The NFL is not ready to admit defeat in regards to the new umpire placement rule, even though everyone and their grandmother knows the rule is complete crap and was very poorly vetted before being voted on (talking to you, Bill Polian). Despite the cries from fans, the complaints from stars like Peyton Manning, and the fact that both Super Bowl teams from last season (Saints and Colts) have been flagged six times in preseason because of this ridiculous rule, the NFL is going to keep it for 2010.
Why? Because they don't intend to admit failure even though this rule itself seems to define the word.
From the NY Times:
N.F.L. teams will receive a memo on Tuesday outlining the tweaks that the league hopes will smooth out the move of the umpire to the offensive backfield.
The N.F.L. has also instructed quarterbacks to look at the officials near the sidelines to get the signal that it is O.K. to snap the ball rather than having to turn around to take a signal from the referee, which was originally suggested. The N.F.L. determined that looking to the sidelines was less disruptive for a quarterback who is already looking side to side while checking on his receivers and reading the defense, and that the deepest officials downfield were simply too far to deliver the signal.
Some of the other subtle changes suggested in the article make sense while others are so very obvious they should have been implemented a long time ago, such as Carl Johnson, the head of NFL officiating, demanding his officials be more physically fit so they can cover ground faster.
If umpires were in good shape in the first place, they wouldn't need to be re-positioned for safety reasons.
However, other tweaks that don't make sense are the perceived 'lessening' of the rule if a team is attempting to hike the ball if they are trying to catch an opponent offsides, or run a play before someone can throw a red challenge flag.
Again, part of what makes the NFL great is the rules are reasonably finite. Sure, we often debate what does or doesn't constitute holding or pass interference, but the rule book itself is pretty specific. Holding is when an offensive lineman pretty much grabs hold of a defender and tackles him. Pass interference is when a defensive back impedes a receiver from catching the football. No contact after five yards. None. Zero. If you're a DB and you get beat, you cannot block, grab, hold, or trip the receiver, impeding his ability to catch the ball and make you look like a slow-footed dumbass in coverage.
Specific rules. Solid interpretations.
This is not like the NBA, where traveling is never called, make-ups phantom fouls are the norm, and if you breath hard on a superstar they blow a whistle. It's also not like baseball, where all these silly 'unwritten' rules make about as much sense as people 'celebrating' Alex Rodriguez hitting his 600th home run. I mean, come on! The dude was a juicer and the numbers he produced are utterly meaningless. If we are celebrating A Rod, let's celebrate Roger Clemens' legacy as well. Such a useless friggin sport.
Anyway, baseball and NBA ranting aside, the perception that the NFL has very specific, very definite set of rules that are rarely bent, twisted, or ignored given certain circumstances is a major reason why people love the sport so much. Now, with this silly umpire placement rule, you have the NFL saying, 'It's a 5 yard penalty, but only in this situation, except when the offense is trying to do that, by which we mean this, and thus is no longer a penalty... unless it's within two minutes.'
Bill Polian said something in the NY Times article that is interesting here:
Even Polian said last week that it typically takes two years to see the full impact of mechanical changes on the game.
In most cases, that is true. In this case, it isn't. We have seen the immediate impact, and we don't like it. As with all screw-ups that happen at the high levels of a major corporate entity like the NFL, the powers-that-be are simply going to move forward, egg on their face, pretending the yellow goo isn't oozing down their cheeks.