Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rethinking personal fouls

Since forever, a personal foul in college or professional football will cost a team 15 yards. Sometimes. It all depends where they are on the field. Between the 30 yard lines, the 15 yard penalty is in play for both the offense and defensive teams.

But consider what happens when an offense gets past an opponent's 30 yard line. If the offense commit a foul -- they're still penalized the entire 15 yards. Yet if a defender is the culprit, it's only half the distance to the goal line.

Just a couple days ago, yours truly saw an NFL defender commit a personal foul when the opposing offense was on his 1 yard line. The penalty? A half a yard. Had the defense committed another on the ensuing play the penalty would have been a quarter of a yard. Another would be an eighth. Then a sixteenth. Theoretically, this could go on forever and, while the offensive team is carting off their injured players, they still wouldn't have scored a touchdown. Further, if the offense retaliates even once, they'll find themselves back at the 16 yard line. This has always been grossly unfair. There's a better way.

When the teams are between the 30 yard lines, as mentioned above, leave the rules as they are. A foul on either team will still result in an immediate 15 yard penalty.

But when an offensive player is fouled between the 30 and 15 1/2 yard lines of the defense, march off the whole penalty. Not half way to the goal. The whole 15.

Here's an outside the box idea. Once inside an opponent's 15 yard line, if the defense commits a personal foul on the offense -- give the offense the option of "banking" the penalty or taking it first and goal at the 1 yard line. This would be especially relevant down close to the goal line, as also mentioned above. After all, offensively speaking, what's the difference between running a play from the half yard line or quarter yard line? And had the offense scored on the play in question, assessing a 15 yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff hardly qualifies as punishment for the receiving team that committed the foul. Most NFL kickers can already boom kickoffs out of the end zone while kicking from the 35 yard line. Moving it up 15 yards to the 50, merely means they can likely kick it into Row 8 or so of the end zone fans. The current system hardly serves as a deterrent to defenders taking "cheap shots" in the shadow of their own goal line.

So why not let the team that was fouled bank the 15 yard penalty, and cash it in any time they wished for the remainder of the game -- while either on offense or defense? Though delayed, justice would have finally been served, and how interesting might game strategies become? Fans in the stadiums or watching on TV would be absolutely riveted wondering when their team was either going to pull out it's bonus card, or get banged, depending on whether they were the offenders or the offendees earlier in the game.

NFL head coaches currently have a red challenge flag they can throw after any particular play to have it reviewed. So why not give them a different colored flag -- pink, an exquisite chartreuse, or even polka dots would do -- to signify they intend to "bank" the penalty and have it enforced at a later time of their choosing?

Imagine. A particularly egregious team had racked up, say, 3 personal fouls, but the other team had banked them. If towards the end of the game the original offenders were driving for the winning score and inside their opponents' 5 yard line, the other coach could throw his flag and back them up 15, 30, or even 45 yards, depending on how much of his cache he wished to cash.

It would drive the screaming announcers, analysts and talking heads absolutely bonkers trying to predict the possibilities and/or figure it out.

And how can that be a bad thing? They already drive the average fans crazy.....

Justice indeed.

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