Power in the N.F.L.
Power in the N.F.L. refers to a system by which a professional National Football League (NFL) team is said to “have influence on the outcome of a game,” while a collegiate team is “the winner of a contest” on behalf of the school. It also refers to the influence of the head coach of the collegiate team on the outcome of the game.
The first NFL power is a special rule, first promulgated under the rules of the original American Football League (AFL; now defunct), in which the referee (on the field) and the head referee (at the lines) must call the same play the same number of times in succession. The team with the most point totals wins the game.
In professional football, teams’ ability to influence the outcome of games has been greatly diminished since the 1930s, when most rules were designed to limit the number of plays that could be run at any one time, the number of substitutions that could be made, the number of downs the offense might expect to get, and the number of downs the defense might expect to get. To compensate for the lack of those rules and because the quality of play had improved, and with the arrival and growing success of the college game, teams were granted more power that would allow them to change the rules after every play, to decide how many play-off yardages a team could receive, and to call a fake, or fake kick, after each kickoff or before each snap. Even so, however, most rules have kept to the limited nature of the early rules.
More recently, a number of rules have been instituted. One rule allows a team to substitute a player for a player of the opposing team on the team’s field goal unit. This can be done when the play is made, rather than at the time the play is lined up. (Previously, such substitutions were permitted only at the end of a team’s half-time or extra-point unit.) Another rule allows a team to substitute a player for a player on its offensive or defensive line at any point during the play. Previously, such substitutions were only allowed when the game was in progress, or when the team called a fake kick.