Innovation, Leadership

Better Football – 12 Changes for a More Exciting NFL

4 Nov , 2021  

With the 2021 NFL season about half completed, I want to share the changes that I most recommend for improving the NFL. Many of these would make the game more exciting and add strategy to the game.

Strategy and Rule Changes:

  1. Goal Line On Side Possession: If a team wants the ball after a kickoff, let them take it at their goal line, maybe even on third down. No more bouncy balls from on-side kicks. If you can drive 99 yards, hats off to you, man. I’d like to see a coach swallow that call. You can still do an on-side kick, but if you want the ball, take it and run the field.
  2. 3 Point Conversion: If you need 9 points on a TD, kick a 55-yard extra point. It would really make long kickers more valuable.
  3. Kickoffs Changed: The recent change to kickoffs has been lackluster. Why do we have kick-offs at all? Most are returned within a few yards of the 20-yard line. The kickers are all too strong and the coverage teams all too fast for much of anything else to happen. Consider giving the receiving team the option of taking the ball at the 20 or 25 and get back to real action.
  4. Change Penalties Enforced on Kick-offs: Penalties enforced on kickoffs, enforced against the receiving team, are useless. This just results in more touchbacks. Yeah! No – just more boring. Make the penalty be taken on the possession after the receiving team takes possession after the kick, or at least let the kicking team decide when to enforce the penalty.
  5. Kickoffs through the Uprights – It is super rare that a kicker can get the ball through the uprights on a kickoff. Should this be worth something? A bonus point? Or having the receiving team start closer to their end zone? Seems the kickoff is a great chance for some innovation. CFL ball gives a point for kicks through the end zone.
  6. Change Punts: Even more boring than a kickoff is the punt. Kick, catch, run 6 yards. Otherwise, fair catch, or no catch at all. All boring. Punts are for taking a break from the game. Maybe a punt can be thrown (like we did in school). It would be great to see a QB thrown the ball down field in something like a Hail Mary for a possession turn over. Maybe the “punting team” can even take possession in such a play. Punts are a real downer.
  7. Outlaw Fake Punts: Fake punts are not exactly cheating, but they are like the first baseman faking a throw back to the pitcher to tag a runner out. Fake punts, like fake throws in baseball, have nothing to do with talent or skill, it is just trickery, which is akin to winning without any skill or effort. If you could not get 10 yards in 3 downs and need to punt, you should not get to fake it. Of course, you can just man up and go for it on fourth down. Does anyone like anything that is fake anyhow? I can’t think of one fake thing that is honorable.
  8. 4 Point Field Goals: 60-yard field goals are still rare, but really exciting with return options and blocks, and the wind, and rarefied air of Denver. Maybe they should be encouraged with a fourth point added. Basically, you set the ball at mid field or further back, you get a 4 points on the field goal. Big legs are worthy of something, especially if we take away kickoffs from kickers.
  9. Possession Made Clearer: It seems possession of a catch still is a problem. Why is this so hard? What is a football move anyhow? You catch the ball once you have it under control. It seems the easiest change.
  10. No More Half the Distance Penalties: I have always disliked the discounting of the impact of penalties just because the penalty occurs with the red zone. A 15 yard penalty at the 21 yard line goes back 15 yards. If it happens at the 20, it goes back only 10 yards. Totally foolishness. Life does not offer half distance penalties. Take this weakness out of the NFL. Bad things happen in the red zone, and when they do, take the full penalty, down to the goal line if need be. It is a great way to add scoring and make players think twice about penalties.
  11. Put Flags on QBs – Given their importance, QBs should not be touched. Let’s call them down when their flags are pulled. Just joking! The QB protection has gotten out of control. Change the rules to allow defensive players a fair shot at the QB. We don’t protect LBs, CBs, or RBs. There are back up QBs, right? On a related note, there should be more intentional grounding calls. Too many passes are escapes from pressure on the QB.
  12. Pre-season Sucks – Do a Road Show Instead: Do something different. If these games don’t count, why play them? Just have some scrimmage games. Take the games to other cities that might love these. Consider games in Salt Lake City, Portland, Richmond, Syracuse, Sacramento, Birmingham, San Antonio, Toronto, Vancouver, Oakland, Tucson, Oklahoma City, El Paso, Orlando, Columbus, Raleigh, Boise, Memphis, and St. Louis. The fans would really love the chance to see an NFL game up close. Play in some great college stadiums and fill up the big bowls in Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, FSU, Texas, Penn State, and the like. Plus, it would be fun to watch the games played around the US.

I root for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 49ers, Dolphins, Seahawks, and opponents of the Cowboys.

Super Bowl Prediction: Buccaneers over Bills in Super Bowl. Brady wins another MVP. It would be a wonderful repeat and one for the ages!

Share your thoughts!

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About Russell Walker, Ph.D.

Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing at the Foster School of Business of the University of Washington. He has worked with many professional sports teams and leading marketing organizations through the Analytics Consulting Lab, an experiential class that he founded and leads at Foster.

You can find him at @RussWalker1776 and

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Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and big data. He has done novel research in data monetization and digital disruption and advises leading firms on these topics. As Director of Experiential Learning in Analytics and Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing and International Business at the Foster School of Business, at the University of Washington, Dr. Walker is an academic thought-leader on analytics. Russell Walker has developed and taught leading executive programs on Big Data and Analytics, Strategic Data-Driven Marketing, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, and Global Leadership. Previous to moving to Seattle and the Foster School, Dr. Walker was Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, where he founded and taught many popular courses in analytics and risk management. His is the author of the book From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines data monetization strategies and the development of data-centric business models in the new digital economy. He is also the author of the award-winning text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management as a competitive advantage. Dr. Walker consults with firms on the topics of Big Data and Analytics, Data Monetization, Risk Management, and Business Strategy. Russell Walker can be reached at: @RussWalker1776

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