As you may know, the NFL has spent the past year working on some major rule changes as part of its 2020 Human Growth and Development (HG&D) Program. These changes, which were adopted on March 27, will go into effect for the 2021 season, and they will significantly change the face of the game:
The NFL is looking to make changes to the game in the coming years, with the goal of improving player safety and making the game better. The most obvious change that fans will see next season is that officials will no longer be able to make game-changing calls like ‘illegal contact’ (which is when an offensive lineman initiates contact with a defender before the ball is snapped) or ‘illegal formation’ (a play in which the offensive line is in an illegal formation) to negate a down.
The NFL will be adjusting the rules for kickoff plays, quarterback rushes, and other plays that are considered part of the game. The net result should be more scoring and excitement. But, since there’s so many changes, the game will take on a completely different look… or will it?. Read more about new nfl rules 2021 covid and let us know what you think.
The majority of us see NFL rules as a set of prohibitions. Teams have various perspectives on things. They see the rules as a path to competitive advantage, and they concentrate on what it permits.
In 2021, it means finding out how to take advantage of a regulation change that imposes new low-block restrictions. Following the departure of senior vice president Al Riveron, it entails collecting dossiers on the league office workers who will make replay judgments. It also entails learning how, under a new regulation, officials will utilize in-stadium replay officials in real time to assist them in making certain decisions.
We sought the advice of former NFL referee and current ESPN officiating expert John Parry to better grasp the knowledge teams have been gaining this summer (you know they aren’t sharing it publicly). The low block rule, according to Parry, will have a disproportionate impact on defensive backs, allowing offenses to execute more successful outside runs and screen plays. Coaches may be less inclined to challenge plays if the replay process is unclear, according to Parry, and there is “a 100 percent possibility” that referees will utilize their replay officials for more than the new rule permits.
This spring, we released a comprehensive list of the 2021 rule changes, and what follows is a modified version of the questions we asked Parry about how they may affect the game and playcalling in 2021.
Seifert: Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Blocks below the waist will be permitted only inside a newly constructed tight end box, which is defined as 2 yards outside the offensive tackles and 5 yards on each side of the line of scrimmage, beginning this season. Linemen can only cut block in that region, while defenders can only go low. What happens to the upper hand?
Parry: Definitely the running game. This regulation, in my opinion, has given the large offensive lineman who is going to the perimeter on the outside run or screen play a matchup advantage. You ask that huge man to come over and block individuals who don’t want to take on the block. This is something that teams may take advantage of. Because of this, offensive coordinators may shift more of their run game to the outside. Maybe that’s why Andy Reid went out and recruited a slew of new linemen in Kansas City.
Seifert: But wouldn’t the linemen suffer as well? Out there, they’ve misplaced the cut block.
Parry: Based on angles, speed, and where the defender is, the offensive player always had several choices for the block, in my opinion. He had the option of cutting block or staying high and just running over the opponent. He has choices. But, as far as I can tell, the defense now only has one. It’s to remain high, and given the size and weight disparity, that may not work out.
Seifert: This regulation seems to be designed to safeguard athletes from lower-body injuries. Is there anything unique about the tight end zone’s interior that makes it safe to cut block or for defenders to get low in that area?
Parry: When the league talks about rule adjustments, they sometimes leave the meat on the bone and don’t go far enough. I suppose I would have wanted to see the statistics they used, but I wouldn’t be shocked if, in the future, assuming players adapt as they normally do, they claim you can’t block low anyplace on the field. Maybe this time they didn’t go far enough. Perhaps they did. Perhaps the box will vanish entirely in a few years.
Seifert: A sky judge, who might make officiating decisions based on what they observe on a television feed in the sky box, is another development that has looked conceivable in the near future. The NFL has yet to go that step, but they have devised a method for the current replay official to assist referees on some objective calls. Will this be of assistance?
Parry: The goal is to correct problems that are extremely precise, unambiguous, and objective. Is the foot off limits? Is it obvious that the ball has been dropped? The goal is for the coach to be able to move the game forward without having to utilize a challenge. However, it should only be utilized as a safety net and a backup plan. If we put too much pressure on someone higher up, most of whom have never worked as an official on a football field, the final result will be poor in the long run.
Seifert: Former NFL officiating chief Mike Pereira has been outspoken in the past about referees requesting and getting assistance from replay officials during games through wireless headphones, despite the fact that there was no rule allowing it. Has that been your observation and experience?
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Yes, Parry. Officials are huddled together. Because they’re talking to this person in the press box, we see their hands on their hips and on the earpiece. Because it’s so loud, they keep putting that earpiece in their ear to hear it better, and they’re asking them additional questions.
