NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced early this morning that Sunday’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs will be contested under the rules of six-man football. The action was taken after both teams criticized Goodell and other League officials earlier in the week for assigning a six-man officiating crew as replacements for the locked out regular NFL referees.
“The NFL had indeed assigned the finest six-man officiating crew available from the Texas State High School Activities Association,” said NFL Spokesman Matt McGinnis. “So we’ve been wondering, hey, what’s the fuss about? This was the best crew available since all available refs from the Lingerie Football League were, quite frankly, spoken for by Jerry Jones,” he said.
Kansas City Coach Romeo Crennel became alarmed Tuesday when he was told the six-man crew’s head linesman, Jordan Thibodeaux, admitted he didn’t know which positions constituted the so called “interior line.” Thibodeaux, while watching NFL game film, was reportedly overheard saying “what are those two guys doing next to the center? They need to move away from him and run crisper routes.”
Thibodeaux, during an interview with ESPN The Magazine, confirmed fears shared by Crennel and Falcons’ coach Mike Smith. “The fact is, I don’t know what a right guard is, let alone a left guard,” said Thibodeaux, who usually refs games where only a center and two ends are on the line of scrimmage. “I think I would be awful confused with those extra ten guys running around on that big gridiron up there in K.C.”
Once Thibodeaux’s comments became public, Crennel called Smith with an idea. “I called Mike and we started kicking around the idea of just changing up our offensive schemes a bit and giving the six-man format a shot,” said the Chiefs’ Crennel. “I thought, what the heck, that’s fewer guys for me to be running in and out of the game and it’s sort of like having a bye week even before the season gets under way," he said. Added the Falcons’ Smith: “If those refs can’t officiate our brand of football, we thought, hey, let’s just suit up, strap it on and play their brand. I told Rac (Crennel), ‘it’s a win-win for all of us.’”
Six-man football, although played with the normal pigskin and with authentic features like goal posts and turf, contains a host of rules which differ from those found in the NFL game. All linemen are eligible to receive passes and the game is typically played on an 80 yard field that is just 40 yards wide. This latter requirement prompted the Chiefs to bring George Toma out of retirement to ensure the placement of orange traffic cones on the Arrowhead turf would provide authentic six-man field dimensions.
Although generally amicable, the two clubs hit some rough spots while their respective GMs Scott Pioli (Chiefs) and Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons) agreed on some minor rule variations. The fact that each team’s center would be able to receive passes was a particular point of contention for the Falcons. “It was a no-go for us that (Chiefs center) Rodney Hudson could be a possible receiver on every play,” said Dimitroff. “Son...he got some reps at tight end down at Florida State and the film we broke down showed us that the kid can flat out catch the ball. He might be the first dual threat in both hiking and catching we’ve ever seen. No way were we going to go for that,” he said.
Reportedly an impasse was averted at Pioli’s suggestion that Hudson, although eligible, would not have to be tackled upon catching the ball but would instead be outfitted with a set of red recreational flags like those utilized in flag football games. “We talked about it and decided, yeah, if we don’t have to tackle Hudson, and only have to yank his flags off, then we can live with him beating us once in a while on a down-out-and-up,” said Falcons’ GM Dimitroff.
Other peculiarities of the six-man game include 15-yard first downs, a 45 point “mercy rule” in the second half, and an odd scoring structure where a field goal is worth four, instead of three points. Each team reportedly believes these other nuances give them the advantage Sunday.
“We think hands down Matt Bryant is a better field goal kicker than Ryan Succop,” said the Falcons’ Smith. “We will probably trot Matt out there pretty often on first and fifteen and just let him tee off,” he said. “Look, I think if Matt makes like eight field goals then that’d be like better than—if my math’s correct...carry the three—five touchdowns!”
Crennel thinks the mercy rule will work in the Chiefs’ favor Sunday. “Man, we’re going to jump on them early in the game then get up by 45 or 46 early in the third quarter,” said Crennel. “We do that and it’s lights out! Our fans will be back in the parking lot tailgating by 2:15.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 12:05 local time Sunday in Kansas City where the game will be broadcast by Fox and the Texas High School Cable Network.