Sunday, January 04, 2009

Re: Football Penalties

I'm a little bothered by the number of football games I've watched lately in which 15-yard roughing the passer, roughing the kicker, personal foul, and unnecessary roughness penalties have had a significant impact on the game's outcome (often by giving a team that is struggling to move the ball an easy, unearned first down and a good chunk of yardage).

I don't have a problem with penalizing late and helmet-to-helmet hits, but 15 yards is disproportionate to the severity of many roughing penalities and personal fouls. A pass rusher cannot be expected to come to a dead stop as soon as the quarterback releases the ball, and a team that has forced its opponent into a fourth-and-long situation should not have to give up 15 yards because one of its players grazed the punter's leg while trying to block the kick. Sure, several late hits are egregious and dangerous and deserve to be punished accordingly; but many are incidental or accidental and are not cause for rewarding the opposition with fifteen yards.

Here's my solution: Football should have two types of fouls, much like basketball does. Regular fouls—for instance, when a player's momentum carries him into a quarterback or punter shortly after the ball has been thrown or kicked or accidental helmet-to-helmet hits where there is no evidence of malicious intent—should be subject to a 5-yard penalty and an automatic first down, except in the case of roughing the kicker. Incidental roughing the kicker should be subject to a 5-yard penalty and no automatic first down. (If it's fourth and 11, the offensive team shouldn't get a first down just because a defender accidentally touches the punter's foot.) Flagrant fouls—for instance, when a player clearly could have avoided running into a quarterback or kicker but did not or when there is evidence of malicious intent—should be subject to the regular 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

I'll work on a letter to the competition committee.


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