Author Topic: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- By BayAreaGiants  (Read 1652 times)

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MightyGiants

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BBH Original: Upon Further Review- By BayAreaGiants
« on: July 29, 2016, 07:18:35 PM »
BBH's own former college official (his name is Al by the way) does an in-depth look at the NFL rule changes this season.  Al also has connections with NFL officials which allows him more insights.  We are going to try something different this season.  We are going to leave the thread unlocked for people to ask questions.  Now I know refs are not popular with many fans.  We at BBH as you keep the questions and comments respectful.   

A LOOK AT THE NFL OFFICIATING CHANGES

by BayAreaGiants (Al)


It is almost time to play football again and time to take a look at some of the changes that have (or haven't) been made related to NFL officiating during the off season.

NFL Front Office Changes

Despite the assumptions of some and the claims of many, the discipline (i.e., fines and suspensions) that is handed down weekly to NFL players is not the work of Roger Goodell but a committee within the NFL office previously headed by Merton Hanks, the ex-49er and reporting to Troy Vincent, Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Both Hanks and Vincent, as well as the other members of the committee are ex-players.

Hanks left his position with the NFL during the offseason and the league has announced that Jon Runyan has been appointed to a newly created position of vice president of policy and rules administration. Among his duties, Runyan will serve as the executive in charge of on-field discipline — namely, fines and suspensions — with the approval of the executive vice president of operations and the commissioner. Runyan will also “oversee club and game-related initiatives related to players … and also supervise the Uniform and Protective Equipment Inspection Program.”

In his 14-year career, Runyan was primarily an offensive tackle for the Oilers, Titans, Eagles, and Chargers.  He was selected to the 2002 Pro Bowl, and played in two Super Bowls. During his playing days, Runyan was named as the second-most dirty player in the league by his peers in a 2006 Sports Illustrated survey. (Patriots safety Rodney Harrison finished #1 garnering nearly one-quarter of the vote.) After retiring from football, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, representing a congressional district in southern New Jersey. In 2014, he did not run for election to a third term.

New Officials

After significant infusion of new faces into the NFL officiating ranks over the past two seasons, there was only one on-field retirement in the offseason, head linesman George Hayward, and three NCAA officials were hired by the league in the offseason. All three new officials participated in the league's Advanced Development Program last year,
By bringing in three new officials and losing one, the size of the officiating staff will increase to 124. As a result, five veteran officials are designated as swing officials, and will be assigned to different crews during the season. The swing officials also provide backup in case an official is injured during the season.

Existing Officials

Following a trend started last season, Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino has announced a significant shake-up in officiating crews this season from last year. Although all 17 Referees will return, many of the crews will undergo major changes with Pete Morelli's crew completely revised after the group had a less than stellar season last year.
In addition, Blandino announced that contrary to the traditional practice of keeping officiating crews together from week to week throughout the whole of a season with few deviations, this year there will be an intentional practice of moving officials between crews as the season progresses. 

There are many that feel that this practice will destroy one of the key aspects of any officiating crew, consistency and familiarity between crew members. On the other hand, it will enable the league to "hide" certain poorer performing officials from key matchups or high profile games during the season. Crew consistency allows officials to develop chemistry with each other as they learn how the other officials work on the field. If mistakes are made, the crew gets to review the situation and make the necessary adjustments. If officials are being moved around constantly, there is no such opportunity to work things out and upgrade the following week.

There was no indication how often this new practice would be implemented or how many officials each week will change crews. The implication was that changes would be made as necessary and where it would be most beneficial; otherwise, crews would remain the same.
There are five swing officials on the NFL staff and they will be rotated between crews throughout the season. Many of these officials have significant experience and some have worked the Super Bowl in the past. The existence of this backup staff will allow the insertion of a more experienced official into a crew where some of the younger officials may be experiencing problems.

Based on my discussions with some of the officials, the movement between crews is not supported by most of the veteran officials but they have no choice. It would, however, have been of some value last season when Morelli's crew almost had a weekly meltdown due in part to the weakness of at least one crew member.   

