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Spagnola: Not Exactly Better Late Than Never, NFL Delivers Common Sense

FRISCO, Texas – And 67 days after the fact comes a victory for common sense.

Too late for the Dallas Cowboys.

Now before we go any further, let's give a couple of definitions for the age-old term of common sense:

First: Good *sense and sound judgment in practical matters*.

Second: Sound *and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts*.

Makes sense, right?

Well, unfortunately, too many times common sense is kicked to the curb, either for politically-charged reasons or when those in administration of rules or protocol choose to anally follow the letter of the law instead of effectively interpreting what's before their very eyes. In other words, think.

Like the other day when I saw this:

Arkansas Reconsiders Letting Concealed Handguns Into Sporting Events

Seriously? They have to RE-Consider this? Like just a little bit of common sense wouldn't tell you it's not a good idea for folks to bring concealed weapons, i.e. guns, into a, say, 60,000-seat stadium where loyalty-sparked emotions run high and usually run even higher when juiced by alcohol consumption?

Yeah, probably not a good idea. Please do RE-Consider.

Now to the Dallas Cowboys.

See over the next several days, with the NFL owners convening in Phoenix, Ariz., for their annual meetings, you are going to be bombarded with talk of 15 playing rules proposals, either authored by individual clubs or the league's competition committee. Anywhere from prohibiting the "leaper" block attempt on field goals or extra points to reducing overtime periods from 15 minutes to 10. And then seven more bylaw proposals, the best one allowing teams to place a player who has suffered a concussion and not cleared to play on a roster "exempt" list and replaced on the 53-man roster by a player from the team's practice squad.

Makes good sense, right, further insuring player safety.

And then there was this on Thursday coming out of the NFL's annual conference call at the conclusion of the competition committee meetings with chairman Rich McKay, head of NFL officiating Dean Blandino and NFLPA president Troy Vincent, one slipping through the cracks of the national media when our buddy Deano was asked if there was any discussion on the substitution penalty called on the Dallas Cowboys in their divisional round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers:

"We looked at some of the language in the book and we're going to give our officials just more latitude to warn a team if they feel like this is a potential issue and then penalize after a warning."

No friggin' kidding.

Sure, you remember that I bet.

There was 5:55 left in the first quarter that Sunday at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys were trailing the Packers, 7-3, and facing a second-and-5 at the Green Bay 37. Trying to pick up the pace, the Cowboys had just gone no-huddle, running back Ezekiel Elliott charging over left guard for five yards. They were in the process of making personnel changes for the next play.

Onto the field came wide receiver Brice Butler, ostensibly taking the place of wide receiver Terrance Newman in the Cowboys two-receiver, two-back set. The Cowboys were nowhere close to huddling, the majority of those just muddling around with quarterback Dak Prescott, back to his teammates, looking to the sideline for the play call.

Then Butler, looking confused, turns around, hesitates and leaves the field as Williams returns to the two-receiver set in now a huddle.

And I know you remember this the rest of the story: Prescott hits Williams on a crossing pattern for 15 yards and a first down, down to the Packers 22, solidly in field-goal range. Then you hear from referee Tony Corrente:

"Unsportsmanlike conduct, No. 19 (Butler) came into the huddle as a substitute and did not participate and left the field, 15-yard penalty, repeat second-down."

 Suddenly 1st-and-10 at the Green Bay 22 became 2nd-and 20 from the Dallas 48. Two incomplete passes and the Cowboys were punting. Now, what would have been a gimme field goal for Dan Bailey, turns into no points, with the Packers on their merry way to a 21-3 lead in what turning into that 34-31, last-second victory.

OK, I get it, it was just the first quarter. And who knows if even those potential three points would have made a difference in the outcome. But that's not the point. The call was anal. It significantly changed the early complexion of the game. I said it then, I will say it again now.

The Cowboys were not trying to purposefully deceive the Packers with the substitution change. Not as if they went from a two-receiver, two-back set to a three-receiver set. That is why that rule exists, to prevent teams from confusing the defense with last-second personnel group changes.

They simply switched one receiver for another before they went into the huddle with the play call, and technically, the umpire could have held up the snap for the Packers to make a defensive personnel change if they thought they had someone better to specifically over Williams instead of Butler. They did not, allowing the Cowboys to snap the ball as they threw two flags.

Absolutely an absence of common sense.

So here is what Chief Blandino said in its entirety on Thursday when asked if this specific penalty was discussed during the competition committee's meeting:

"We did discuss it and obviously, that's a penalty that you don't see very frequently. We looked at some of the language in the book and we're going to give our officials just more latitude to warn a team if they feel like this is a potential issue and then penalize after a warning. There's language in the book that allows for a change in a coaching decision where a player or a group of players may come onto the field and then there's a change in the decision and then they go off the field without participating in a play.

"We want to maintain a team's ability to do that, so we did discuss it and look at the language and we feel comfortable with the referee giving a warning if he feels a team is trying to manipulate the situation allowing the defense to matchup in that situation and only penalizing if there is a subsequent act after a warning."

Fair enough.

Just makes total common sense to me. How's about you?

Problem is, it comes 67 days too late.


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