The NFL's new helmet rule could eliminate the three-point stance and fundamentally change the game itself

Kyle Rivas/Getty ImagesFormer NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, during his time playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • A new NFL rule preventing players from leading with their heads could force lineman to stop getting in the three-point stance before a play
  • The loss of such a staple of the game could fundamentally change football, such as by leading to more scoring.

The NFL has unveiled a new rule banning players from leading with their helmets, which is aimed at improving player safety. However, this rule will not only be difficult to implement and officiate properly but, speaking recently to Deadspin, former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz explained that the rule could even lead to a fundamental change in how football is played.

“I think we’re eventually going to go to where there’s not going to be a three-point stance anymore,” Schwartz told Deadspin. “Everyone’s just going to have to be up, because that seems to be the way that they want this to go. I just worry that that change will fundamentally change the game.

The three-point stance is a football fixture. However, as Deadspin put it, ” . . . Firing up out of a three-point stance invariably involves using one’s helmet to either power through an opponent or holding one’s ground. “

Mike Florio has written similar warnings on ProFootballTalk about the fate of the three-point stance, saying, ” . . . the three-point stance has become an invitation to violate the new helmet rule.”

As for how this will affect on the field play, Schwartz said, “Run blocking would be supremely easier if the defence was not in a three-point stance. It would just lead to more scoring, which is what they want.”

(Interestingly, this sounds like it could incentivise football teams to go back to operating out of more run-heavy playbooks, years after rule changes to what defensive backs could do to receivers helped usher in the explosion in the passing game we’ve seen recently.)

Florio sounds a particularly dire note about football without the three-point stance, saying the game could become unrecognizable, and even speculates it will lead to a rival start-up football league emerging where players still use the stance.

But Schwartz said, “Look, we also always do complain every time there’s a rule change, and the game just continues to play on. So maybe we’re freaking out for no reason.”

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