Football footnotes: Rating NFL rules voting on the ‘Riveron Scale’ |
Breakfast With Benz

Football footnotes: Rating NFL rules voting on the ‘Riveron Scale’

Tim Benz
Officials discuss a penalty in the second half of a divisional-round game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 13, 2019, in New Orleans.

For this edition of “Friday Football Footnotes,” I thought we should take a look at all the NFL rule changes — and failed changes — this week at the owners meetings. Let’s figure out which ones the league got right and which ones the league botched.

We will do so on the “Riveron Scale,” in honor of NFL Senior Vice President of Failur … uh, I mean … Senior Vice President of Officiating, Al Riveron.

You remember him, right?

Yeah. That guy.

So, we will rate the rules decisions on a scale of one Riveron to five Riverons, with five Riverons being the most offensively dumb rule decision possible.


Pass interference can be reviewed by replay: 4 Riverons

I’d be less harsh if the league restricted reviews to coaches’ challenges.

I’d even be even more on board than that if they limited the reviews to coaches’ challenges and booth reviews to actual flags that were thrown within the last two minutes, instead of broadening to non-calls, too.

But opening up reviews to the booth within the last two minutes is a terrible idea.

As evidenced by that Jesse James play above, scoring plays and plays within the last two minutes often get micro-managed by replay. The booth actively searches for minutia and tries to find cause for plays to be overturned, as opposed to just reviewing calls that have been made.

During the rest of the game, for whatever reason, replay is usually loath to overturn calls, even if — at times — an overturn seems absolutely necessary. The last two minutes will now take forever to complete as replay refs in the booth will consider plays that otherwise wouldn’t have been challenged. Much like holding, you can call pass interference on almost every play.

Plus, before the last two minutes, why are they limiting coaches’ challenges to pass interference when holds, blows to the head, false starts and blocks in the back can be just as damaging?

As the Steelers can attest.

Furthermore, there is a fuzzy area between defensive pass interference non-calls and illegal contact non-calls and whether a play can be reviewed. Also, game-ending “Hail Mary” passes in the end zone that never would’ve been called otherwise will be reviewed all the time now. That will drain the emotion from climactic plays or occasionally change the outcome of a contest entirely.

Plus, some coaches will challenge 50/50 pass interference calls and lose, and more obviously blown calls will fail to be fixed later. So, yeah, aside from all that, totally awesome idea, NFL. I bet this one-year experiment is ditched by this time next season.

Eliminating blindside blocks: 5 Riverons

Yet another rule change in a vain attempt to take contact out of a contact sport.

Yet another rule change in the name of protecting the players that is really being implemented in the name protecting the owners from lawsuits.

Yet another rule change to confuse the referees and the fans.


Keeping onside kicks: 2 Riverons

I’m not necessarily celebrating the existence of onside kicks. They rarely work. But I’d rather see them remain than see the league institute that dippy idea of getting one 4th-and-15 shot after a score to retain possession.

Giants’ owner John Mara was right before the vote was taken when he said, “What are we? The Arena Football League?”

Worse, John. You could’ve become the NBA! This rule would’ve been the football version of advancing the ball with a timeout in that league.

What the NFL should’ve done is restore onside kicks to the old alignment, thus making them more competitive for the kicking team. Or, reduced the yardage necessary to kick the ball from 10 yards to 5.

But that will never happen because of — say it with me — player safety concerns.

Overtime discussion tabled: 2 Riverons

The Chiefs wanted to expand overtime to make sure both teams got at least one possession. That discussion is on the back burner until the May meetings.

I’m lukewarm on this one. I’m not opposed to the current format. But I see the reason to change things up in the interest of fairness.

My only concern is that, next year, the Chiefs will lose in the playoffs because the other offense got two possessions and they only got one, and we’ll be back here all over again.

Plus, the longer the overtime, the more of a chance exists for challenged pass interference penalties. And I don’t have eight hours to watch one football game.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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