PHOENIX -- I'm not even sure that's the correct dateline. Phoenix, Scottsdale and the other patches of strip malls and six-lane streets are somewhere else, outside the bucolic fitness trails and stucco villas tucked inside the compound at the Arizona Biltmore where NFL owners, general managers, coaches and other assorted football technocrats are gathered for their annual meeting and golf outing.
The lure of the fairway will have to wait. Owners and their employees have a full plate of things to consider. A few of these things will shape how the game on the field is played and coached. Other agenda items are more focused on keeping America's premiere sports entertainment industry profitable and, more importantly, above the kind of public scrutiny it experienced since the last annual meeting.
The meetings officially started Monday morning, but the excitement began last night with a keynote address from Mr. Excitement himself, David Brooks! The NFL is fascinated by Republican media apparatchiks. Last year, Frank Luntz was here dolling out handy semantic advice in strange shoes.
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Instant replay changes
There are 13 proposals for changing instant replay. One proposal would allow officials to use replay to resolve issues with the clock. Another would have officials review any penalty that results in an automatic first down.
Only two of the replay proposals on the list are expected to get any traction. The first, submitted by the Patriots, would allow coaches to challenge anything except turnovers and scoring plays, while still having the same number of challenges available as they currently do. The second, also from the Patriots, would put cameras on the boundary lines. ESPN added those for the college football playoffs, cameras in the pylons. But the NFL thinks those would be too expensive.
Nobody is giving any of these proposals much chance this time, but there's momentum building behind allowing coaches to challenge everything.
Is the extra point endangered?
That's the rumor going around Monday morning.
One coach to me at NFL Owners meetings...looks like we're getting rid of extra points— trey wingo (@wingoz) March 23, 2015
The NFL moves at a glacial pace. It seems unlikely that owners will kill off the PAT completely, not now at any rate. There is a proposal from the Patriots (activist NFL teams, smh) that would move the ball back to the 15-yard line, making it less automatic. The Colts want to make extra points really crazy.
Stan Kroenke has a fancy new stadium to sell his fellow owners on this week. No decisions about the Rams (or the Chargers or the Raiders) relocating are expected. It's just going to be a presentation from NFL exec Eric Grubman followed by a discussion among the owners.
The Rams' owner clearly has a lead in the race to L.A., but the Chargers aren't making it easy for him. This will be a chance for the owners to start working on a compromise where everyone wins ... everyone except whichever city ends up losing a team.
Breakfast with the coaches
On Tuesday morning, the AFC coaches get frog marched into a breakfast buffet and forced to meet with the media for an hour. Cameras and lights around Bill Belichick's table will crowd out any poor slob sitting next to him. He still draws a crowd even though he doesn't really say anything. There should be plenty of chairs at Ken Whisenhunt's table, though, and he would probably love the company, so bring your oatmeal over to table six!
The NFC coaches take their turn on Wednesday morning. I hope Chip Kelly eats beforehand, because his table will be a very popular place. I'm going to Jim Tomsula's table because it should be a lot of fun (nobody say anything about the eggs in his mustache).
A Nicer Football League
Last year at these meetings, the NFL was focused on making the field a nicer place to play and work (before all those other PR crises hit). The competition committee took away goalpost celebrations and promised to crack down on taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct. I'm anxious to hear how that worked out for them.
Personal fouls are on the agenda this year too. Tennessee and Washington want to make those reviewable.
The NFL has more open investigations than Magnum P.I.; DeflateGate, Falcons artificial crowd noiseGate, Jets-Revis tamperingGate, and Cleveland Browns textGate. None of these gates are going to be closed this week at the meetings. (It takes time, and T.C. only has one helicopter to shuttle league officials between the various islands and Magnum still hasn't helped coach his youth baseball team like he promised to).
But we could get an update on one or more of these investigations, probably in the form of a carefully crafted talking point like, "we take these matters very seriously and we're still doing our due diligence on the matter."