BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NFL's Annual Meetings had its first major day on Monday.
It was a relatively quiet day to start the week, with Tuesday expecting to be a bit busier (Chuck Pagano, Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson are scheduled to meet the media).
Monday's news focused on the league's Competition Committee going over 19 rule proposals that will be voted on Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Rich McKay and Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino spoke with the media for about an hour on Monday.
They clarified some of the more significant changes/points that will be discussed in the coming days.
Here are the highlights from the Competition Committee:
- The competitive balance in the league is at an all-time high, according to McKay. The NFL's margin of victory in 2015 was 11.06 points, the lowest since 1995. For the 26th straight year, four "new" teams made the playoffs after missing it the year prior.
- The offensive numbers in the NFL continue to rise. Teams averaged 25.6 points per game, the fifth highest of all-time. The league saw record highs in combined yards from scrimmage (705.3), passing yards (487.7) and completion percentage (63).
- The catch/no catch rule will not be altered from a language standpoint. The emphasis will continue to be on "control, plus two feet and time." Of course, the "time" part is where the gray area lies. If a receiver hasn't become a runner, he has to control the ball through contact with the ground.
- Another proposal would move touchbacks up to the 25-yard line (from the 20-yard line). The committee believes such a change wouldn't cause an uptick in squib/mortar/shorter kicks. The hope is it would deter players from taking the ball out of the end zone eight, nine yards deep. The kickoff is frequently debated as the league focuses on improving the game's safety. Last year, Pat McAfee set an NFL single-season record for touchback percentage (90.5).
- The committee hopes to pass a proposal allowing for direct communication between the press box and the quarterback/defensive player with the accompanying headset. Currently, such communication has to come from a coach on the field. This impacts the Colts with Rob Chudzinski liking to call games from the press box.
- There is a proposal on the docket for players to be ejected after two unsportsmanlike penalties in the game. Blandino stressed that such fouls would come from acts directed at an opponent, throwing a punch/kick even though no contact is made. Two of these acts would lead to an ejection.
- The committee is proposing to permanently move the extra point to the 15-yard line, as it was in 2015. Point after attempts went from 99.4 percent at the two-yard line, down to 94.6 percent after moving it back this past season. As McKay put it, the play now is much more "meaningful."
- A point of emphasis in 2016 for the committee is on sportsmanship (see two points above). In 2015, the NFL had 75 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That's a stark spike from an average of 46 per season over the previous decade.
- Neutral zone infractions were a major problem last season. There were 164 of them, more than four times the normal average. McKay and Blandino pointed to silent counts and subtle movements from offensive linemen as a reason. This is also a point of emphasis for the committee in 2016.
- The committee is looking into adding an eighth official on game day (for 2017). The extra official would be assigned to the defensive side of the ball looking for defensvie holdings.