Roger Goodell has speed on the mind.
When the NFL Commissioner sat down with NFL Network’s Judy Battista on Thursday, the pace of the game — and, specifically, how to increase it — loomed large.
“It has been an effort for a long period of time. We’ve talked about the length of the game,” Goodell said. “This effort’s not as focused on the length of the game. This is focused on what’s happening outside the plays — how fast we get the ball set, the number of breaks, the number of intrusions — so that fans can focus on the action.”
Goodell stressed a desire to see fewer “interruptions that are unnecessary or unnecessary in length,” saying the league has a “whole package of things that we’ve studied over the last year” to speed things up.
One idea? The concept of a “shot clock” that would tick off between an extra point and the ensuing kickoff.
“I think there was a very positive reaction to that,” Goodell said of NFL’s Competition Committee. “Most of the players that are on the extra point — maybe a tight end, maybe a kicker — are not on the kickoff team. So their special teams coaches will have to get prepared for the kickoff team and get them out there. Of course, this is when we don’t go to a commercial break. But there’s a lot of wasted time in there where, again, we want to take that out of the game. And this does not affect the 156 plays during the game. This is all about outside of the plays and what we can do to try and take that downtime out.”
That plan would include tweaking the current format of sandwiching commercial breaks around the kickoff, which Goodell acknowledged as giving fans “an excuse to step out and do something else.”
“We call those the ‘double-ups.’ They drive me crazy, they drive a lot of people crazy,” Goodell said. “They actually happen about 27 percent of the time. Your reaction, feels like more, everybody says the same thing. I think that’s why you want to get rid of it. So our aim is to eliminate that.”
Said Goodell: “It’s not necessarily the length (of commercial breaks), it’s the number. So we’re gonna reduce it by 25 percent. We’re gonna add a commercial to each of those (breaks) but it’s something we’re testing with our fans, (and) they actually didn’t even notice that. What they notice is the number of breaks.”
More from Goodell’s briefing with Battista:
1. On the topic of further centralizing replay reviews, the commissioner confirmed that Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, will make the “final decision” on all in-game replays:
“The referee’s going to talk to Dean and say this is what we had on the field, this is what we saw,” Goodell said. “He’ll look at the same replay that Dean has. Dean will make the final determination. I think that will lead to consistency, which is what all coaches want. I think they’re convinced of that, but I also think another aspect of that will be it’ll move much more quickly and I think that’s a positive.”
Goodell explained that “instead of having (the official) run over to the wall, we’re going to have a Surface tablet brought to him and they’ll be able to look at the play and provide input and communicate with him but come to the right decision, but much more quickly.
“And frankly, once the decision is made — announce it. Because when I’m in the stadium and the referee is standing there with a decision made and he doesn’t make it for another minute while television’s out — that’s tough for the fans in the stadium.”
2. One more nugget on the push to speed up replays: If a decision is made during a commercial break, the NFL has a potential plan to ensure that viewers don’t miss a moment of the action.
“We’re gonna work with our networks on that,” Goodell said. “There’s also a concept of trying to bring new innovation to the advertisement. We may go to a double box so the fans know they’re not missing anything and the referee still isn’t ready to make the decision and then, when he does, it’s possible the networks would complete a commercial and then cover that.”
3. With all this talk about making the game faster for fans, what would Goodell consider the ideal length of a broadcast?
“We (were at) 3:07 and change (last season), down about a minute,” Goodell said. “We think we could probably get pretty close to five minutes of downtime out of the game, so that would bring you somewhere in the 3:02 range. That would be very successful if we could get to that point. But, again, not just the length. We want to make sure we are taking the right things out of the game — the things that are not compelling to our fans.”
4. Goodell also addressed illegal player celebrations, saying the league wants to find a solution since “fans do want to see our players being able to celebrate.” He plans to talk to the Competition Committee and players about trying to “find that balance between good sportsmanship and allowing our players to really show who they are and how excited they are when they do score.”
The commissioner made it clear he doesn’t want referees wasting time policing celebrations.
“I want our officials focusing on the important things in the game, the competition,” Goodell said. “Making sure we get focused completely on getting the calls correct and not judging whether somebody is dancing outside the rules or inside the rules. It is part of what they have to do, but I would like to make it a little more clear for them, a little bit easier for them so their attention could be on what I consider to be the more important things.”
Watch Goodell’s interview with Battista on NFL Network’s Up To The Minute at 5 p.m. ET or on NFL Total Access at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday.