One week after we learned that the NFL’s competition committee was planning on proposing some drastic changes, we now have the verdict on what’s going to be different about the NFL in 2011. And we’ll have a chance to see the changes on the very first play of the year.
That’s because kickoffs will now take place at the 35-yard line, which is five yards up field. This is an attempt by the owners to curb violent collisions on returns. The original proposal, which I outlined in a post last week, called for touchbacks to bring the ball out to the 25-yard line, but that won’t be the case.
Coaches apparently felt that both changes made together would severely diminish the impact of special teams and return specialists. Now, with touchbacks only bringing the ball to the 20 and with the coverage team limited to just a five-yard head start (changed from 15), return men will still think twice about taking a knee. It also helps slightly that the two-man wedge was not outlawed.
Still, with kickoffs moved up, I have a hard time envisioning Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff ever giving a team a chance to start outside of their own 20. Cundiff had an NFL record 40 touchbacks in 2010.
Meanwhile, all scoring plays will be automatically reviewed. Booth officials will now treat touchdowns, field goals, extra points, two-point conversions and safeties in the same way they treat any play inside the final two minutes of the first half and regulation. In other words, coaches will no longer have to challenge controversial touchdowns.
Does this make the game longer? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I’d rather they get it right, every time.
And don’t even think about painting your field pink. The owners also passed a rule stating all playing surfaces have to remain “grass-coloured.” I’m wondering what sparked such a rule. Was a team pushing to become the NFL’s version of the Boise State Broncos?