- Associated Press - Sunday, November 25, 2012

The NFL is America’s pastime, hands down.

Imagine how much fun it would be if they got rid of about half the rule book.

The replay challenge penalty? The tuck rule? Muffed punts can’t be advanced?

Ridiculously harsh. Completely unnecessary. No idea why it’s like that.


The league clearly has too many folks on the payroll who have too little to do, so they get together from time to time in fancy hotels to come up with ways to justify their existence.

The result is a set of rules that have grown into a convoluted mess, with no sense of what is reasonable or even needed. It’s as though the NFL is trying to keep everyone _ the players, the fans, the coaches, even the officials _ in a constant state of guesswork.

We can imagine a day when we’ll hear the referee explain a call thusly:

“Due to the coach challenging a play that was already subject to an automatic review, but because he was able to tuck his red flag back into his pocket before he muffed it, we will assess a 15-yard penalty, run 20 seconds off the clock, and order his team to switch conferences.”

A bit over the top, for sure.

But not by much.

The league needs to get busy, expunging the rules that aren’t needed and bringing some common sense to the rest. Start with the head-shaking replay rule that may have cost the Detroit Lions a much-needed win on Thanksgiving Day.

That one should be erased from the books immediately.

“This comes up every year,” said Ray Anderson, the NFL’s director of football operations. “Can we simplify and be more cohesive and get rid of some rules that may be offshoots? We will go through that exercise again. We have rewritten some of the rulebook over the course of the last few years, to try to simplify it and get it to be more coherent.”

Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to do, thanks to a “we must have a rule for everything that can possibly happen on a football field at any given time in the course of human history” mindset.

The replay challenge penalty has already been called several times, including the previous week in Atlanta, but no team was impacted more than the Lions’ in their overtime loss to the Texans. For those eating turkey at the time, the officials clearly blew a call on a long touchdown run by Houston. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, justifiably outraged, threw his red challenge flag to make sure the play was reviewed. That wasn’t really necessary, since scoring plays are subject to an automatic check from the replay official.

Story Continues →