Another possible fix for helmet rule: Expand replay review to cover it

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As the pro-football-following (and pro-football-playing) world continues to emerge from its six-month slumber to realize that the stewards of the game have launched under the guise of evolution a potential revolution to the way it is played, calls are mounting for adjustment, revision, or outright scrapping of the new rule against lowering the head to initiate and make contact with an opponent. But there’s another potential fix that could be made, if the league is willing to bother to notice and to admit that the golden goose has got the flu.

The easy solution: Expand replay review to encompass the calls made, and not made, under this new rule.

NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron admitting during a Friday conversation on the #PFTPM podcast that the Competition Committee did indeed consider making replay review available for these bang-bang, real-time, full-speed collisions, but that for now the decision has been made to not embrace it. As the clock inches toward the potential transformation of pigskin into pumpkin upon the official launch of the 2018 regular season, perhaps the Competition Committee should revisit its position, ASAFP.

Given the mistakes that are being made when it comes to throwing the flag (Riveron admitted in a Friday video disseminated to the media that two specific calls from Week One of the preseason were wrong, and the hit from 49ers safety Elijah Lee on Cowboys running back Bo Scarbrough that left Cowboys owner Jerry Jones scratching his head also was deemed to be an error), it makes sense to give the officials some help when enforcing a rule that will, or won’t, fuel or kill drives, 15 yards at time. Robert’s Rules or Order be damned; it shouldn’t be all that hard for the league to take swift and decisive measures to ensure that this rule won’t swiftly and decisively mar the entire season.

What’s the argument against using replay review for the new helmet rule? That it will slow the game down? The games already are delayed by efforts to get a wide variety of calls right, and there should be no hesitation to ensure the accuracy of this newest and, for now, most challenging of calls to make with the naked eye, as embedded in a middle-aged, armorless bodies that primarily are trying to survive amid gladiators. The “but the games will take four hours!” crowd has been banging that drum since the moment the league reluctantly re-introduced technology for the purposes of correcting mistakes, and the games for the most part continue to fit neatly within the preferred TV windows.

Given the potential for significant mistakes, and the inevitable outcry from fans, media, and players who don’t like the rule even when properly applied, why not remove from the stew of potential gripes the possibility (reality) that, on a regular basis, officials will accidentally call a helmet foul that didn’t occur, or accidentally fail to call a helmet foul that did?

The problem is real. The solution, short of adjusting the language of the rule itself, is simple. And it’s the kind of middle ground that may make the adjustment to the NFL’s sudden realization, after decades of helmets being used as weapons, that maybe helmets shouldn’t be used as weapons easier for fans, media, and players to digest.

At a time when it will be nearly impossible for enough voices to get behind any specific tweaking of the rule itself, anyone concerned about what this rule could do to the game should forget (for now) about trying to fix the rule itself and simply demand that steps be taken to make sure the rule is applied properly and consistently.

Personally, I’ll settle for a solution that may not fit neatly within the accepted procedure and protocols, but that will have the same practical outcome as replay review. As the officials at a given game site are huddling to discuss whether a foul was indeed committed (which seems to have happened every time this penalty has been called in the preseason), Riveron or one of his lieutenants at 345 Park Avenue should be calling up the video and speaking directly to the referee, via the instantaneous pipeline created to allow the league office to make replay decisions.

“It’s not a foul, Pete,” should be the message, when the video shows that a foul didn’t happen.

They don’t even have to admit they’re doing it. Just do it. Use the benefit of instantaneous hindsight to ensure that the officials saw, or didn’t see, what they think they saw, or didn’t see. At a time when the NFL finally has decided to no longer be cavalier about techniques that have been around for as long as the helmet morphed from leather into hard plastic, the league should not be cavalier about the accidental consequences that will arise when officials who, while trying their best to figure out what’s happening right in front of them, simply can’t.

45 responses to “Another possible fix for helmet rule: Expand replay review to cover it

  1. Can’t wait!

    Just what I want – – – more replays to disturb the flow of he game.

    Tennis, anyone?

