.)
So let's go to the college rule and require only one foot, one hand, one knee, one elbow, one butt cheek inbounds for a catch. By allowing teams to defer their coin-toss option to the second half, and by installing the two-point conversion in 1994, the NFL has shown that it possesses no aversions to incorporating elements of the college game that often make it a more compelling product. So why not go to the one-foot rule, which would suddenly make buckets of wondrous, circus receptions and interceptions count?