NFL competition committee considering changing playoff seeding rules Print
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Thursday, 21 February 2008 12:52
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The NFL is considering changing the postseason so seeding would be based on records rather than division titles.
That won't avoid instances like the one last season when Cleveland missed the playoffs and Tennessee made it by beating Indianapolis backups. But competition committee members agreed Thursday that changing the seeding guidelines would result in fewer such situations.
Committee co-chairman Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons' president, said some clubs had indicated support for the changes.
``There are definitely people on both sides,'' McKay said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, ``and I think there are good arguments on both sides.''
The altered seeding wouldn't have affected the Colts-Titans game - Indianapolis had already clinched the second-best record in the AFC - but it could make an impact in other future situations in which one club would have nothing to play for under the current guidelines.
The main motivation for changing the rules is ensuring that the best teams are rewarded. With the NFL aligned in eight four-team divisions, the odds increase that a champion of a weak division may have home field against a wild-card squad from a tough division with a better record.
That happened last season when NFC South champion Tampa Bay (9-7) played host to the New York Giants (10-6). The Giants, who despite having clinched a playoff spot, played all-out in their finale against unbeaten New England, beat the Bucs in Tampa and won two more playoff games on the road.
Then they upset New England in the Super Bowl, crediting in part the 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the regular-season finale for giving them the confidence that they could stay a team seeking to finish a historic 19-0.
The committee is also seeking to revamp its proposal to allow one defensive player to wear a headset in his helmet to communicate with coaches as the quarterback does. NFL owners have previously voted down that idea. A similar rule was considered last season at the NFL meetings.
On offense, it's easy to ensure that only one player at a time is wearing the headset on the field because it's always the quarterback. That's more complicated on defense.
``If your identified defensive starter is injured and you lose the ability to communicate with the defense, how do you handle the backup situation?'' said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the committee's other co-chair. ``Those are the things we're currently discussing.''
Fisher expected that teams would keep multiple helmets with headsets on the sideline.
``We're just going through the process of ensuring there's not any confusion,'' he said.
The committee does not plan to propose any rule changes to prevent coaches from calling a timeout just as the ball is snapped on a field goal attempt, as happened several times this past season.
Fisher predicted the trend won't continue because coaches have realized the move can backfire. His team was the beneficiary of that scenario Nov. 19, when the Denver Broncos called a timeout just before Rob Bironas missed a 56-yard field goal try at the end of the first half. Given a second chance, Bironas made it.
Fisher said prohibiting coaches from calling a timeout with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock isn't a viable solution.
``Well, what if I've got 12 guys on the field and I just recognized it, and now I can't call a timeout, so I've been assessed a 5-yard penalty, and now they've got a first down, and a touchdown wins?'' he said.
The committee was also briefed by the commissioner's office on the handling of the Patriots spying scandal. Members did not see the need to change any rules, believing the current ones are sufficient to prevent future incidents.
``The briefing was thorough; it was detailed,'' Colts president Bill Polian said. ``The process of arriving at the discipline was explained to us. That process was fair, detailed, efficient. What was on the tapes was explained to us and what was in the notes was explained to us. The reason that that information was done away with was explained.
``From my perspective, that was a thorough, fair, efficient process with lots of integrity, and they arrived at a disciplinary action, which the commissioner thought was appropriate and met with previous precedent.''
 

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