In football, play ends when: (1) the ball carrier's knee or elbow touches the ground, (2) the ball carrier steps out of bounds, or (3) a pass is incomplete.
For an incomplete pass, the ball is returned to the original line of scrimmage.
Otherwise, the football is spotted on the field by an official according to his best judgment as to the furthest reach of the ball during play. He must often make this judgment from some distance or from an obscured perspective. This mean that the football could be placed incorrectly by several inches or more. Even in the best situation, ball placement can hardly be accurate under one inch. Yet this judgment by officials, this placement of the ball, is taken as absolute and can determine if a first down was made or not.
Instead of trying to place the football at some exact spot as determined by an official, the nose of the football should be placed precisely on a yard line marker. (Digital spotting works best if the center of the chalked line is taken as the yard line.) For example, if play starts at the offense's 17 yard line and the ball is advanced slightly beyond the 20 yard line but does not reach the 21, the ball is placed at the 20 yard line. Any fractional gain beyond a yard line marker is disregarded. A gain of two feet is the same as no gain at all. The ball is placed back at the previous spot. Such digital spotting of the ball would have three advantages:
— During play, the officials would only need to watch the ball's relative reach of any yard line marker. He would judge if the football crossed an imaginary line stretching from the sideline to its respective yard line marker on the field. Anything short of that would place the ball back to the next yard line marker.
— Since anything short of a yard line wouldn't matter, nearly all errors of ball placement would be eliminated. Only the crossing of a yard line marker would be prone to error. And with officials more engaged in watching for yard line crossings, these errors would be reduced.
— Currently minor errors in ball placement result when officials step off penalties. But with digital spotting, since the ball originally is always at a yard line marker, stepping off penalties of five, ten or fifteen yards would be very simple.
This digital spotting method requires that the ball can go no farther back than the offense's one yard line, unless the play results with any part of the ball touching the goal line, in which case it is safety. At the one yard line, after a play, if the football ends up between, but does not cross, the goal line or the two yard line, the football is placed again at the one yard line. Likewise, on the defense's one yard line, there is no "inches to go." A gain of a half yard puts the ball back to the one yard line.
The National Football League (NFL) and all college conferences play 16 or fewer games during the season. Teams are ranked by the number of games won. But such a small sample of games can't really determine how good or bad teams are. Often teams end up with identical win-loss records. In such cases, other criteria are used to determine team rankings. Also games can be won or lost due to a lucky bounce of the football or bad officiating.
To more accurately determine team ranking and to eliminate using other criteria as tie-breakers, leagues and conferences should use a method of "Game Points" or GPs. Instead of letting the final score dictate who is the better team, break the game into its components. Each game is divided into two halves, the first half (1st + 2nd quarters) and the second half (3rd + 4th quarters). For each half, if it ends in a tie, one GP is awarded to each team. Otherwise, two GPs are awarded to the winner of the half while the loser gets no GP. The winner of the game (the team with the highest final score) gets two extra GPs. If the final score is a tie, each team gets 1 GP.
So a team would earn: ( first half GPs + second half GPs + final score GPs ), or:
|– 6 GPs if it had the higher score in both halves, so winning the game (2 + 2 + 2)|
|– 5 GPs if it had the higher score in one of the halves and the same score as its opponent in the other, so winning the game (2 + 1 + 2, or 1 + 2 + 2)|
|– 4 GPs if it had the higher score in only one of the halves, but won the game with the higher final score (2 + 0 + 2, or 0 + 2 + 2)|
|– 3 GPs if each half of the game ended in a tie (1 + 1 + 1) or each team had the same score but in different halves resulting in a tied game (2 + 0 + 1, or 0 + 2 + 1)|
|– 2 GPs if it had the higher score in only one of the halves and a lower final score, so losing the game (2 + 0 + 0, or 0 + 2 + 0)|
|– 1 GPs if it had the same score as its opponent in one of the halves and a lower score in the other half, so losing the game (1 + 0 + 0, or 0 + 1 + 0)|
|– 0 GPs if it had the lower score in both halves and therefore losing the game (0 + 0 + 0)|
Awarding up to two game points (2GPs) for each half of a game would certainly improve strategy, competition and interest. For example:
— In a tight first half, the final minutes of play would take on the excitement of the last minutes of a close game since the teams would be competing for 2GPs.
— In a game where one team is hopelessly behind in overall score, the closing minutes of the second half might still be interesting if the losing team can outscore the opponent in the second half, earning it 2GPs.
Using the National Football League as an example, instead of a maximum of 16 possible wins, there would be 16 times 6, or 96 GPs... a much better measure to rank teams. Dividing a team's GPs by the number or games played times 6 gives the GP average. For example, if a team earns 9 Game Points in its first two games, dividing 9 by 12 (maximum GPs for two games) gives a Game Point Average (GPA) of .750.
An additional advantage of GPs is that overtime play to break tied-games would be unnecessary. Why force apparently evenly matched teams to roll the dice on a few extra plays, thus distorting the "win" column? Below, Table 1 shows the National Football League team standings comparing Wins Average (wins divided by games played) to Game Point Average (GPA or Game Points divided by games played times 6.) In Table 2, notice that the ranking of all teams is different if GPA were used instead of wins... in particular, Houston with a 12-4 record is below five other teams with worse win-loss records, and Indianapolis is below seven other such teams.
Table 1 — National Football League 2012 Season
Comparing Win Average (Ave) to Game Point Average (GPA)
|Yellow highlights show teams with same win-loss records... notice the GPA scores.|
Table 2. — National Football League 2012 Season
Ranking All Teams by Game Point Average (GPA)
|New Engl. Patriots||12||4||.750||68||.708|
|San Francisco 49ers||11||4||.719*||68||.708|
|Green Bay Packers||11||5||.688||64||.667|
|New York Giants||9||7||.563||54||.563|
|San Diego Chargers||7||9||.438||49||.510|
|Tampa Bay Bucs||7||9||.438||43||.448|
|St. Louis Rams||7||8||.469*||43||.448|
|New Orleans Saints||7||9||.438||42||.438|
|New York Jets||6||10||.375||38||.396|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2||14||.125||20||.208|
|* including one tied game.|