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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Interference Penalty in the NFL (Among Other Things)

Mel Kiper, Jr. made a great point on the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio this morning.

In football, there are two types of roughing the kicker penalties and two types of facemask penalties. Call them "lite" and "regular" or "you just nicked the guy" or "you dadgum plowed him over." However you slice it, if it's at the ticky-tack end of the continuum, your team gets a smaller penalty and not necessarily a game-changing one.

That seems about right. If you simply bump a kicker on fourth and nine, it's a five-yard penalty but it's not an automatic first down. If you flatten the guy, you get more yards tacked on and an automatic first down.

Interestingly, right now the same logic doesn't apply to the pass interference penalty. Brush a guy fifty-two yards downfield and the penalty is at the spot of the foul, which, translated into layman's terms, means that it's a fifty-two yard penalty. Clock the guy at the same spot, and, yes, it's the same fifty-two yard penalty.

We're talking some serious NFL real estate here.

Game-changing real estate. (So, if you're going to get called for it, bludgeon the opposing team's wide out, why don't you?)

Sure, the difference between running into and roughing the kicker, poorly interpreted, might change a game too, because the kicking team might get to keep possession in the waning moments. But in a game where fifty yards could well be more than 15% of a team's total offense on a given day, the difference between brushing and blitzkrieging an opponent's wideout downfield could really mean the difference between who wins and loses.

Mel Kiper, Jr. wants the NFL to gradate the penalties for pass interference the same way the league currently does for facemask violations and knocking over punters. He's right.

And, while they're at it, the NFL should try to amelioriate its officiating situation generally. Are there too many replays? Is the standard for overturning a play too high? Is the problem that officials have day jobs? Given all the money that's made in the sport, shouldn't the referees work full-time? Should there be more on-field officials? Do the calls have to be that precise? Or, as with baseball and basketball, do players need to adjust to an umpire's strike zone or how tightly the officials are calling jostling under the boards, which, in football, is how tightly they're calling holding on any given day? What gives?

Changing the pass interference penalty would be a good start.

But it's only a start; calming down the persistent public agony over officiating should stop promptly. Had Seattle sustained its first-quarter game plan throughout the entire game, had the TE not had the drops, had the kicker made at least one of his attempts and had the coach manage the clock better, they might have won the game.

No, the calls weren't perfect.

And the Seattle Seahawks weren't perfect, either.

Let's not hold the officials to higher standards than anyone else.

The quicker the Seattle coaching staff and players realize that, the quicker they'll be able to rebound and get ready for next season.


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Blogger Diana said...

In American football and Canadian football, pass interference is a penalty that occurs when a player interferes with an eligible receiver's ability to make a fair attempt to catch a forward pass. Pass interference may include tripping, pushing, pulling, sportsbook, or cutting in front of the receiver or pulling on the receiver's arms. It does not include catching or batting the ball before it reaches the receiver. Once the ball touches any defensive player or eligible offensive receiver the above rules no longer apply and the defender may tackle the receiver or attempt to prevent him from gaining control of the ball.

4:14 PM  

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