  2. You know this will never happen unless they do a holistic review of what is reviewable. In this case, namely penalties. You can’t have a single penalty be reviewable when you have others that aren’t. Such as defensive pass interference plays, which can move the ball 10s of yards down the field and/or right to the 1 yard line… Bad pass interference calls have existed forever and they have a worse impact on the game than a bad helmet call.

    I agree that they should move to basically having an instant review of everything (as in other sports, and even college football). It would be ridiculous to just keep putting tiny Band-Aids on it. The issue is that the NFL has made it impossible to actually ref a game. This one penalty is not the actual issue.

  3. In a time when the NFL is struggling on different levels, this is how they start the season. More drama and controversy. More reviews? Why don’t we start serving actual subpoenas and have a courtroom off to the side of the field to decide games. BRING BACK THE GAME OF FOOTBALL.

  4. Slowly moving towards flag football folks. I’m all for safety but too much can be too much. There is risk in every sport. Players know what they sign up for. The big problem the NFL has is that the front office is pretty much a buddies country club and people that had never played the sport is actually running the sport.

  5. 100% agree, Florio (wow!).

    A couple things to consider as well….

    Making these calls subject to review could make the refs more reluctant to call it in the first place. For one, they don’t want to slow the game down even more. But more importantly, they don’t want their calls to be subject to question. Call it ego, call it whatever. As long as it limits this terrible rule being called, I don’t care.

    One question I have though, is there any specific league rule or law that prevents the owners from getting rid of this rule AFTER the regular season starts? Obviously it would be ideal to get rid of the rule, or at least make the necessary changes, before the season starts. But just like how a few years ago, the league felt increased urgency to get the real refs back in the fold once the outcomes of games started becoming seriously affected, couldn’t they still change or kill the rule after the season starts, too?

  6. Plain and simple, you wanna play and make millions? Here sign this waiver…now let’s get back to football…

  7. Replay!? I’m not sure I have that kind of time! If that’s the case, can we at least have beer sales until the 2 minute warning?

  8. One thing that can be learned from the 2017 season is that replay only makes things worse under the current system where we now go into micro slow-mo and look to see things on a frame by frame basis and go with best guess rather then indisputable evidence.

    Having this be replayable under the current system basically means that every play after the 2 min warning will be replayed and the last two mins of each half will take about 45 mins to complete (not including the extra time for the early afternoon games which have to wait in the replay que) and Riveron will screw up about 50% of them.

  9. A better fix:

    Don’t call the infraction in the game. Fine players 5K for each tackle that is initiated with the helmet… and give them a chance to appeal. It won’t affect the outcomes, and you will still change behavior over time.

    It’s not that hard.

  10. The issue is that with the way the rule is written there are still a lot of violations that are not being called. And therefore it is 100 percent on the refs to decide when they will gift teams 15 yards and an automatic first down.

  11. Mike,

    Thank you for the way you’ve covered this & for constantly beating the drum of the rule being broken.

    It’s not often I post a message without the intent of trolling, but this rule (as currently written) has the potential to ruin the upcoming season before it beings.

    The league needs to take action NOW, before we’re stuck watching meaningful games impacted by this silly rule.

    Thanks Mike!

  12. Why bother watching most games? With teams like Detroit, Tampa, Cleveland consistently losing and now this awful rule, why waste your time? Even my staunchest football fanatic friends are looking elsewhere to find something to do on Sunday afternoons.

  13. I’m sure the league doesn’t think it needs fixing. The only ‘fix’ they’re worried about will get done BY the new helmet rule.

  14. I hope to God they don’t ruin the season with this nonsense.

    I’m not even watching the pre-season this year because I don’t want to be repeatedly infuriated by the stupidity of these specific calls. Especially because my preferred team just might have a chance to win it all this year.

    This rule is a disaster. We all know they are going to call it repeatedly in the pre-season and then they will try to put the egg back into the chicken when the regular season starts.

    You can get that chicken to sit on the egg, but it’s not going to let you shove anything up it’s pie hole.

    Right now, I feel like that chicken. The NFL is shoving this rule onto all of us and nobody wants it except their stupid lawyers. The same lawyers that want a lock out every time there is a new CBA.

