Frank Heinz, NBCDFW.com
The NFL has sent a memo to all 32 teams informing them of their decision about the video board looming 90 feet above the playing field at Jerry World. The board will stay exactly where it is and if a ball hits it during the course of play there will be a do-over of the play. The ball would be dead the moment it hits the board, and the clock will be reset to the time remaining when the ball was snapped.
That thankfully eliminates the possibility of a team running out the clock by continually plunking the HD screens with punts, an activity that would give watching paint dry a run for its money as the world's least exciting activity.
Furthermore, if the on-field officials miss the ball hitting the screen there can be a review triggered by the replay officials upstairs and coaches can use their replay challenges if they feel that both groups missed a punt into Double J's shiny new toy.
“We will continue to address the particular circumstances in Dallas, giving full consideration to the competitive, safety and fan experience issues involved,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The Cowboys have been fully cooperative as we have addressed this subject, and we will continue to work closely with the club on a longer term resolution.”
All in all, it's a bit of a copout for the NFL. The rule that allowed Goodell to allow do-overs gives him a great deal of leeway, since it would only be in place until the next rules meeting. They will likely have to perform a do-over of their own if this happens more than once or twice over the course of the season, and opened the door to embarrassing situations that could change the outcome of games and, if there are injuries, seasons.
While many teams do use directional punts, there are occasions when a high, straight punt is going to be of strategic advantage. Allowing the board to remain where it does eliminates that possibility, and NFL stadiums should have obstacles that alter the way the game is played even if those alterations don't come up very often.
The decision certainly works in the Cowboys' favor, however. The board will be something that visiting teams are thinking about, in a similar vein to the Green Monster and other oddities in baseball stadiums, and there's a chance that it will cause them problems as they adjust to something they've never had to deal with before. There's also the potential difficulties of tracking balls that travel under the board, something that Cowboy returners will get to do far more often than their opponents.
That it might help the Cowboys doesn't make the decision any better, though. The NFL micromanages the height of players' socks, but just ignored a looming problem that anyone who has ever seen a punt could see coming miles away and then came up with a non-solution solution.