Potential Future Officials

This year, the NFL has included 29 younger officials in its annual preseason developmental/training program. These officials will attend preseason clinics, training camps, scrimmages, and crew meetings and have a chance to work preseason games. Once the regular season begins, these college and CFL officials will return to their regular conference or league to officiate. If a future vacancy opens on the NFL roster, one of the developmental officials could be hired. As part of the NFL's continuing social engineering experiments, there are three women included in the program.

The increased size of the program is indicative of at least two factors: 1) a number of the more veteran officials will be retiring over the next 1-3 seasons; and 2) there is a possibility of the NFL going to 8 officials next season  Both reasons will create a significant number of openings in the officiating staff.

The developmental officials will wear the regular NFL officials’ uniform and will have numbers above 136 during the preseason games.

[As a side note, 4 NFL officials are officiating in the Canadian football League this summer and a similar number of CFL officials will be working NFL exhibition games. In addition, three CFL officials will join the NFL Officials Development program. Although the cross border swap is being sold as an opportunity for some of the younger NFL officials to gain additional game experience, there are many who believe that it is a tacit recognition that some of the officials that have been added to the league staff over the past two seasons lacked the necessary experience to work in the NFL but had been promoted in any event.]

Equipment Changes

The NFL has announced that microchips will be placed in footballs during the preseason in order to study the kicking game (i.e., field goals and extra points). The intent of this experiment is to determine how field goals can be modified to make them more difficult for the kickers. With the microchips, new information such as how close a kicked ball comes to the uprights and how far a kicked ball travels can potentially change the format of the current scrimmage kick. The chips will weigh less than a quarter of an ounce and supposedly will not impact the performance of the balls.

During the 2015 Pro Bowl, the NFL  tried a narrower goal width with the goalposts  narrowed from the current width of 18 feet, 6 inches to 14 feet. This change, along with the PAT kicks coming from the 22 yard line resulted in two missed extra points and one missed field goal.

The microchips will strictly be used for experimental purposes in the kicking game, and not for any officiating-related aspects of the game, including line to gain, forward progress or possible goal line scoring situations.

Pass Completion Rule

In response to the furor last season regarding when is a pass complete, the NFL undertook a detailed study of the situation during the offseason and came to the conclusion that the rule as presently written will remain basically unchanged. Although there has been some wording added to the rule in an attempt to clarify when a received should be deemed to have possession and complete the catch (see below), the basic rule remains the same as in the past.

Despite the wording changes, the catch process involves the same three elements as in the past: control, two feet, and time. A player must control the ball, get two feet in bounds, and have the ball long enough to become a runner (the time element). If the player is going to the ground, he must control the ball all the way through the contact with the ground. There is nothing a player can do on his way to the ground that can demonstrate a catch — reach, stretch or lunge, that will change the call

It was mentioned that in the event of “bang-bang” plays (i.e., virtually instantaneous contact with the receiver) the time element cannot be determined and as a result, the pass is to be ruled incomplete. Replay officials will also be included in the analysis of the play (although it is unclear how this is to be done on plays that are not challenged) to ensure that the time element is taken into consideration. The Replay Officials have been instructed to run the play at full speed and not to go too slow so as to distort the time element.

The revised wording of the rule is as follows: [Key wording changes underlined}

"Possession of Loose Ball. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball long enough to become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone." 

As in the past, if a receiver goes to the ground while attempting a catch, he must maintain complete control all the way through the process for the catch to be complete.

Announcing Change

Mike Carey will not be back with CBS next season as the "officiating guru." Although a solid onfield official, Carey's performance in the booth left a lot to be desired and his contract was not renewed. Mike Pereira will continue with Fox.

In the next posting, I will discuss the new rules and the new wording that has been added to the Rule Book. Often the latter changes are just as important as the former.

