Like it or not, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is all about safety. That’s just how it is nowadays with all the concussion issues and health scares floating around the sport.
Goodell’s latest proposal aimed at improving player safety is to eject a player after his second personal foul.
“I believe that the league should pursue a policy where if there are two personal fouls in a game, there’s an automatic ejection of the player,” said Goodell, unveiling his most recent brain child. “I believe that’s consistent with what we believe are the safety issues, but I also believe it’s consistent with what we believe are the standards of sportsmanship that we’ve emphasized. They’ll obviously have to throw the flag, but when they do, we’ll look to see if we can reach an agreement on the conditions of which they’d be ejected.”
An interesting idea that certainly has the league and fans thinking, especially after Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib picked up his second personal foul on a facemask near the goal line in his team’s 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 Sunday. If Goodell’s new proposal had been in effect, the Broncos would not have had Talib for the rest of the game.
In 2015, only four players were thrown out of games. Yes, only four. Of course, it should be at least six given the lack of discipline in the Josh Norman–Odell Beckham, Jr debacle, but it was only four. That seems like a pretty small number for such a violent sport, especially considering some of the stuff we saw over the course of the season.
There’s a problem, though. Goodell’s rule change would have resulted in nearly 50 ejections over the course of 2015—almost three per week over the 17 weeks of the regular season. That sounds like the other extreme to me. While the NFL needs to uphold its values, it also shouldn’t aim to make ejections a natural part of the game.
Of course, the other problem with the rule is that personal fouls in the NFL are not reviewable until after the game when the league makes a decision on whether or not to fine the player.
Goodell’s big mistake is assuming that personal fouls, in general, are the problem. Nowadays, a defensive player can get flagged for roughing the passer simply for touching him the wrong way, especially against certain quarterbacks. Even Talib’s taunting penalty, which didn’t involve any contact, was, in my opinion, a terrible call.
If the NFL decides to proceed with this rule, they will need to clarify exactly what constitutes a personal foul and make said penalties reviewable immediately. The ref throws the flag, makes the call, and then goes to the booth to confirm or reverse it. Of course, a reversal would have to nullify the yardage as well.
That’s doable, but it starts to get tedious. Refs start to throw the flag a lot more knowing it’s reviewable, and if the NFL defines these penalties the way (God forbid) it defines a catch, then almost every call becomes controversial.
What Goodell really needs to do is find a way to stiffen the penalties for players like Vontaze Burfict. That hit against Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown should have no doubt resulted in an ejection.
Maybe instead of ejecting a player after two personal fouls, the league could suspend a player who accumulates five?
I don’t know. It’s not my job to figure this legislation out. But Goodell’s proposition definitely needs a makeover before it’s ready to be rolled out.