Welcome to The Big Question. Every week during the offseason, Dave Spadaro, Chris McPherson and Bo Wulf will debate one of the hot topics surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles. We invite fans to continue the discussion in the comments section. Enjoy ...
BW: OK, Spuds, it's just the two of us today. Since the league is voting on three new PAT proposals, let's talk potential rule changes. If you could change one rule in the NFL, what would it be?
DS: This is one I've been advocating for years -- allow all 53 players to be active on game days. I just don't understand the inactive rule that allows 46 players to be in uniform on game days. I've been told, as I've asked around for years, that it helps balance the playing field if one team is healthy and another has some players nicked up. I say to that: Tough beans!
From a player safety standpoint, allowing all 53 players is a no-brainer. You want to keep a starting cornerback from running down on kickoffs in coverage? Simple enough. Let a player from 47 to 53 on the roster become a special teams player. You want a third quarterback to become the holder on field goals and PATs? Dress him, rather than subjecting a No. 2 quarterback or a punter to an injury on some kind of freaky play.
The Eagles made rookie defensive lineman Taylor Hart inactive for 16 games last season despite many games during which he would have had a chance to get some developmental snaps and learn on the go. Wouldn't it have been more beneficial for everyone involved to get Hart some reps and let him improve that way? Instead, the Eagles are hoping that Hart makes the big jump after not playing a single regular-season snap in 2014.
That's just an example, and maybe a weak one. The point is that there is no logical explanation for why only 46 players are active for games and seven others are standing in sweat pants watching the game after practicing all week. I can't stand that rule.
BW: I actually had this conversation with friends recently. The devil's advocate would argue that there would be a competitive advantage to healthier teams, although that is sort of the case anyway. I'm actually not sure it helps from a player-safety standpoint though, because if everyone were made active on game days, that could push the boundaries of injuries even more. If I have a 3-4 week injury, but I can play sparingly now, I'd probably suit up and damage long-term healing.
It's also not like all 46 active players are used extensively now. Sure, Taylor Hart's "Feeley" meant that he got no regular season reps, but how many games would he have really been called into action? My guess is that the greatest impact would come on special teams, where units could become even more specialized. Then again, if a player was designated early as a "special teamer," maybe his long-term progression as an offensive or defensive player would be stalled.
I'm not saying I disagree, necessarily, just trying to think of the domino effects.
For me, the 50-yard ticky-tack pass interference is an untenable nuisance. That a quarterback just heaving the ball downfield hoping for pass interference has become such a high-percentage play is not in the "spirit of the game," I think. The college rule of 15 yards is probably not punitive enough to deter cornerbacks from playing for the interference downfield, but there must be a happy medium, something like 20 yards or half the distance to the goal line.
Also, I applaud the Eagles for their PAT proposal, especially in one instance. That the defense cannot score on an extra point or two-point conversion is one of the league's silliest rules.
DS: I actually like the pass-interference penalty. Otherwise, you're going to see defenders dragging wide receivers to the ground rather than allow any big passing plays down the field. Make the defense play in coverage. Don't take away the big play. I think it makes for a heckuva a lot of great endings to NFL games.
I'm sticking to my inactive-player complaint. And I'll add this: Let's seed the conference playoffs according to regular season records, not which teams win the division titles. Go ahead and use the division title as a tiebreaker, but there is no way a team that wins 11 games should be a wild card playoff participant and a 9-win team hosts a playoff game. Silly rule. Makes no sense.
All of this said, Bo, we both agree that the NFL is the best game in the land. You can argue about the rules -- and I think it's great how much the game has changed over the years yet the NFL still puts out the best product of any sport -- and you can talk about the increased schedule deviations -- are there too many Thursday night games? -- but you cannot argue how awesome this game has been and will continue to be.
BW: I'm partial to Jeopardy! myself, but yeah, the NFL is pretty good stuff.
Here's my last rule-change question. How far into the future will spotting the ball be revolutionized? We know the current process is super imprecise, but with the advent of data/space tracking, I don't think it'll be long before that changes. I guess 2020 makes sense from a narrative perspective (get it?).
DS: I do get it and you are brilliant and that's technology, not a rule, tough guy. I kind of like the human element of things, though. A fraction of a foot here and there, what's the difference between friends!