« Last Edit: August 26, 2016, 10:12:06 AM by Vette »
"THE 2007 and 2011 GIANTS WERE NEVER PERFECT, NOR MEANT TO BE.  THEY WERE FIGHTERS, SCRAPPERS, NOW THEY CAN BE CALLED SOMETHING ELSE....WORLD CHAMPIONS!"

Vette

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2016, 09:06:48 PM »
Excellent, Al!

When you mentioned Runyon being named the second most dirtiest player by peers it reminded me of the saying, "We teach what we must learn."


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"There is a greater purpose...that purpose is team. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way, winning the right way is a very important thing to me... Championships are won by teams who love one another, who respect one another, and play for and support one another."
~ Coach Tom Coughlin

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2016, 09:56:45 PM »
Another potentially applicable statement is  that" You set a thief to catch a thief." And I am not necessarily talking about his political career.

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2016, 10:09:59 PM »
Al

 Not to start a controversy here, but Refs like Morelli have been bad for a number of years. What does one have to do to get released or demoted to a regular official. Myself, I have never been a fan of Morelli. He really looks lost out there many times. I know there must be bright young guys out there who would and could do a much better job, so why is it so hard to get the 'bad' wood off the pile and bring in energetic new blood.

AND, how did the lone female official do last year, and, I assume, she is back?
I HATE TO INCLUDE THE WORD NASTY< BUT THAT IS PART OF BEING A WINNING FOOTBALL TEAM.

Charlie Weiss

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2016, 01:08:18 AM »
Pete Morelli has constantly ranked in the top half of the individuals at his position for many years. He is an excellent rules person and is an effective teacher and leader so I disagree with your assessment. There have been occasions when Referees have been moved back to other positions after a few years for multiple reasons. Referees are graded on a variety of factors many of which are not recognized by the viewing public. Unfortunately last season Morelli was saddled with a crew that had problems including Sara Thomas and the others spent much effort covering up for her. She has now been moved to Walt Anderson's crew. The effectiveness of many Referees is highly dependent upon the strength of the crew that they are assigned and there is often little that can be done to cover up a weak link. 

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2016, 09:33:32 AM »
Al,

I want to publicly thank you for sharing these outstanding insights.   Have you heard anything about where they would put an extra official?

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Re: BBH Original: Upon Further Review- A look at the rule changes
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2016, 11:47:14 AM »
Probably deep downfield splitting the field with the Back Judge. Another possibility is in the Offensive Backfield similar to the Center Judge in college.

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BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2016, 07:24:38 PM »
Al, our resident officiating expert goes over more of the rule changes for the 2016 season:

Each year the NFL rulesmakers tweak the rules in most part to address situations that arose during the season and, at least lately, to improve player safety. The changes often take two forms: a) new or revised rules and b) changes to the wording contained in the rule book intended to clarify existing rules. [A further mechanism are the Points of Emphasis that that are issued to the officials and shared with the team to highlight situations that require further attention from the officials. One such situation last year was the setting of picks by offensive receivers that should be (and were) called as Offensive Pass Interference.]  Given the number of such changes this year, I will address them in two separate postings.   

Specifically, the rules changes are as follows:

4-5-1 and 4-6-5 - Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team timeout is erroneously granted.

5-3-3 Permits the offensive and defensive play callers to use coach-to player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches’ booth. 

8-1-8 Eliminates the five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver illegally touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and reestablishing himself inbounds, and makes it a loss of down. 

11-3-1 and 2 Line of scrimmage for Try Kicks permanently moved to the defensive team’s 15-yard line.

11-6-3 Spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick is moved to the 25-yard line. 

12-2-3  Makes all chop blocks illegal. 

12-2-15 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.   

12-4-1  A player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of  unsportsmanlike conduct fouls is disqualified from that game.   

14-5-2   Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.

Although there are many (but not this writer or the officials) that claim that the NFL Rule Book is overly complex, the rules are written to address specific situations that have occurred in the past and to eliminate the need for officials to use their judgment when such situations arise. As such, I personally have no problem with the changes that have been implemented this season or the nature of the Rule Book as a whole.   