    Please, stop listening to the lawyers (no offense Mike) before they ruin the game.

  15. Oh man, the 2018 season is going to be a disaster. Nothing like a new rule that will be inconsistently called to destroy a season. Just can’t wait for the replays pointing out the huge gap between how this is called.

  16. More instant replay interruptions of the game. Wonderful.
    As a Raiders fan I was extremely excited about the return of Gruden, but as the season inches closer I can’t remember a time I was less excited for football to begin. And I think it’s because of this awful rule and other watering down measures and the continuing drama about who will/won’t kneel. I really think the league has hit a tipping point with its disregard for its true fans. Expect additional ratings decline this season.

  17. Well stated. It only makes complete sense to have offsite officials tracking games and using said officials who have immediate access to replay technology to correct incorrect calls almost instantaneously. For this reason, sadly, the NFL will likely not do what makes the most sense.

  18. At the rate they’re calling this both coaches in a game could use all their challenges on these bogus calls and not have them for other crucial things.

  19. Which will slow the game down and hurt the rhythm of the game. Please NFL, stop allowing all of these new rules created by non players continue to erode the game I grew up loving.

  20. Hint: Goodell wanted this as another way to cheat and manipulate games how he wants them to be.

    Think 2006 Def PI enhancement of that rule and what the league has turned into trying to maximize ratings.

    It’s funny to me how obtuse some people still are when it comes to cheater Goodell.

    The guy cheats right in front of the NFL customer and some people still can’t see it.

  21. You make perfect sense Mike, except for the time factor. This rule is a disaster, and it seems everyone knows it and are trying to find a fix where none really exists except by putting each call under a microscope, which shouldn’t be necessary. A rule should be succinct and clear to everyone to pass mustard; if not, scrap it until the rule makers understand what they want to convey in words that are clear and to the point.
    These stoggy old farts who come up with these rules, have no sense of the reality of the game, the real time in which action takes place, and the urgency for good decisions to be made by officials in order to facilitate the smooth flow of the game.
    I believe that any new rule changes should have to go through the NFLPA and ratified by the players, who do know something about the realities of the pace of the game and are the ones (in theory) that these rules are designed to protect.
    As you pointed out, time is running out before the regular season begins and this “rule” is going to take more than a bandaid. So far, the preseason games have been tedious and lacking in entertainment because of the endless discussion by commentators of “the new rule” throughout the game on top of the times it was actually called and the disruptions ensuing “legitimately”.
    Any rule that changes the outcome of the game or is this controversial should be automatically replayed and reviewed BUT, “rules” should be clear and easily understood otherwise trash it and start over another year. What’s the hurry?

  22. Some_pro_Zac says:
    August 20, 2018 at 12:54 am
    Plain and simple, you wanna play and make millions? Here sign this waiver…now let’s get back to football…
    Good call. But it makes way too much sense, and Roger doesn’t do “sense”.

  23. Every few years they’ll tweak rules like the catch rule and this one so the officials can manipulate games depending on who the league wants to win.

    PS If tacklers would WRAP UP, they wouldn’t get called for penalty!

  24. .
    wasting more time with this…

    and also its a waste of a challenge cuz u would need to do it every quarter and every other playing against the pats

  25. Yes, these penalties should be reviewable, but the best thing is that the penalties should only be called in egregious cases. Tackles where there is only minor contact with the helmet should remain legal.

  26. “You can’t have a single penalty be reviewable when you have others that aren’t.”

    Too late. Illegal forward passes, 12 men on the field and illegal touching have all been reviewable for years. The dividing line is judgment calls (most penalties) versus those few that are absolute.

  27. wait until one of these judgment calls screws up a game for a team (or teams) competing for a playoff spot. this is going to get worse before it gets better.

  28. Florio, you had some good suggestions regarding the helmet rule but c’mon, more replay reviews? They can’t even make consistent judgments on what is or isn’t a catch with replay. They’re probably going to uphold a penalty because a helmet grazed the opponent by .000005 inches before the shoulder hit.

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