Imagine What Could Be: The NFL allows NHL-Style Fights

By Coach McCartan (@CoachMcCartan and Facebook)

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J- It all started with one, single tweet from third-year Tennessee Titans’ Pro-Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan:

Let us first examine from whom this tweet originates.

In the 2016 season alone, Lewan was tagged for 12 penalties (including: illegal use of the hands, unnecessary roughness, and a personal foul face-mask) totaling a total net loss of 123 yards. In terms of number of infractions, Lewan was ranked third in the NFL only behind Josh Norman and Donovan Smith.

It seems to be that not even the referees are safe when Lewan is on the field: he even earned a disqualification after making contact with back judge Steve Freeman in a week 10 matchup between the Titans and the Packers.  In front of the home crowd, the 6’8″, 315 lb. lineman was sent back to the locker room in only the first quarter. “As he headed for the locker room after his ejection, Lewan held up his middle fingers while shouting at the officials and tossing a glove over his head and into the crowd”. 

But, remove the red tape and preconceived notions and put your imaginary cap on.  Can you imagine if the National Football League were to allow, as Lewan suggested, National Hockey League-style fights throughout the course of play? I know that in no fathomable situation would the NFL or the NFL Players’ Union instate this rule, but it is interesting to think this all the way through and to consider the ramifications.  First and foremost is the concern about the injuries inflicted upon the players involved in these fights.  In a league marred by controversy over traumatic head injuries, this new proposal would be the last thing it would want to instate.  Additionally, it would turn the NFL into a busch-league spectacle. Yes, it’s XFL-ish (there is a reason why that league did not succeed).

New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks fight NFL NHL rule change

However: it could solve the well-documented NFL ratings issues.  In fact, it would be ratings gold! Why do we love hockey? It’s fast-paced, scoring can happen at anytime… and THE FIGHTS. Even the most casual hockey fan shows up for the fights. Was the entire football world NOT glued to the TV the next time Odell Beckham, Jr. and Norman squared off after their original throw down at MetLife Stadium in 2015?  The anticipation leading up to and after OBJ and Norman’s rematch in 2017 was highly touted and highly publicized. A Google search of “Odell Beckham Josh Norman” yields almost a half million results (articles, videos, editorials, etc.) in less than half a second.

With NHL-Style hits comes NHL-style penalties.  Lewan and his fans touched on this, as well:

“Better than 15 yards” would mean that the team against which the infraction occurred, just like in hockey, would have a power play. The team committing the foul would have their guilty player tossed into a penalty box, just like in hockey.  The NFL loves offense.  Talk do any defensive coordinator, head coach, or player: penalties are designed to benefit the offense.

Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys fight NHL NFL rule changeAn 11 on 10 scenario would force defensive players to play out of position in order to cover the entire field.  It would force offensive players to find the open “green” in backyard-style play.  It would force both teams to think unconventionally.  Would you rather have this situation or a lame 15 yard penalty? This situation would undoubtedly impact the score of the game whereas a 15-yard penalty probably will not. Also: forget the fines.  With huge contracts, most players do not even feel the fine in their wallets.

This would be the “New NFL”: Higher scoring, more fast-paced, and more intense. Who doesn’t love those kind of games?  Obviously, this is Dreamworld, though. The conservative NFL would never “go for it” and I would imagine the NFL Players’ Association would have a lot to say against it… but imagine what could be?


I discussed this and more on my radio program, 60 Minute Overtime.

Live on Sundays 11am on 90.3FM

Studio number: 201-825-1234

Streaming live video feed on Periscope (@CoachMcCartan) and on

To download this interview, visit my iTunes official podcast or Soundcloud.

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