Seifert: So, given that collaboration on some kinds of calls is permitted, what are the odds that officials will seek assistance from their replay officials on plays not covered by this rule?
Parry: Without a doubt. We did it, I can tell you from my years on the field. Officials will seek for assistance even though they don’t always have it. They’ve been using it, believe me. They’ll utilize it once they have an earphone and a means to converse between two humans. That has been the case since the officials’ earpieces were implanted years ago. You’d be surprised what you’d hear if you wore those earpieces.
So, yeah, I think the seven officials on the field and the officials in the replay box will utilize it for anything they want. That has been done, I can tell you from personal experience.
Seifert: So, in the past, the replay official was questioned about decisions like pass interference and needless roughness, which aren’t covered by this rule?
Parry: Yes. I’ll give you an example. In 2018, I worked at a regular-season football game in Philadelphia. On a 2-point attempt, Houston Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney clutches and twists Eagles quarterback Nick Foles’ face mask. But I can’t see it since I’m positioned at an angle behind the quarterback and he’s crouched down. I have a feeling something is going on, but I can’t see it, so I can’t call it that.
So I pressed the replay official’s button on the communication system. My hand is on the flag. “Tell me if you get a replay and it’s a face mask, and I’ll throw the flag,” I say. There were, however, crickets. There was no way to see it on television. I’m looking at the Jumbotron, and it’s very clear. I would have thrown it if it had been shown on television.
Seifert: That seems to be an obfuscated method of achieving the desired outcome as often as possible: Without resorting to a formal replay review, the right decision is reached. However, when a review is conducted in 2021, the procedure will be somewhat different. Al Riveron, the former senior vice president of officiating who had ultimate say on all reviews in recent seasons, has stepped down. The NFL has said that two additional senior vice presidents, Walt Anderson and Perry Fewell, would be in charge of making decisions, but has not specified how that will be done. Shouldn’t we — and our teams — have a better understanding of it by now?
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Yes, Parry. That irritates me. Every team wants to see consistency and be able to make connections with prior calls. Teams may feel safe contesting a comparable play today if it was reversed three weeks ago. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a group working on it, but someone needs to make the ultimate call and say, “Ok, we had the exact play two weeks ago in Green Bay, and we need to be consistent, so here’s what we’re doing.”
Seifert: Both Walt Anderson and Perry Fewell are former referees and coaches, so they aren’t exactly replay specialists. What exactly does it imply to you?
Parry: I’ll place it in the realm of coaches or teams. If Fewell, who has worked as a coach, were in charge of replays, he would approach them differently than Anderson, who was an on-field official. They’re seeing through a different lens. As a result, I believe coaches would want to know who makes the ultimate decision. That will influence how they decide whether or not to challenge. Because they have a different perspective, this is useful information.
Seifert: The NFL’s continuing attempts to calibrate offensive holding are a last source of competitive advantage this summer. Officials threw 40.7 percent fewer flags for offensive holding last season than they did this year, which is one of the reasons the league established scoring records. The competition committee promised to investigate the concerns and establish a benchmark for what clubs may anticipate in 2021. What do you believe it is going to be?
Parry: We had a couple of wild years when we called everything, and I was a part of it. Then there was last year, when we wondered, “Where did it all go?” There was no such thing as holding. I believe they will try to strike a balance between the number they had last year and the amount they had when we were very busy.
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I still believe that certain officials will go onto the field, regardless of what they’ve heard, with 30-35 years of experience and an understanding of what a hold is. They know when it affects a play and when it doesn’t, and this season they’ll call them. That’s why they’re out there in the first place. There are senior individuals operating this game that feel that, and I believe the league will try to strike a balance between when to call it and when not to. In recent years, it’s gone far too far in both ways, and they realize they need to find a middle ground.
But don’t most fans like it the way it was last year? Seifert:
Parry: The figures that were produced last year seem to have been accepted by the majority of people. Everyone like the fact that there are less fouls and less holding. The game is progressing more quickly. However, if the game is not adjudicated properly according to the rules as stated, the game will alter — and frequently not for the better. The evil man must sometimes triumph in order for the narrative to be interesting, and the bad person is usually the defense. There have been teams who have constructed their defenses around outstanding pass rushers who have been held all season without getting penalized. This season, I believe the league will seek greater balance in order to make it more equitable.
Although the NFL is defensive about its approach to letting players deal with head injuries, it’s hard to deny that the league has been slow to take action. In the past, the concern has been that a premature retirement from the league would dampen a star’s reputation. Now, the league is showing a degree of forward thinking, even if it’s a long way from doing the right thing.. Read more about nfl demographics 2020 and let us know what you think.
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