Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
The annual Combine in Indianapolis has long been a key time for NFL teams to evaluate former college players for the Draft. With increased media coverage in recent years, the Combine has become popular with NFL fans. Fans are now very familiar with the various aspects of the Combine. Most fans aren’t aware, though, of all the off-the-field business that takes place in Indianapolis around the Combine. This week is a crucial time for the Competition Committee as it puts together the slate of proposed rules changes to be voted on by the League owners at the annual meeting in late March.
Shortly after the regular season, the League office sends out a survey to all head coaches and general managers and asks for input on potential rules changes, officiating and other competition issues. The Competition Committee convened in Indianapolis last week to review the survey results, as well as injury data. Since so many people from NFL teams attend the Combine, it is also a great time for the Competition Committee to receive feedback on potential rules changes. Last week, we met with head coaches, general managers, representatives from the NFLPA and executives from the NCAA.
Most of the potential rules changes are once again designed to make the game safer. We considered a number of current blocks (chop, roll, downfield cut and peel-back) that can be dangerous to defensive players. We also discussed whether a quarterback should be given protection when running (read-option) in the pocket. We also looked at the current “hands to the face” penalty. The current penalty applies to both offensive and defensive players, and is called if the head is pinned back in a sustained manner. We watched a lot of film to determine if players are using a quick blow to the head as a tactic and if this should be a penalty. In making these decisions, an important fact is whether we think the officials will be able to effectively call the penalty. We also looked at low hits on defenseless players (Randall Cobb injury vs. the Ravens) to see if these hits should be prohibited. The argument is that since defensive backs can’t hit defenseless players high, the current rules are forcing them to hit these receivers low and causing knee injuries. We also looked at taunting and fighting penalties and want to ensure that players are treating each other with respect.
Another potential rule change that has received a lot of publicity involves the extra point. The proposal is to eliminate the PAT kick and just give teams seven points for a touchdown. If a team wants to try for eight points, it can take a point off the board and go for two. While there is some safety consideration with this proposed rule, it is mostly because the PAT has become an automatic play. Last year, only five PATs were missed out of over 1,300 kicks. The skill and accuracy of our kickers has improved dramatically over the years. Last year, kickers made 86 percent of all kicks and 67 percent of those over 50 yards.
Another big change we discussed was the possible expansion of the playoffs. The proposal is to add a Wild Card team in each conference for a total of 14 playoff teams. This should provide more excitement at the end of the season with more teams in contention for playoff spots and for the No. 1 seed and the bye. One concern is that it would water down the playoffs, but if the expanded playoffs had been in place for the last 10 years, the No. 7 seed would have been 8-8 six times, 9-7 eight times, 10-6 five times, and 11-5 once. The expanded playoffs would also produce additional revenue that could be used to offset a loss of revenue from a potential reduction in the number of preseason games.
Finally, we had considerable discussion regarding the instant replay system. While the system has worked well over the years in correcting the obvious, game-changing mistakes, we are always looking at ways to improve the system and reduce the time spent on reviews. We discussed whether it would make sense to move to the college system (replay official controls) or a centralized system as is used in the NHL.
Following the week at the Combine, the Committee takes a week off and then reconvenes in Naples for a week to finalize the rules proposals.
As you can see, February and March are busy months for the League officials and Competition Committee members. It all comes to a head when the votes are taken on the proposals at the owners meetings. All of the work is well worth the effort, especially when the end result is a safer, improved game.
Now, on to your questions:
Mario from San Bernardino, CA
How can one become a scout for the NFL, or more specifically for the organization of the Green Bay Packers?
I am often asked by college students how they can get into college athletics or professional sports. First, the best thing a college student can do is to work in the athletic department while they are in school. This can be working in marketing or sports Information in the athletic department or for a team. They will graduate with practical work experience that will set them apart from other recent graduates. This is a very tough field to break into, so you will have to be patient and persistent. I would also recommend focusing your efforts on the collegiate level since there are so many more opportunities. Many schools offer graduate assistant positions, which can be a great way to get your foot in the door and get a masters degree. Another option is to work for a firm that does work for or is a sponsor of a school or team. Since it is such a hard field to break into, many people start as interns or volunteers and work their way up.
Jamey from Chippewa Falls, WI
I understand that you were, as of last year, on the rules change committee. I have a serious rule change that I would like you to consider. The “half the distance to the goal” situations in the NFL have bothered me for a while because there is really no penalty when you are moving the offense back a couple of yards. Here is my idea. Instead of moving the ball back, move the first down marker forward. So, a team is on the 10-yard line after a punt that went out of bounds. They commit a holding penalty on a run play. Instead of it being first and 15 from the 5, move the first down marker to the 30 from the 20 and now it is first and 20 from the 10. What do you think? This rule would only apply in “half the distance to the goal” situations where the line of scrimmage is on the offensive side of the field. Obviously, you would still do half the distance to the goal on the defensive sides of the field.
Very interesting question, Jamey. I’ve never heard this suggestion and I can see your logic, since the teams aren’t penalized as much as they would be otherwise in the “half the distance to the goal” situations. The problem I see with your proposal is that you would not be moving the penalized team backward which, in theory, would make it easier for them to move downfield and score. Also, when teams are backed up to their own goal line, they are limited in the kind of plays they can run. Thanks for the suggestion.
A question from Thomas
I was wondering about the rules changes. Is there going to be an asterisk (*) in the record books for rules changes? How do you compare QBs like Roger Staubach, Sam Baugh, Y.A. Tittle, Terry Bradshaw or any of the greats who played when you could pick a QB up on a sack play and slam him to the ground? I don’t have a problem with enforcing safety rules. I say enforcing because using the crown of the helmet was never taught to be OK by anyone I ever received coaching from or coached myself. I do have a problem with comparing the NFL history books with regards to today’s players who have not had to play in as violent of an NFL.
Thomas, you make a great point. This is why you really can’t compare players (or teams) from different eras to each other. There are just too many factors that are different. It is fun, though, for instance to compare Bart Starr to Brett Favre, or Clay Matthews to Dave Robinson.
A question from Randy
With all the Packers have accomplished over its history, and under your leadership, what is the one thing that has eluded the organization that you hope to achieve?
Great question, Randy. Given the rich history of the Packers, there is not much that the organization hasn’t accomplished. Under my tenure, I would love to win back-to-back Super Bowls. In the modern era of the NFL, it is very hard to win back-to-back championships, and that would be a great accomplishment.
Dan from Superior, WI
As a season ticket holder, I am concerned about the team pricing preseason games the same as the regular season. We shouldn’t be paying for a product that isn’t even close to the same as the regular season. It would be nice to see the Packers either lower the prices in half or go back to when this game was not part of the season package. There are over 110,000 people on the season-ticket waiting list. Why not offer these games to them?
The quality of play in the preseason has been a topic of discussion at the League level for a number of years. The quality of play has dropped off considerably in recent years. So far, three teams have moved to variable pricing where preseason games are priced differently than regular season games. The Lions, for instance, reduced the price for preseason games by 70 percent. They increased their overall season-ticket price, though, by creating four premium regular-season games (including the game against the Packers). I anticipate there will be fewer games in the preseason within the next few years. It is a topic we will continue to monitor.