The following looks at each of the above changes (and others) in greater detail. 

In an obvious response to the "deflategate" situation,  it is now indicated that "Each team will make 12 primary and 12 backup balls available for testing by the Referee no later than two hours and 30 minutes prior to the starting time of the game to meet League requirements." After testing (and the results recorded), the balls will be marked and maintained under control of a league representative until the start of the game.   

As was discussed in the previous posting, the words of the rule involving a completed pass have been tweaked to indicate: "Possession of Loose Ball. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball long enough to become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone."

Associated with the above rule is the following: "A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete." 

In an attempt to clarify the conditions for "Intentional Grounding," it is now indicated that: "If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball after forward movement begins, a forward pass is ruled, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player. When this occurs, intentional grounding rules do not apply.  If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball before forward movement begins, the direction of the pass is the responsibility of the passer, and grounding rules apply." The gist of the change is to indicate that the passer cannot be held responsible for where the ball lands if he is contacted in the course of the throwing motion or if the ball is touched by the defense.

Intentional Grounding is also addressed by another word change as follows: "It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction of and lands in the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver." If this rule is enforced properly, it will eliminate the situation where the QB throws the ball into the third row of the stands either along the sidelines or in the back of the end zone. It will, however, continue to be a judgment call regarding what constitutes "the vicinity" of the receiver. Expect to see the covering official conversing with the Referee before a flag is thrown.
   
Following up on an incident last season where an Assistant Coach got into a shouting match with opposition players during an injury timeout, it is now specifically indicated that only "The Head Coach may enter the field to check on the welfare of a player who is injured, but no assistant coach may enter the field."

In response to the flap during the Super Bowl when the tossed coin did not turn over in the air (and was subsequently correctly re-tossed by the Referee),  wording has now been added to specifically address such a situation: "If the coin does not turn over in the air or the toss is compromised in any way, the Referee shall toss it again. The captain’s original call may not be changed." 

To address a situation that occasionally occurs when the officials acknowledge a request for a time-out even though the requesting team has no time-outs left, wording has now been added to indicate: "When a team is granted a second timeout during the same dead-ball period, or a timeout after exhausting its three timeouts during a half: Loss of five yards.  Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant it, and play will continue. A penalty shall be enforced only if the timeout is erroneously granted. After enforcement, all normal rules regarding the game and play clock will apply." 

Although many teams followed the practice of huddling on or near the sideline after a timeout or turrnover, such a practice made it difficult for the defense to adjust before the ball was initially snapped. The rules now indicate that: "Following a timeout or change of possession, the offense may huddle outside the numbers near its bench area, but will not be allowed to line up and snap the ball before the defense has an opportunity to match personnel. "

Last year while playing for the Packers, James Jones wore a hooded sweat shirt under his uniform and there were questions regarding whether he could be tackled by the hood during the course of the game. The rules have now been revised to indicate: "Players may not wear undergarments with an exposed hood hanging outside the collar of the jersey."

For many years the rule book allowed a runner to give himself up by intentionally sliding to the ground and making no effort to continue. Typically this occurred when the offensive team wanted to stop a play towards the end of the game to allow them to call a time out or when the QB decided he had gained enough yardage and wanted to avoid being hit. However, it was unclear whether a player giving himself up  other than a QB was entitled to protection from being hit once he went to the ground. The rules now make it clear that the rule applies to all runners not just a QB: "A defender must pull up when a runner begins a feet-first slide. This does not mean that all contact by a defender is illegal. If a defender has already committed himself, and the contact is unavoidable, it is not a foul unless the defender makes forcible contact into the head or neck area of the runner with the helmet, shoulder, or forearm, or commits some other act that is unnecessary roughness."

There are a number of wording changes related to what players may or may not do when lined up to avoid a false start call. These include:

" If all 11 offensive players have been set for at least one full second, and an eligible receiver who is on the line of scrimmage moves forward, it is a False Start, regardless of whether the action is quick and abrupt or slow and deliberate.".

