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Breaking down the proposed 2016 NFL rule changes

18 rule change proposals were submitted Thursday. Are they good or bad for the game?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The rule change proposals for the 2016 NFL season are out now, the collected works of a myriad of Football Men and Football Women conspiring to change around the Byzantine laws of the land to become more or less so in nature. These proposals will go before the 32 owners to be voted upon. Depending on their chaotic whims, these proposals shall become law or dust.

The NFL rulebook only has 18 rules, but these are divided into countless articles and sections and sub-sections and addendums and all the rest. A whole industry has evolved to plea for former officials to clarify the madness that appears on the field at any given moment, and the advent of video review has only made this process more drawn out and agonizing. Of course, every fan at home has his own immutable reading (or lack thereof) of the rulebook. It is a rather precise book, but yet perception being what it is we cannot help but struggle with the particulars at the best of times.

Here are the 18 proposed rule changes (one was submitted twice by different parties) and where I tentatively stand on the issue, should they make me Football Dictator for the day. Why they would do that is well beyond my reasoning, but nevertheless:

By Competition Committee; Permanently moves the line of scrimmage for Try kicks to the defensive team's 15-yard line, and allows the defense to return any missed Try.

This is already the case. It would just make the Great PAT Experiment a permanent addition to the game. I don't know what moving the PAT kick to the 15 yard line accomplished in the first place. I'm still getting up to go to the bathroom. Whatever, man.

By Competition Committee; Permits the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth.

Expect more accusations of the Patriots hacking/cutting off these comm lines at key moments. Technology is great. Approve.

By Competition Committee; Makes all chop blocks illegal.

Wait, they weren't already? Okay, they were only illegal on passing plays before but now they will be verboten across the board, which is fantastic. Chop blocks and their lesser but slightly-more-legal cousin cut blocks are responsible for far too many ankle injuries across the sport. Chop blocks have been illegal across the board in NCAA play since 1980. Approve.

By Competition Committee; Disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

On the surface I'm fine with this. I want to know what they mean by "certain types" of conduct. I'm assuming that the intent here is to make sure a guy isn't getting thrown out for excessive celebration or whatever, which is excellent if that happens to be the case. A breakdown on the responsibility of a coach to remove an uncontrollable player happened multiple times this past season, with Odell Beckham Jr. as the top example. When the unspoken rules fail, they have to become rules proper or the charade done away with entirely. Approve.

By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.

Come on, man! I understand the safety matters involved with kickoff returns and grown men barreling down the field at top speed, but we really cannot keep doing this with kickoffs. We're already making more touchbacks than ever, threatening the event of a kickoff to become a negligible matter rather than a moment of suspense and excitement. The more you skew the math to reward touchbacks, the more will happen, and notoriously risk-adverse NFL coaches will continue to take 25 yards rather than try their luck. Touchbacks are boring and awful. No one is excited for a touchback on a kickoff. Disapprove.

By Baltimore; to amend Rule 5, Sections 3, Articles 1 and 2 (Changes in Position) to require players to wear jersey vests with numbers appropriate for their positions.

...why? This smacks of someone very upset that the Patriots are still confounding dunderhead NFL defense coaches/coordinators with who is going into the game as an eligible receiver. Oh my stars, you actually have to be ready for something unexpected! I'm against this. This is tyranny, an attempt by the Man to control us. Will Evan Mathis still be able to wear 69?! Disapprove.

By Baltimore; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Articles 1, 4, and 5 (Instant Replay) to provide each team with three challenges and expand reviewable plays.

Baltimore's really starting off weak here. It may sound like a good intention to get every call right, but as we've seen, all this has done is make the game longer and slower and the referees still botch reviews from time to time. Is it really worth spending more time on all the officiating garbage we do already? At what point do we start worrying about the flow of the game rather than getting it right? I'm really trying not to sound like a baseball oldhead, but it's a legitimate concern with the NFL' s product. Reviews are not fun. They grind everything to a halt and make a game many think to be slow even slower. Disapprove.

By Buffalo; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Articles 1, 4, and 5 (Instant Replay) to permit a coach to challenge any official's decision except scoring plays and turnovers.

See above. This is just what the sport needs, more coaches throwing more flags because they're pissed off. They still don't have all the information most of the time but they have to act like they're doing their job and throw those ridiculous flags.

Seriously though, why flags? It's the 21st century. Why are we still asking a coach to throw a different colored bean bag onto the field of play? However, because it makes sense that should this be your course of action, you might as well let coaches have their way on whatever they want to challenge. In that light, the ruling is Whatever, man.

By Carolina; to amend Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1 (Intentional Grounding) to expand the definition of intentional grounding

This is just exploring the option of expanding intentional grounding? Okay, sure. I don't like the idea of expanding it because it's probably the most infuriating thing about football now. I know defenses must feel sad when the quarterback simply throws it away and saves the loss of yards from a sack (and it's fairly infuriating to watch if it's your defense), but considering how godawful this game becomes when the scant few quarterbacks that can actually do this job get injured we really shouldn't be encouraging it more, should we? But it's just not enough details to say. Jury's still out.

By Kansas City; to amend Rule 14, Section 2, Article 1 (Half-distance Penalty) to add penalty yards to the distance needed to gain a First Down.

This one's a little dicey to break down. Here's an example: if you're backed up against your own two-yard line and received a holding penalty, your offense would be moved back to the one-yard line and the penalty yards would be added, ie a first-and-10 would become first-and-20. It's a hefty change on a low-key level, but it's welcome. There's far less room for dumb mistakes when you're pushed back against your own endzone. Approve.

By Kansas City; to amend Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2 (Legal Forward Pass) to prohibit quarterbacks from falling to the ground, getting up, and throwing a forward pass.

We'd be deprived so much excitement from broken plays if this became a Thing. The best thing about watching Seahawks games is seeing Russell Wilson stumble around on baby calf legs, dodge two fire-breathing monsters barreling at him, running 15 yards in a half-circle back around towards the line of scrimmage and make a 30-yard pass to Doug Baldwin. It is simultaneously the most breathtaking and infuriating play you can watch in this sport. No. Go sack the damn quarterback. Disapprove.

By Minnesota; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 1 (Coaches' Challenge) to eliminate the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two Instant Replay challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.

Absolutely. I'm already out here with my shade on the review challenge system, but if you're going to have said system you can't keep legislating on when you can and cannot use it like this. Washington also submitted a proposal to amend this rule, so we can probably bank on this one going through. Approve.

By Washington; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, Articles 1, 4, 6 and 7 (Overtime procedures) to eliminate overtime periods in preseason games.


By Washington; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 4 (Reviewable Plays) to subject personal foul penalties to Instant Replay review.

*Inarticulate yelling*

By Competition Committee; Expands the horse collar rule to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.

It's amazing in the history of this ultra-violent game that more careers haven't been ruined by horse collars. Approve.

By Competition Committee; Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team attempts to call a timeout when it is not permitted to do so.

Avert thine eyes, Michigan basketball fans. No comment.

By Competition Committee; Eliminates the five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver illegally touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and re-establishing himself inbounds, and makes it a loss of down.

This seems logical. Approve.

By Competition Committee; Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.

This seems logical too. Less ceremony is better. Approve.

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