Peter King of SI does a good job exposing the NFL's idiocy for implementing the new umpire placement rule that seems to kill no-huddle offenses like the Colts, Saints, and Patriots. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few weeks:
The umpire traditionally was the official who most often spotted the ball, then scurried back about five yards behind the defensive line of scrimmage to watch the play unfold. But last year, keeping with the recent tradition of physical plays against the ump because he was the center of a bunch of offensive crossing routes, there were approximately 100 collisions between players and umps. Three of those resulted in concussions. One resulted in an umpire needing shoulder surgery, and another ump need knee surgery after being knocked down.
Now, I didn't write much on this rule change during the off-season and preseason because I trusted the league's judgment on this. They said it was a safety issue for the umpires. Too many umps were getting run over and, supposedly, 'injured' during games when they were positioned behind the d-line at the snap of the ball.
However, as King astutely points out, the umps will return to their old position behind the d-line after the two minute warning for the second and fourth quarters of a game. Well, if the reasoning for moving the umps is 'safety,' why move them back in the danger zone after the two minute warning?
The NFL has created one way of ump-positioning for 56 minutes and one way for the final two minutes of each half. In a way, the league is saying, We're concerned about umpire safety, but we're still going to allow 10 or 12 plays a game, on average, to be snapped with the umps in harm's way. "It's like you saying to your kids, 'Don't touch that!' '' said Manning. "Then you say, 'Well, you can touch it a couple of times.' '' The league's trying to straddle the fine line of not affecting the game too much with the health of officials. It's a tough call.
It's not a tough call. It's a moronic one. If the issue is safety, they should move the ump from behind the d-line and have another official place the football. If the league does not want to affect the game too much, keep the ump where he was and give him pads and a helmet. Or, here's a novel option, get tougher and better conditioned umps instead of these old, fat, part-time lawyers who move with all the speed and hustle of a turtle on Quaaludes.
Shouldn't the umpires now be the ones in the best physical condition, not the biggest men on the crew? I think if the league sticks with the ump behind the offense, the physical dimensions of the umpire will be altered with a nod toward a guy who can run all day. "I worry about the umpires' conditioning,'' said Indy GM Bill Polian, also a Competition Committee member. And from being on the phone about this since Thursday night, he's not the only one who worried that the current average-sized umpire is not the ideal physical specimen to be doing the job the way it's defined now.
It's important to note that Polian voted for this rule change as member of the NFL's powerful Competition Committee, which means he bears part of the responsibility for this disastrous outcome. According to Peter King, what Polian is saying now is that, because the rule change is resulting in a 5-yard 'false start-snap infringement' penalty, it has become something he did not intend it to become.
This is a cop out by Polian.
Rules do not mean anything unless they are enforced by penalties. He knows this, or, at least, he should know this. Break a rule, pay a penalty. Without the basic tenet that there will be a consequence to a rule violation, the rule itself is no longer a rule. It's a guideline.
Why is the "false start -- snap infringement'' penalty even called? Why not simply just do the play over? [NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson] said if there was no penalty in place, then there'd be nothing to stop a quarterback from hustling to snap the ball on the edge of the rules. If the passer knew he'd be able to do the play over regardless, then why not try to play hurry-up?
Just a complete a total screw-up by the NFL and its decision-makers. The only way to fix it is to simply go back to the way things were. Anything less is just more incompetent mismanagement. If this rule was in place last season, the Colts would not have been able to make their amazing comeback against the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium. That game was, arguably, the Game of the Year for 2009.