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Upon even further review ...

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Posted: Thursday December 10, 1998 09:02 AM


While we're bracing ourselves for the new and hopefully improved version of instant replay, let's take a stab at a few rule changes that would help to clear the game up.

The 5-yard chuck rule. I'll take some heat on this one, being a former receiver. Now the way the rule is written, the defensive player is allowed contact -- one blow, chuck, smack or mini-grab --within those first five yards. Officials don't call a foul when contact occurs at 6, 7 or 8 yards. Why not make it a flat 10 yards? Then throw the flags like crazy. Let the defensive player take that good shot within those first 10 and get on with the play. I believe we'd see more downfield passing and fewer of those 3-yard routes on 3rd & 8. Besides, most good receivers use the bump off the defensive player to their advantage.

Now the big one: Pass interference. I don't like to compare college football to pro football, with the BCS and that crazy overtime. But there is one area where the college game gets the nod over the pro game. Pass interference a 15-yard penalty, not a spot of the foul call. The deepest go or fly pattern is caught between 45 and 50 yards deep. These deep balls are hard to complete with no one guarding you. As it stands now, if the defensive player turns his head to the ball, he can extend his arm, thus impeding the progress of the receiver as he goes for the ball. I don't know about you, but if somebody rams my cart when I'm doing my last-minute Christmas shopping, and I end up sprawled in the Barbies I've been interfered with. Make the rule simple: play the man and not the ball. If you don't, you're looking at a 15-yard penalty. If it occurs in the end zone, 15 yards or half the distance to the end zone, the lesser of the two evils. In all cases, it carries an automatic first down.

And finally, the grandfather of all penalties, roughing the passer. Born from roughing the passer was "intentional grounding," "outside the tackle box," "in the grasp," and "fire the ball out of bounds and into Section J or through the end zone and into row 33." It's grown into the most complicated officiating of all.

We don't want to see our starting quarterbacks get hurt. Hurt the guy on the other team? That's a different story. And the rules become different for different QBs. Kordell Stewart is less in the grasp than Steve DeBerg. Roughing Dan Marino, a national treasure, should be a 30-yard penalty. Once again, make it simple: throw the ball to your guy, no flag. Throw it to the coach on the sideline while Neil Smith tries to get you to eat his favorite soup, you get flagged.

Here's my last shot at instant replay: mulligans! All you golfers will understand. Instead of the head coach challenging the call of the officiating crew and losing a time out, the coach could just use a mulligan. I know good players don't need mulligans, but have you seen some of these teams play lately? You'd handicap the teams. One mulligan for a new course, or the visiting team in this case. Another mulligan if you lost the week before. Just think, when Vinny Testaverde's helmet crossed the goal line (which must be the equivalent of a "gimme" when you play the Jets at their place) Dennis Erickson could have just asked for a mulligan. Just do the whole play over and everyone goes home happy. That's of course if you keep an extra ball in your pocket.

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