“Half the distance to the goal line” is (mostly) stupid

Favre is lacin’ ’em up. Moss is whining. Velveeta and RO*TEL are flying off the shelves. Football is back. And not a moment too soon for my first rant.

NFL rules specify that (in most cases*) if a penalty’s standard enforcement would result in the ball moving more than halfway to the goal line, then the ball should move exactly half the distance to the goal line. For example, if a team is called for offensive holding while at their own 12-yard line, the ball is placed at their 6-yard line (half the distance), rather than at their 2-yard line (the standard 10 yards for offensive holding).

This practice doesn’t make any sense to me if the ball is outside the 2-yard line, since it tempers the effects of a penalty for no good reason. If the ball is between the goal line and the 2-yard line, half the distance certainly makes sense: it prevents the ball from being placed in the end zone by the penalty. But outside of that case, most penalties* should be enforced in the standard way at all points on the field; if such enforcement would result in the ball being placed in the end zone, then place the ball at the 1-yard line. Why help out the offending team based purely on field position?

* The primary exception is infractions in the end zone. In the case of offensive holding, the awarding of a safety makes perfect sense. In the case of defensive pass interference, the ball is placed — that’s right — at the 1-yard line.

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