Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NFL Games Are Taking Too Long – Here Are Eight Ways to Speed Things Up

Regular-season NFL games don’t get much more entertaining than the Dallas Cowboys’ 35-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. There were seven lead changes, four in the last eight minutes. The Cowboys scored the winning touchdown with nine seconds remaining.

But now for the flip side: because there were 13 scoring plays, the game took 3 hours, 18 minutes to complete on the Fox network. More than three hours of that time were consumed by replays, analysis, Erin Andrews’ sideline reports and, yes, roughly 110 commercials.

The Guardian kept a stopwatch on Sunday’s game to deduct that the actual athletic competition – including kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks and plays negated by penalties – consumed almost exactly 15 minutes, or one-quarter of the 60 minutes on the game clock.

The action was terrific, with rookie Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott throwing touchdown passes of 83 and 50 yards. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not to be outdone, faking a clock-stopping spike, then flinging a go-ahead touchdown pass with 42 seconds left.

Still, there were 30 commercial interruptions during the broadcast, with many commercials coming in “pods,” which the league calls those 2min, 20sec clusters of five or six ads that detractors say kill any sort of flow. Fans may feel like they’re enduring a game. (...)

Here, then, are eight ways to tighten the stretches of non-action:

1) Faster and fewer video reviews. Late in the first half on Sunday, an apparent 23-yard Pittsburgh pass play was reversed after a review dragged on for more than three minutes. But Troy Aikman, the ex-quarterback turned Fox commentator, had already said: “That looks pretty easy for me to determine it’s incomplete.” A replay official in the booth or even at NFL headquarters could have easily been used to make that call quicker.

2) Shave time between plays. The NFL mandates a maximum of 40 seconds between the end of a play and the snap of the ball for the next play. Sunday’s Cowboys-Steelers game included 125 official plays from scrimmage and seven punts, so even reducing the between-play limit to 35 seconds might have reduced the time of that game up to 12 minutes.

3) Running the clock earlier after incomplete passes. This would be a radical adjustment, but stopping the clock on incomplete passes until the next snap makes no sense any more, since the NFL has plenty of footballs, and no one has to chase down a loose ball to resume play. So how about running the clock after spotting the ball at the line of scrimmage?

This would alter the strategy of a losing quarterback spiking the ball late in the game to kill the clock, of course, but incomplete passes chew up a surprising amount of real time.

4) No more two-minute warnings. The two-minute warning was said to be devised as a way for the scoreboard operator to sync time with the on-field official who kept time, but the scoreboard has been official for nearly 50 years, and the two-minute warning was kept as a break for commercials. College football somehow survives without them, and its games are even longer.

5) Eliminate the chain gang. NFL officials have said they don’t want to do this because it is such a traditional part of the game, but the technology now exists to use some form of laser beams for quicker and more accurate measurements – and remove the need to stop the clock until the chain gang can hustle up to the new line of scrimmage after a long play.

by Dave Caldwell, The Guardian |  Read more:
Image: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images