Let’s take a step back from the Falcons, and take a look at the NFL officiating changes most likely to impact how players play the game and how we watch it.
The rule changes which noticeably affected on-field play during the preseason, when we saw more yellow flags than at Talledega Speedway, aren’t actually changes at all but rather “points of emphasis” for officials. The NFL Competition Committee instructed officials to focus on what Pacific Northwest conspiracy theorists call the “Legion of Boom Rules” since they will directly impact aggressive secondaries such as Seattle’s:
– Defensive players were never allowed to do this but, much like holding by offensive linemen, defenders grabbing some jersey as receivers attempt to get separation was considered a part of the game and impractical to call every time it happens. It seems that’s no longer the case, so get prepared to see part-time referee/full-time strong-man Ed Hochuli’s crazy biceps as he emphatically delivers his sentence, “5-yard penalty, automatic… first down!”
NFL Referee Ed Hochuli and Biceps Make The Call
My primary concern was the NFL is already so pass dominant that further handicapping defenders would turn my beloved league into a nightmare of Arena League-like proportions. To my relief I found some compelling evidence to the contrary from one of my favorite sites – fivethirtyeight.com.
Senior sportswriter Neil Paine soothes my stress with his statistical analysis of previous attempts by the league to curb defensive holding and illegal contact. “At least in terms of illegal contact and defensive holding, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the frequency of either penalty being called and the NFL’s overall level of passing efficiency.” I just hope this isn’t a case of past performance does not guarantee future results.
“…there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the frequency of either penalty being called and the NFL’s overall level of passing efficiency.”-NeilPaine,fivethirtyeight.com
Then there’s the most absurd change to how games will be officiated in 2014. I term it the “I Gotta Call My Daddy First” rule in which referees can call their boss, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino, in New York to discuss replay calls. Beyond the fact that already interminable replay reviews will become Super Bowl Halftime-long, the final call still rests with the on-field ref. Huh? Yeah… how many times have you ignored your supervisor’s advice on a tough decision? I can already hear Blandino throwing a ref under the bus with some version of, “I’m simply here to provide advice, the on-field referee retains final decision-making authority.” Maybe I should call it the “Cover Blandino’s Backside” rule.