Through five weeks of this most unusual, pandemic-wrapped season, the points (3,958) and touchdowns (453) in the NFL have piled up like never before. During the same stretch the rate of penalties across the league has nosedived to their lowest levels in at least five years, according to the league.
Of course, there’s a correlation.
Football purists, hold your breath. These high-scoring, AFL-centric shootouts are exactly what the NFL still wants more of for its product.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president for football operations, didn’t mince words this week when he mentioned a reduction in penalties, along with an increase in total plays and pass attempts as the three components to drive “fandom” (his word, not mine) for the league.
Vincent, remember, played 15 NFL seasons as a defensive back paid to stop opponents from scoring. Deep down, he surely appreciates a good shutout. But the appeal of the product prefers final scores of 48-45 or 44-38 to 10-3 or 13-7.
Chew on the penalty and scoring numbers, and it’s clear and obvious: The fix is working with fewer flags. That fix, mind you, in the sense of correcting the over-officiating over the past couple decades that tended to put a drag on the flow of the games and too often fueled controversy.