NFL: Adjust the Clock For Faster Games

Last week, I talked about the NFL’s speed problem. For those of you who didn’t read that post (and if you didn’t, WTF were you thinking?), a recent study came out that showed that out of the roughly 200 minutes an NFL game takes, there’s only 11 minutes of total action involved.

The NFL is one of, if not the, most popular game in the world today, so suggesting that it needs substantial changes puts you in the relative minority. However, the old adage holds true: if you aren’t continually improving, you’re falling behind.

The NFL needs to pay better attention to the speed of its games. A friend reminded me last week that a longer game means more ads which means more money. This is 100% true, in the short term. However, the NFL is as much a television show at this point as an in-stadium experience. The billions of dollars the league rakes in each year is what’s paying the high salaries of its players and for the billion dollar stadiums everyone all of a sudden seems to “need” around the league to remain competitive.

Making the game shorter, more compressed and giving it more action will help keep viewers from changing the channel, particularly in blow-out situations like this year’s Super Bowl (advertisers can’t make money if people are switching over to The Walking Dead during Sunday Night football).

Another way to help speed up the game is two tweaks in the time management.

The first is to eliminate the rule which stops the clock when a player goes out of bounds (except in the last two minutes of each half). The second is to cut the 40 second playclock to 35.

These two would appear to be relatively separate but actually run hand-in-hand. The play clock is the amount of time each team has from the time the last play ends until the next one begins. Cutting this from 40 to 35 get each play started five seconds faster. The number of plays would then be offset by allowing the clock to run throughout 28 of 30 minutes of each half.

This would achieve the following: roughly the same amount of plays occurring in less overall time.

Like with the extra point, these adjustments are tweaks, but when added up, a lot tweaks can be more effective than a few wholesale changes.