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Boring football plays that should be eliminated

Posted by John T. Reed on

There are two types:

  • non-competitive plays
  • plays where the result is almost always the same

Non-competitive plays

Non-competitive plays are those where the team in possession of the ball is not trying to gain yards or score. No one paid $50 to see that. It’s supposed to be a game, which is, by definition, competitive.

Result almost always the same

During the Soviet era, many observed that although the Soviet Union had elections, the incumbent won about 98% of the time. This was cited to prove that Soviet elections were a joke. Well, they weren’t much more of a joke than a college or pro P.A.T. kick. In 2004, NFL kickers were successful 99% of the time; NCAA Division I-A kickers, 95.3%. The P.A.T. kick is an anachronism. From 1938 through 1957, the percentage of successful P.A.T. kicks was between 65% and 74.4%. It was an interesting play back then. It no longer is.

Generally, any play that has the same result over 90% of the time is arguably boring.

Here is a list of boring plays that should be eliminated or diminished in importance and/or share of game time along with suggestions for how to do it.

Play Suggestion for improvement
NCAA and NFL P.A.T. kick

a) make a touchdown count seven points, eliminate the opportunity to kick a one-point field goal after a touchdown, and change the number of additional points for a run or pass P.A.T. to one or
b) make the team that scored a touchdown choose whether they want the ball on the 25-yard line at which location they could kick a one-point field goal from the 25-yard line or go for two (fake field goal play) or put the ball on the two-yard line in which case they could not kick a one-point field goal but could run or pass for a two-point conversion

Take a knee

a) stop the clock immediately after a play in which an offensive ball carrier takes a knee behind his own line of scrimmage This would reduce the entire take-a-knee period from about two minutes now, if the defense has no timeouts left, to about 12 seconds total worst case.
b) add 15 second back on the clock every time an offensive player takes a knee behind his own line of scrimmage during the last two minutes of either half and stop the clock until the next snap as soon as the play ends This would end the take-a-knee play as well as my quarterback-sweep-slide play which is a take-a-knee that takes about ten seconds per play rather than three seconds per play as in the take-a-knee play. Until the rule is changed, my Football Clock Management book has a whole chapter on the take-a-knee and quarterback-sweep-slide plays.

c) or use Arena Football League rule that says the clock stops whenever the offense fails to gain positive yardage in the last two minutes of the game

Scrimmage-kick receive team getting away from a kick and letting the kicking team down the ball

Make the rule the same as a free kick, that is, either team can recover it once it goes ten yards.

Deliberately throwing the ball out of bounds

Although the rule allowing this if the quarterback is outside the box and the ball crosses the line of scrimmage just came in, take it out. It is a non-competitive play now and, as such, should be eliminated. If you want to protect the quarterback, make the rule say he is sacked if he is one-hand touched by a defender


Eliminate touchbacks if the ball touches the ground in the end zone and make kicking the ball out the back of the end zone on the fly the same penalty as kicking off out of bounds.

One solution would be to back up the kickers to where you rarely see a touchback. You might want to let the rest of the kickoff team start five or ten yards forward of the tee so they arrive about as close to the catch as they traditionally have.
You could also make returning a ball that lands in the end zone on the fly more attractive by making the placement of the ball after the touch back closer to the goalline the receiving team is defending. Like if you take a touchback, you get the ball at your own five-, ten-, or fifteen-yardline, instead of the 20 in college and the 25 in the NFL. And treat a kickoff that goes out the back of the end zone on the fly like a ball that was kicked out of side boundaries, that is, a penalty.
Play clock

Start it at the end of the previous play as they now do in the NFL and shorten it to 30 seconds. At present, referees vary the time they take to start the play clock which is unfair to the team hurt by deviations from the average time. Who wants to watch a bunch of guys standing around doing nothing until the end of the play clock. Until they change that rule, my Football Clock Management book has a whole chapter on the slow-down offense. This rule was adopted by NCAA but not HS.

Fair catch

Eliminate it but restore whatever halo rule will let the returner secure the ball and protect himself before getting hit.

Drop kick

Doug Flutie's 2005 drop kick was a meaningless stunt. As my article on the subject indicates, the only possible legitimate use of the drop kick would be at the youth level below age 12 and maybe as a surprise field goal if someone could master the technique. Otherwise, it should be eliminated from the rule book.

Coin flip

Eliminate. Visitors receive first or they can choose to defer to the second half. Analogous to visiting team batting first in baseball.

Deliberate delay of game

Make penalty for such situations more costly so that no offense ever deliberately takes such a penalty.


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