But does that mean we want football back exactly the same? Absolutely not. So while we have the chance to debate these things, here's a few items for consideration:
- The Tuck Rule - I have to mention this first because it cost the Jets a trip to the Super Bowl this season. Well, not really. The Jets taking too long to get themselves motivated was the biggest factor. But it wasn't the only one. When Mark Sanchez was hit in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, it was ruled a fumble on the field, which allowed Pittsburgh to return the ball for a defensive TD. The points off that play represented the difference between victory and defeat for the Steelers. Just a week earlier, the tuck rule was used to reverse a call in the Chiefs-Raiders wildcard game, even though it seemed obvious in that play that Matt Cassel was not attempting a pass at all. Not every forward arm motion is a pass, but cocking your arm back usually is. So why is a backwards arm motion a potential fumble situation, but not a forward one? This insanity has been a source of frustration since the spotlight first shone on it in the January 2002 Patriots-Raiders game. Even Mike Pereira, former NFL Vice President of Officiating, thinks it's time for this rule to go. That's an opinion no one should take lightly. Solution? You want to know when a ball has been passed? When it's left the quarterback's fingertips. If you can knock it from his grasp before that? Fumble, plain and simple.
- Coaches' challenges - I pointed this article out to friends last week, and to quote myself from then, "instead of the 2(+1) system they have now, [how about] teams only get one challenge, and they can keep reusing it as long as the challenge is always good? It does create more pressure not to use it early, but I am ok with that. It pretty much creates pressure on using it at all. A team should only be challenging when they are sure something was wrong. The coaches won't be worried about using it early if they are confident it was a bad call that will be overturned. Which is different from the current system which basically gives them opportunities to challenge borderline calls just in the hopes that it would get overturned." Solution? Well I pretty much just outlined that, I think.
- The Pro Bowl - "Please, somebody put the Pro Bowl out of its misery." That's how Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders put it on his Twitter account. And he's right. Mike Zanoni over at the Sterling Shakers agrees, saying there is nothing wrong with having no all-star game for football, especially when the risk of injury is greater for what is a meaningless game, and the lack of skills competitions makes the weekend anti-climactic. Solution? The Senior Bowl. This would be the perfect chance to highlight some of the names that are going to be showing up in the draft, and the players in that game actually have some incentive to give it all they've got - a big game on a nationwide stage could help boost their draft potential. Plus, going from the Senior Bowl to the combines to the draft keeps attention on the NFL alive right through April. Kill off the Pro Bowl and put the Senior Bowl in its place the week before the Super Bowl.
- Subjective calls - What happened to you, Ed Hochuli? You used to be cool, man. But lately it seems like your calls have become more and more uneven. In that same Jets-Steelers championship game, you called Eric Smith for unnecessary roughness but did nothing about James Harrison's identical hit later in the game. This after the questionable unnecessary roughness call a month earlier on Ndamukong Suh in the Bears-Lions game. That Suh hit was with a forearm, and was nothing compared to Harrison's hit. Maybe I am just more sensitive to Hochuli's calls ever since 2008, when he cost my Chargers a playoff spot in a game against the Broncos, but he needs to get a little more consistent. When TMQ - the best football column out there - can call you out on three major mistakes in a championship game, something is obviously wrong. Solution? A big slice of humble pie should do. Which starts with me saying that right now, I personally think Mike Carey has supplanted Hochuli as the best ref in the game. I know that won't cause Hochuli to lose any sleep, but it's a slippery slope, and then the next thing you know, he is the Danny Davis of the NFL.
- Peter King - on the opposite end of the spectrum from TMQ, is King's MMQB. While King can offer some interesting analysis (in between bits of fanboy fawning for Tom Brady), his column's segments confound the English language. When you talk about Ten Things, stick to ten (or call it something else). When item 10 is broken down into parts a.-m., you don't have ten things. You have twenty-two. Much like when you have Quote of the Week I, II, and III. It can't be the Quote of the Week if there are three of them. Could you not just call it Quotes of the Week?
In the end, football is still the best sport we have right now, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Just as long as that doesn't include the Canadians.