While the 2016 NFL Rules changes were relatively uncontroversial and broadly expected, one of the rules tabled for further discussion in 2017 could cause a dramatic change to the fabric of the NFL.
With the NFL’s continuing global expansion, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn proposed a dramatic change in the NFL rules which would help improve the NFL’s international appeal. Kahn, who also owns English Championship soccer side Fulham FC, suggested the NFL adopt “soccer style scoring” for future seasons.
As debate continues over the future and value of the extra point, Kahn’s unique proposal gained some traction with several other owners, and in particular, Atlanta Falcons president, Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee.
According to the proposal, the six-point touchdown, and one-point extra point would be scrapped altogether, and the three-point field goal would be drastically re-imagined, and re-valued to a single point.
In the new scheme, teams would be able to throw, kick or even dunk the ball between the uprights for a single point. The traditional field goal would remain an option for teams on fourth down, but as Khan pointed out “Our league is so quarterback driven, and today’s quarterbacks have such big arms anyway, that we think the majority of teams will instead prefer to attempt to throw the ball between the uprights.” Punters are also expected to become some of the most valuable players in the league, as teams will be able to score by kicking the ball through the field from open play at point on the field.
The vote nearly passed for the 2016 season, but, according to committee member Rick Smith, the GM of the Houston Texans, “one of the most important parts of Soccer style scoring is the goalkeeper. He keeps scores low, which, we think, is the thing international fans really want. Right now, we don’t have a goalkeeper position in the NFL, which we would need to create, and we would need to work on a way of giving them freedom of movement between our goalposts.”
According to Smith, the NFL is currently contracting with Cirque du Soleil to create a unique harness system which will give an NFL goalkeeper full 360 degree range of motion between the uprights to block scoring attempts, but the high-flying circus did not think they would be able to modify their existing system, and install it in all 30 NFL stadiums in time for the beginning of the 2016 NFL season. Therefore, the rule will be tabled for future discussion in time for the 2017 season, where it is expected to pass unanimously.
According to McKay, the NCAA feels that a similar system could be implemented at the college level to ensure that players feel comfortable as they transition into the NFL, but have yet to commit to a timeframe for changing their rules. McKay said that the NFL was willing to offer a package of financial assistance to colleges to help install the required harnesses throughout their stadiums. “We will need a continual stream of NFL Goalkeepers coming into our league. We have identified a number of circus performers and gymnasts who would be willing to step in the gap initially, but they will need to come from the college ranks eventually. We believe this would be a worthwhile investment.”