The NFL’s Spring Owners’ Meeting

One of the annual events on the NFL’s calendar is the Spring Owners’ Meeting and one of the features of that convocation is always the adoption of new rules and regulations for the league.  The process to get a new rule – or a modified existing rule – on the books allows for teams to propose a change; then the Competition Committee reviews/endorses the proposals and perhaps suggests changes of its own; after that, the endorsed changes go to a vote of the owners themselves and a change requires a 75% supermajority for approval.

As is generally the case, the changes that are approved often involve things that the average fan did not know were part of the NFL’s rules and regulations.  In 2023 here are some examples of arcane provisions in the rulebook:

  1. Players will be allowed to wear jersey number zero and punters/kickers can wear any two-digit number they want outside the range of 50-90.  This should change exactly nothing about the way games are played or the outcomes of any games.
  2. The NFL preseason rosters will have a maximum of 90 players until a specified date when all teams must cut from 90 players to 53 players all at once.  Why the league would want to have almost 1200 players cast aside by the 32 teams on a single day is a mystery to me.
  3. Teams will have until the following Monday to claim players waived on Friday or Saturday of the final week of the regular season.  Then teams making the playoffs will have until the Wednesday after the final regular season game to declare their playoff rosters.  Proponents of this rule say it will make those processes more orderly; I was not aware that those processes were chaotic in the past.

There were some rule changes approved at the Owners’ Meeting that can influence the way teams play and potentially on the outcome of some games:

  1. Failed fourth-down attempts will get an automatic booth review which will be relayed to the officials on the field meaning there is no need for a coach’s challenge and a review by the officials on the field.  Proponents of the rule change say it will speed up the games because of the faster review process.  Those are the same folks who used to call it “instant replay” and we know for sure that replays in the NFL are anything but “instant”.
  2. Tripping penalties are now going to be penalized by 15 yards and an automatic first down.  Previously, it was only 15 yards…
  3. Forward handoffs – as are often effected in RPOs – are disallowed.  Handoffs must be lateral or behind the player doing the handing off.  I am not sure how game officials are going to be able to work their mechanics such that at least one of them has a view of every handoff from a perpendicular perspective relative to the sidelines.  I think this rule change will cause more controversy than is necessary.

I always look at the proposed rule changes that do not get the necessary supermajority to find their way into the rulebook.  I often look at them in comparison to the ones that are approved and wonder what was going through the minds of the voters.  Here are some proposals that were not accepted for 2023:

  1. One proposal was to have roughing the passer calls added to the reviewable list.  Last year there were several very questionable roughing the passer calls and those penalties can seriously affect game outcomes.
  2. Once again, a proposal to do away with onside kicks was not accepted by the owners.  This time the onside kick would have been replaced with a 4th and 20 offensive situation where control of the ball would b e determined by the outcome of that single offensive play.  According to league stats, only 4% of onside kicks were successfully recovered by the kicking team in 2022.
  3. Another proposal was to resuscitate the so-called “3rd QB Rule” which would allow every team to dress a 3rd QB in every game and that designated 3rd QB would not count against the 46-man roster declared for the game.  That player’s participation in the game would have restrictions as were stipulated in previous NFL rules.  The playoff game between the Eagles and the Niners last year when the Niners suffered debilitating injuries to both of their active QBs makes this rule change seem like a zero-cost alteration since most teams carry three QBs anyway.

One action that had been anticipated for this year’s Spring Owners’ Meeting seems to have been obviated.  Reports said that there could be an announcement by the league regarding the ownership of the Washington Commanders.  The Snyders have been mercifully silent during the course of the meetings and the only news on the “franchise purchase front” are reports that two bids of $6B have been put on the table.

  1. One bid involves the current owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in a partnership with a Washington-area billionaire and Magic Johnson.  That bid is described as “formal” and “fully financed”.  I understand “formal”; it would seem to me that any “formal” offer would have to be “fully financed”, so there must be a nuance there that I do not understand.
  2. The other bid is fronted by a Canadian real estate magnate and private equity fund manager.

I have professed in these rants on multiple occasions that I cannot read minds.  So, what I am about to say has to be taken in that context:

  • It seems to me that ever since Danny Boy Snyder was in the process of buying the Washington franchise in the late 1990s, he has always enjoyed immensely those occasions where he was the center of attention.
  • Over the past several years, he has been the center of attention for lots of “wrong reasons”; and even if you ascribe to the view that “any publicity is good publicity”, you might get to the point where more bad news about you is not nearly as welcome as it used to be.  [Aside: For those who do believe that any publicity is good publicity, let me refer you to the Archdiocese of Boston for a sanity check.]
  • Danny Boy Snyder can milk this situation.  He can be the center of attention and have his name in the headlines where the story under the headlines does not seek to tie him to sordid and smarmy behaviors as the person running the Washington franchise.  He might actually enjoy this current status.
  • Ergo, I will not be even slightly surprised to see this process of negotiation and vetting and approval and new issues go on for another year.  Unless one or both of those $6B offers comes off the table because the bidders think they are being used, this is a process that can go on for a while and provide Snyder with the enjoyment of the limelight.
  • Or not…

Finally, since today has been about “rules”, let me close with this assertion from The Communist Manifesto:

“The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “The NFL’s Spring Owners’ Meeting”

  1. A solution to the glacier pace of instant replay offers the greatest opportunity for moving the game along.

    1. TenaciousP:

      The XFL and the USFL seem to get that aspect of the game done far more quickly than the NFL does. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there…?

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