7 Major Rules Changes That Make The Alliance of American Football Interesting

Tonight’s launch of the eight-team Alliance of American Football (AAF), which opens with two games on (San Diego at San Antonio and Atlanta at Orlando), marks the debut of the upstart league on CBS.

It’s being billed as a developmental league that is trying to be an enhancement to the NFL season, according to league co-founder Bill Polian. However, this football may look the same as the football to which you are accustomed, but there are some remarkable differences.

A new rules package and changes to some old rules will make The Alliance intriguing for fans, try and keep players healthy, and allow for fewer mistakes.

Here is a run-down of big changes from the football you watch last Sunday in Super Bowl LIII.

1. The ‘sky’ judge

The AAF will have a ninth member of the officiating crew, called a sky judge who will be in the press box and can instantly correct “obvious and egregious” officiating errors. Think the 2019 NFC Championship game.

The sky judge will use real-time technology to correct clear errors involving player safety anytime during a game and pass interference inside of five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“If you get a helmet-to-helmet spear and it’s not called on the field, it can be picked up by the ninth official,” Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating who is a consultant to the AAF. “He has the ability to do it in real time. It doesn’t go to replay. … He can call down to the field and say, ‘Hey, spearing on No. 33 of Birmingham, 15-yard penalty, let’s go.’

“It’s correcting errors on the field by another member of the officiating crew without having to go to replay to do it and having a three-minute stoppage to do it.” More on The Alliance’s addition of a sky judge here.

2. Games will start without kickoffs

This is a nod to player safety. There will be a coin toss, with the winner deciding whether to receive or defer. The team that gets the ball will send out its offense to start from its 25.

3. Shorter play clock

The AAF’s play clock will be 35 seconds, which is five seconds shorter than the NFL’s.

4. No TV time-outs

There are no television timeouts during games and fewer commercials to reduce overall game time to roughly 150 minutes instead of 180 minutes in the NFL.

5. New overtime rules

Overtime will allow both teams to have the ball once, first-and-goal from the 10. Teams have to score a touchdown and go for two points while field goals are not allowed. Games can end in a tie after the overtime period. More on The Alliance’s rules here.

6. Bye-bye onside kicks, hello ‘onside conversions’

Onside kicks are not a part of The Alliance and instead “onside conversions” will be a new addition. If a team is trailing by 17 points or more inside of five minutes remaining in a game, they must convert a fourth-and-12 from their 28 in order to keep the ball. More on The Alliance’s onside conversions here.

7. Limited pass rush

On defense, no more than five players may rush on passing plays. No defensive player may rush from a position of more than two yards outside the widest offensive lineman and more than five yards from the line of scrimmage. The exceptions would be play-action or run-pass option plays and if the ball leaves the tackle box.

There will be a 15-yard penalty for “illegal defense.” More on The Alliance’s new defensive rules here.

What do you think the AAF new rules? Is this a testing ground for the NFL? Which rules are the most likely to make the game better? Which worse?

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.