"With the game clock running inside one minute of either half, if all 11 offensive players are not set simultaneously for one full second prior to the snap, it is a False Start."

"All offensive players are required to come to a complete stop and be in a set position simultaneously for at least one full second prior to the snap. Failure to do so is an Illegal Shift. "

The major change here is the inclusion of the words "one full second" in the rule. Previously, the rule book indicated that the players had to come to a complete stop but the duration of the stop was not defined. With this new addition, expect to see additional false start calls at least early in the season.

Prior to this year, if an eligible receiver went out of bounds and then returned and was the first to touch a pass, it was a five yard penalty at the previous spot.  That rule has now been changed to make the penalty just loss of down at the previous spot (i.e., elimination of the yardage loss) as follows: "First touches or is caught by an eligible receiver who has gone out of bounds, either of his own volition or by being legally forced out of bounds, and has re-established himself inbounds.  Penalty: Loss of down at the previous spot. "   

The remaining rules changes will be addressed in next week's posting.
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Bob In PA

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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2016, 07:38:25 PM »
Al: This seems to me like an unusually large number of changes for a single year. 

Is this about the same amount of changes as usual?

Bob

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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2016, 08:39:45 PM »
Bob - It is only 9 "rules changes" and the rest are wording changes/clarifications. This is about standard although there are years where there are fewer and years where there are more. I would put it right in the middle. Last year there were 9. In 2014 there were 6. It all depends on what "strange" or controversial situations occurred during the previous season. 

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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2016, 07:26:37 AM »
How on earth do they remember all this in a dynamic fast moving game like football. It's no wonder that this group of Officials are comprised of some very successful people with prior and current demanding careers. In other words, they would have to be scoring pretty high on the wonderlic test as well as being multi-taskers.   
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~ Coach Tom Coughlin

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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2016, 11:26:40 AM »
How on earth do they remember all this in a dynamic fast moving game like football. It's no wonder that this group of Officials are comprised of some very successful people with prior and current demanding careers. In other words, they would have to be scoring pretty high on the wonderlic test as well as being multi-taskers.

I can't speak for Al, but knowing the rules is second nature. You don't stop and think (unless it is something very out of the ordinary), you just make a call and know it is correct. Same as in baseball, I make calls and do not have to stop and think what the rule is, I know it and make that call naturally.It is all about the way it is interpreted by each individual, and I'm sure it applies to all sports officials.
Each man MIGHT interpret a basic rule a bit differently in their own mind. Each rule is clear cut but we are all individuals and in each mind we may see what is clear cut, just a bit differently, even if it is specific in the rules. It is human nature.
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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2016, 12:15:17 PM »
When you spend many years and many off season sessions studying the rules, they almost become second nature to you. It also helps that there is a certain logic to the rules (that is often not understood by the typical fan) that enables you to quickly go through a progression in your mind to arrive at the necessary  conclusion. Combining that with repeated testing and reviews both during the off season and in-season and the fact that there are six others on the field with you to question if a decision does not seem right, makes the overall process a fairly easy one for those involved. It also helps that given the extensive experience of many of the officials in the NFL, they have seen it all at one time or another in their careers so very little is "new" when the situation arises on the field. This is one of the reasons that I react negatively when I see cries from some that what is needed in the NFL is "younger" officials. "Younger" often means less experience and with less experience comes less understanding of the basis for the rules.

As a result of all of the above, the calls that are made on the field are the result of a number of factors but the over riding factor is the dedication and experience of the individuals making them.     

Vette

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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2016, 01:33:02 PM »
Thanks Al and Lenn. Al I have a question. Maybe I'm having a senior moment but I recall somewhere reading about moving in the hash marks for a preseason. Any recollection?


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Re: BayAreaGiants: Upon Further Review Rule Changes Part Two
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2016, 01:55:46 PM »
A number of things have been talked about to make the kicking game more difficult including the possibility of using narrower goal posts. But I have not seen anything about moving the hash marks. I will check when I get a chance.